Keywords: conflict, cooperation, Euphrates river, Indus river, international rivers, Tigris river, unstable cooperation, water disputes, Yarmouk river, dispute management
Capturing the nature of cooperation, unstable cooperation and conflict over international rivers: the story of the Indus, Yarmouk, Euphrates and Tigris rivers
This article analyses the existing definitions of conflict and cooperation over international rivers and introduces new definitions to remedy some of the shortcomings. Conflict tends to be defined as militarised confrontation, firing guns, political flare-ups or deterioration in relations. This range of violence is too wide. To remedy this weakness, it is necessary to incorporate the category of unstable cooperation introduced by Wolf (1997, 1998). Existing definitions of cooperation also have drawbacks. There is a tendency to associate the signing of treaties with cooperation. Unfortunately, treaties can remain unimplemented or states might not comply with them. The underlying weakness with existing definitions is an insufficient examination of the problem structure that states confront. States sharing international rivers confront a management problem, which involves continuous disputes that require constant negotiations. As this article argues, how states manage their water disputes is an indicator of whether they exist in a condition of conflict, unstable cooperation or cooperation.