Although public participation in the service of Integrated Water Resources Management had aroused much attention as a practice, little is known about stakeholders’ understandings of and expectations towards the process. Using a grounded approach we develop an interpretive methodological framework and use it to explore water management concerns and the appropriateness of different forms of stakeholder participation at catchment level in Jordan, Syria and Turkey. Survey respondents include local sector experts and delegates at three participative workshops. Elicited responses on desirable forms of participation based on definitions inspired by Arsntein’s ladder of citizen participation, reveal a common preference for consultation, informing and partnership. However, differences were observed when investigating stakeholders’ learning outcomes from participative workshops. The role of social learning is confirmed as an important factor contributing to stakeholder dialogue over the management of a state-strategic, local public-good management and democratic decision making process. Public participation and social learning appear to be perceived as appropriate in IWRM even in countries with adolescent democratic traditions.
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