River Basin Organizations in Water Diplomacy  book cover
1st Edition

River Basin Organizations in Water Diplomacy

ISBN 9780367627317
Published May 30, 2022 by Routledge
342 Pages

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Book Description

Will tensions and disputes among states sharing international water courses and lakes turn into active conflicts? Addressing this question, the book shows that these concerns are more prominent due to the locations and underlying political dynamics of some of these large rivers and the strategic interests of major powers.

Written by a combination of leading practitioners and academics, this book shows that states are more prone to cooperate and manage their transboundary issues over the use of their common water resources through peaceful means, and the key institutions they employ are international river basin organizations (RBOs). Far from being mere technical institutions, RBOs are key mechanisms of water diplomacy with capacity and effectiveness varying on four key interrelated factors: their legal and institutional development, and the influence of their technical and strategic resources. The basins analyzed span all continents, from both developed and developing basins, including the Columbia, Great Lakes, Colorado, Senegal, Niger, Nile, Congo, Jordan, Helmand, Aral Sea, Mekong, Danube and Rhine.

Contributing to the academic discourse on transboundary water management and water conflict and cooperation, the book provides insights to policy-makers on which water diplomacy engagements can be successful, the strengths to build on and the pitfalls to avoid so that shared water resources are managed in a cooperative, sustainable and stable way.

Table of Contents


Danilo Turk

Introduction: Do river basin organizations make a difference in water diplomacy and conflict management?

Anoulak Kittikhoun and Susanne Schmeier

1. The legal role and context of river basin organizations

Owen McIntyre

2. Water diplomacy and collaborative governance in the Great Lakes Basin

Victoria Pebbles

3. Water diplomacy and shared resources along the United States-Mexico border

Maria Elena Giner and Gabriel E. Eckstein

4. Process aspects of the development of shared waters agreements: The Columbia River Treaty

Kim Ogren and Aaron T. Wolf

5. International river basin organizations and benefit sharing arrangements in the Columbia and Senegal international river basins: Past, present, and future

Richard Kyle Paisley, Riley T. Denoon, and Marguerite de Chaisemartin

6. The Niger Basin: Is development raising the stakes of cooperation?

Luca Ferrini

7. Water diplomacy and conflict transformation in the Nile River Basin: The key role of the Nile Basin Initiative over the past 20 years

Ana Elisa Cascão, Wubalem Fekade, Malte Grossmann, and Abdulkarim Seid

8. Managing abundance: CICOS and the Congo

Tobias von Lossow

9. Water diplomacy in the absence of a river basin organization: A case study in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine

Samer A. Talozi and Natasha Westheimer

10. Water diplomacy in the Helmand River Basin: Exploring the obstacles to cooperation within the shadow of anarchy

Mohsen Nagheeby and Alistair Rieu-Clarke

11. Prolonging or resolving water conflicts in Central Asia? The International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea

Jenniver Sehring and Saghit Ibatullin

12. The Mekong River Commission as a water diplomat

Anoulak Kittikhoun and Denise Michèle Staubli

13. China in international institutions for water governance

Lei Xie and Zha Daojiong

14. Managing disagreements in European basins: What role for river basin organizations in water diplomacy?

Susanne Schmeier and Ivan Zavadsky

15. Conclusion: Managing tensions and sharing benefits—international rivers in conflict and cooperation

David Grey, Anoulak Kittikhoun, and Susanne Schmeier

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Anoulak Kittikhoun is a political scientist, strategist and planner who has worked for a national government, a think tank, the United Nations, and a major river basin organization. As chief strategy and partnership officer of the Mekong River Commission (MRC) Secretariat, he leads the organization’s work on strategic planning and policy, international cooperation, communication and stakeholder engagement, monitoring and evaluation, and organizational development.

Susanne Schmeier is an expert on the legal and institutional dimensions of natural resources governance, with a particular focus on shared water resources. She works for IHE Delft – Institute for Water Education, where her work focuses on research, capacity development and advisory services relating to conflict and cooperation over shared natural resources, international environmental and water law and water governance. Prior to joining IHE Delft, she worked for various international organization and national governments. She has published extensively on shared water resources governance and in particular river basin organizations.


"This book provides welcome insights into how river basin organizations from a range of political, cultural and physical settings have addressed sensitive development decisions. It goes beyond descriptions of institutional form and function to examine how RBOs have engaged in water diplomacy and the related difficulties, successes and limitations. We may agree or disagree with the perspectives presented, but this valuable contribution to the discussion on RBOs provides the framing and basis for us to draw our own conclusions." – Jeremy Bird, former Director General of the International Water Management Institute.

"While competition over water resources is seldom a direct or single cause of armed conflict, tensions and disputes over water are real and have to be resolved. This book offers valuable insights into the importance of River Basin Organizations as a key element in this global picture and should stimulate further thinking about the needed innovations that will strengthen water cooperation as a globally important instrument of peace." – Danilo Turk, Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace.