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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Analysis of process mechanisms promoting cooperation in transboundary waters Hearns, Glen Spencer


International water basins are experiencing increasingly rapid changes. Climate change, increased pressure from population growth and development, and shifting societal values are converging making water availability increasingly precarious in many areas. Where management structures do exist, change is often exceeding their capacities to address issues escalating the potential for conflict. Particularly urgent therefore, is the development of effective and adaptive governance regimes in the majority of the 263 international basins where management is inadequate. Effective and adaptive regimes require high levels of cooperation and interdependence. This thesis focuses on actions or process mechanisms available to states to enhance cooperation and regime effectiveness. Through case study analysis, five mechanisms are identified to be important factors in the formation of international transboundary water regimes. They are; (i) balancing and creating incentives, (ii) information exchange, (iii) cooperating in a stepwise process, (iv) neutral party involvement, and (v) adequate stakeholder engagement. An analytical framework is developed, based on case survey methodology, to assess the impact of the process mechanisms on existing regimes. Practitioners and academics applied the framework to the Columbia, Mekong, Danube, Mahakali Rivers and the West Bank Aquifers through a series of interviews. The framework proved versatile in describing all scenarios, showed consistency in responses from practitioners and was sufficiently comprehensive to reflect important singularities of basins. Analysis indicated that high levels of balancing and creating incentives, information exchange, and neutral party involvement were required for regime effectiveness in all situations. All process mechanisms appeared to be needed when development goals of the parties differed, or when initial relations between the parties were poor. Stepwise cooperation and stakeholder engagement were not seen to be requisites for developing cooperative regimes when relationships between basin states were good and they shared common development goals. The framework is able to combine quantitative analysis in parallel to quantitative analysis in a manner that until now has not been achieved in the study of transboundary waters. Major elements of the framework are already being applied in a three-year program to analyse marine, groundwater and river systems, and develop training tools to enhance regime effectiveness.

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