Transboundary water interaction III: contest and compliance

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  • Mark Zeitoun
  • Ana Elisa Cascão
  • Jeroen Warner
  • Naho Mirumachi
  • Nathanial Matthews
  • Filippo Menga
  • Rebecca Farnum

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This paper serves international water conflict resolution efforts by exposing the ways that states contest hegemonic transboundary water arrangements. The conceptual frame of dynamic transboundary water interaction it presents gathers theories about change and counter-hegemony to ascertain coercive, leverage, and liberating mechanisms through which contest and transformation of an arrangement may occur. While the mechanisms can be active through socio-political processes of either compliance or of contest of the arrangement, most transboundary water interaction is found to contain elements of both. The role of power asymmetry is interpreted through classification of intervention strategies that either influence or challenge such arrangements. This co-existing contest and compliance serves to explain in part the stasis on the Jordan and Ganges rivers (where the non-hegemons have in effect consented to the arrangement), as well as the changes on the Tigris and Mekong rivers, and even more rapid changes on the Amu Darya and Nile rivers (where the non-hegemons have confronted power asymmetry through influence and challenge). The frame also stresses how events that may appear isolated are more accurately read within the many processes they are shaped by. By clarifying the typically murky dynamics of inter-state relations over transboundary waters, furthermore, the frame offers a new suite of entry points for hydro-diplomatic initiatives.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271–294
JournalWater International
Issue number2
Early online date11 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


    Research areas

  • transboundary water, conflict and cooperation, hegemony, counter hegemony, hydrohegemony

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Copyright The Author(s) 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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