Emerging Issues and Challenges in Transboundary Freshwater: The Role of Treaties and Treaty Design
- Shlomi DinarShlomi DinarSteven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, Florida International University
Freshwater’s transboundary nature (in the form of rivers, lakes, and underground aquifers) means that it ties countries (or riparians) in a web of interdependence. Combined with water scarcity and increased water variability, and the sheer necessity of water for survival and national development, these interdependencies may often lead to conflict. While such conflict is rarely violent in nature, political conflict over water is quite common as states diverge over how to share water or whether to develop a joint river for hydropower, say, or to use the water for agriculture.
For the same reasons that water may be a source of conflict, it is also a source of cooperation. In fact, if the number of documented international agreements over shared water resources is any indication, then water’s cooperative history is a rich one. As the most important and accepted tools for formalizing inter-state cooperation, treaties have become the focus of research and analysis. While treaties do not necessarily guarantee cooperation, they do provide states with a platform for dealing with conflict as well as the means to create benefits for sustained cooperation. This also suggests that the way treaties are designed—in other words, what mechanisms and instruments are included in the agreement—is likewise relevant to analyzing conflict and cooperation.