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Transboundary water conflict resolution mechanisms: toward convergence between theory and practice

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
A. Bridging science and policy
Author(s): Ahmed Tayia
Kaveh Madani

Ahmed Tayia
Imperial College London
Kaveh Madani
Imperial College London

Keyword(s): Tranboundary water, conflict resoultion, water managment, theory, policy
Article: Oral:


Transboundary water resources are expected be one of the biggest challenges for human development over the next decades. The growing global water scarcity and interdependence among water-sharing countries have created tensions over shared water resources around the world. Therefore, interest in studying transboundary water conflict resolution has grown over the last decades. This research focuses on transboundary water resources conflict resolution mechanisms. A more a specific concern is to explore the mechanisms of allocating of transboundary water resources among riparian states. The literature of transboundary water resources conflict has brought various approaches for allocating of transboundary water resources among riparian countries. Some of these approaches have focused on the negotiation process, such the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Other approaches have analysed the economic dimension of transboundary water disputes, in an attempt to identify optimal economic criteria for water allocation, such as the “social planner” approach and the “water market” approach. A more comprehensive approach has been provided by game theory that has brought together the economic and political dimensions of the water dispute management. Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, there has been a gap between these theoretical approaches and the techniques used in reality to resolve transboundary conflicts. This study attempts to provide a map for the relation between theory and practice in the field of transboundary water conflict resolution. Therefore, it examines the theoretical approaches that have been suggested in literature as mechanisms of transboundary water conflict resolution.  Moreover, it explores the techniques that have been used in resolving real transboundary water disputes. Subsequently, it identifies which of the theoretical approaches proposed by literature have been used in practice to solve transboundary water conflicts, in an attempt to assess the gap between the theory and practice. Finally, the research identifies the reasons behind this gap and provide some recommendations to bridge the theory-practice gap in transboundary water conflict management.

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