Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice in Water Dialogues: A Review and Conceptualization
Author: Simone A. Williams, Susanna Eden, Sharon B. Megdal, and Valerisa Joe-Gaddy,
In the United States, the lack of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) in water governance and management has been identified as a serious problem that affects the validity of decisions. Because water governance and management institutions, processes, and practices at all scales involve dialogue, it is important to understand DEIJ in water dialogues. This paper reports on the results of a systematic literature survey that was undertaken to guide efforts by The University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center to improve diversity and inclusion in its engagement practices and outreach strategies. Three questions are explored: 1) How is DEIJ defined, conceptualized, and measured in water dialogues?, 2) How does a lack of DEIJ in water dialogues affect water-related outcomes and actors?, and 3) What are the approaches that can be used to increase DEIJ in water dialogues, especially with respect to underrepresented groups? The review synthesizes definitions of DEIJ and examines theories and methods from the literatures on discourse, diversity, social learning, and environmental justice. The lens of dialogue focused these disparate literatures on how people with diverse voices can be engaged and enabled to effectively participate in water dialogues. Despite the paucity of DEIJ literature relating to water resources in general, and to water dialogues more specifically, the review identified characteristics of DEIJ, factors that contribute to DEIJ issues, general lessons, and pathways that apply to increasing DEIJ in water dialogue participation. Further, this paper articulates a conceptual framework for understanding and addressing DEIJ failures in water dialogues. A concept of “just water dialogues” emerged that integrates insights from the literature reviewed with notions of environmental justice to help with identifying and resolving “water dialogue justice” (i.e., DEIJ failures). Review results suggest that DEIJ in water resources dialogues depends on the distribution of knowledge resources, and on broader issues that include cultural, political, and other often ignored contextual factors. Importantly, addressing DEIJ problems through the creation and maintenance of just water dialogues requires tackling power imbalances, enhancing individual and organizational capacity, and building bridges through effective engagement of diverse voices, especially those of underrepresented groups. Strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness in other contexts are highlighted, and future research needed to improve practices to enhance DEIJ in water dialogues is outlined.
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