Blue Diplomacy: Transboundary Water Governance from a Foreign Policy Lens

Water quantity and quality are deteriorating and the struggle among all common water users is likely to intensify. This may become even more visible in river basins that cross political boundaries of different countries. History reveals that in many situations, this mutual need may bring strategic cooperation rather than open conflict, and lead to peaceful solutions to water disputes. Over the last 67 years, we have witnessed only 37 severe water disputes globally, in comparison to 295 water cooperation treaties (UN Water 2008: 3).

This paper highlights that with rising population, natural resources endowed on human kind are degrading and depreciating and would soon become extinct or unusable if not sustainably utilised. Impact of climate change serves as a catalyst to further amplify the process of ecological deterioration with anthropogenic activities. It argues the rationale and significance of shifting from techno-centric water governance models towards hydro-diplomacy with a greater role of foreign policy makers/diplomats and advocates for the adoption of the Water Diplomacy Framework (Islam and Repella 2015; Islam and Susskind 2012) in transboundary river basins to enhance national security, economic growth and environmental services, as well as strengthen social development and urban planning for a more sustainable and equitable future. Many treaties regarding transboundary waters in the last 200 years have been established globally. This paper briefly looks at various transboundary cases of successful, unsuccessful and potential hydro-diplomacy cases to understand the various dimensions of shared water governance for South Asia, Africa and Europe.

About the Author

Dr Aneel Salman is a Behavioural Economist from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, USA. His areas of research expertise include climate change, behavioural, energy and development economics, institutional governance, international trade, and public policy.

Product details
Date of Publication
December, 2015
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Number of Pages
All rights reserved
Language of publication
Table of contents

Abstract 7                                                                                                   

Introduction 7                                                                                           

1. Managing Transboundary Basins 9                                                       

2. Towards Blue Peace: Role of Foreign Policy Makers and Diplomats 10

3. Challenges to Blue Diplomacy 11

4. Blue Diplomacy in Action 12

5. Contemporary Framework for Blue Diplomacy 13

6. Recommendations and Conclusion 17

References 18

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