There is a need to qualify transboundary water cooperation because not all cooperation results in the intended outcomes. When there is “partial” cooperation through asymmetric cooperation may engender inequitable sharing of water resources.
It is important to expand the scope of enquiry regarding international water cooperation beyond formal treaties in order to understand what in reality constitutes the processes of negotiation and implementation. How States respond to such cooperative arrangements determines the form and outcome of transboundary water governance.
Riparian relationships, much like interpersonal relationships in a marriage, are likely to involve both conflict and cooperation which ebb and flow over time. Responding to power relations with respect to water sharing may be a continuous process, which the stakeholders themselves need to understand and respond to.
Adopting a power-analytical approach is essential for understanding the process, outcomes and effectiveness of riparian cooperation. The London Water Research Group has provided an important and truly independent forum for discussing very sensitive issues which concern the politics, science, social and governance aspects of water resource use and sharing. The long term vision of the group is to make this forum available to a growing body of academics and practitioners in order to generate independent thought which fundamentally changes the way we look at managing water resources. The group is presently concerned with the process of turning these thoughts into practical tools for action.
Towards effective cooperation over transboundary waters
While power difference is a fact of life, we are convinced that more constructive uses of power and leadership are possible. It is important therefore, to put entrenched modes of behaviour and interests up for discussion and to explore alternatives.
Working groups have been established to:
- Develop methods of challenging hegemony
- Analysing the dynamics of water cooperation
- Researching basin-level policy implications.
The work on cooperation over shared waters is particularly relevant in charting riparian leadership potential in particular basins. The activity focuses on the quality of formal and informal transboundary regimes. The main geographic focus of our work is on the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Africa, Central Asia and Southeastern Asia.