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Stepping out of the ‘water-box’ - Re-thinking transboundary water cooperation-

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
3. Water security in a changing world
Author(s): Yumiko Yasuda
Yumiko Yasuda
International Centre for Water Cooperation/ The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Keyword(s): Transboundary rivers, Brahmaputra river, Jordan river, cooperation


Cooperation over transboundary water basin is important for regional development, peace and security. However, transboundary water cooperation often poses challenges as it involves sharing limited water resources and agreeing on how it is managed. In order to better address this challenge and with aim of applying the findings from the research to policy, a research was conducted with an aim of identifying the key factors affecting transboundary water cooperation, as one of the steps contributing to overcoming challenges facing transboundary water cooperation.

The paper will discuss the framework and preliminary result from the analysis of the two case studies: The Brahmaputra River and the Jordan River. Based on review of existing literature, a legal-political-economy analysis framework was developed as a way to analyse key factors affecting cooperation. Key components of the framework includes:  contextual factors, formal institutions, customary rules, actors’ interests and their agency, processes and power dynamics. The preliminary analysis from case studies validates that these are the important factors affecting the transboundary water cooperation.

In order to ensure the policy relevance and feedback of the research finding, stakeholder workshops and focused group meetings are conducted. These events served several purposes including 1) validating the research result 2) providing further input to the research 3) policy uptake of the research result through discussions among participants.

The research also identified possible opportunities for water cooperation through regional economic cooperation. Too often, only water experts discuss transboundary water cooperation, with a focus only on water issues. This lack of multi-sectoral approach often creates an upstream-downstream dichotomy, focusing the issue only on how to share the water ‘pie’ and manage flow. Focusing the attention only on solving transboundary water issues creates ‘hydro-hegemon’ an influential state actor who could make things difficult for riparian state with disadvantaged geographic location with less political power, and often traps the discussion resulting in stalemates. However, seeking solutions for cooperation outside of the ‘water box’ would allow identifying possible new avenues for transboundary water cooperation boosting, for example, regional economic cooperation. 

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