Hydrodiplomacy Research and Engagement – What’s New at the University of Arizona

Robert G. Varady, University of Arizona, February 17, 2020

Water diplomacy across international borders, strategic transboundary water and energy policy, multilateral governance of river basins and shared aquifers are some of the themes that the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy has provided leadership for as part of the University of Arizona (UArizona) initiative on science diplomacy.  

The Udall Center is a longtime friend of the IWRA. Center director Christopher Scott was the ISC chair for the 2011 XIV Congress in Brazil; IWRA members Robert Varady and Andrea Gerlak are two-time recipients of Water International Honorable Mentions as best-paper co-authors; and IWRA member Adriana Zuniga, was a presenter at the 2017 Cancún Congress.  Additionally, Robert Varady is chairing the current IWRA Water International Special Issue Mentoring Initiative.  

In its work on water diplomacy, the Udall Center has helped organize and has contributed to two international conferences on Science, Health, Engineering Policy and Diplomacy, hosted by UArizona in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Scienceand participation of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research; the Universities Partnership for Water Cooperation and Diplomacy; and the iGLOBES center of the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at UArizona; among others. The first conference, in 2017,was titled, “Science Diplomacy and Policy Summit to Focus on Climate Change and Water in the Americas.”  Its October 2019 sequel was, “Science Diplomacy with a Focus on the Americas.”  Both events were well attended and featured keynote talks by distinguished science diplomats (e.g., science advisors to U.S. Secretaries of State, senior academics with experience overcoming international tension through science and technology), scholars, practitioners, and university students considering careers in this field.

To underline the University’s interest in science diplomacy, the Udall Center has joined a group of other institutions that are similarly attempting to build capacity within the subdomain of water diplomacy.  The Geneva Water Hub-based Universities Partnership for Water Cooperation and Diplomacy (UPWCD) serves as a platform led by knowledge partners in the field of water cooperation and diplomacy.  The UPWCD sees itself as a repository forinformation, a potential incubator of research and education tools, and a supporter of professional training.  A number of the partners will having a strategic meeting in May 2020 at the IHE-hosted  6th International Symposium on Knowledge and Capacity Development: From Capacity Development to Implementation Science in Delft, The Netherlands.  Anyone interested in joining the UPWCD or learning more about it should contact the coordinator, Léna Salame (lsalame@genevawaterhub.org).

To pursue their academic interests in hydrodiplomacy, scholars at the Udall Center and their colleagues across the UArizona campus and elsewhere are engaged in a number of publication efforts.  The first of these to come to fruition is the recently published article, “U.S.-Mexico hydrodiplomacy: Foundations, change, and future challenges,” by M. O. Wilder, R. G. Varady, S. P. Mumme, A. K. Gerlak, N. Pineda Pablos, and C. A. Scott, which just appeared in the AAAS journal, Science and Diplomacy.  In addition, Varady, Wilder, Gerlak, and Pineda are co-editing a special issue of the journal Environmental Science and Policy on the theme, “New Directions in Hydrodiplomacy to Meet Global Water Challenges: Learning from the Past, Shaping the Future.”

For related science-crossing-borders efforts, see udallcenter.arizona.edu/programs-projects/other-policy-programs-1 and aquasec.org.