IWA Publishing

Tracking cooperation and conflict in international basins: historic and recent trends

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This paper describes the use of media-reported events in the assessment of hydropolitical relations and investigates instances of conflict and cooperation over international water resources during the last 60 years. Specifically, two periods – 1948–1999 and 2000–2008 – are compared and assessed for trends in international hydropolitics. In many respects, the dominant trends of the 20th century have remained consistent through the period 2000–2008. Despite the rampant water crisis associated with resource degradation and imbalance between supply and demand, cooperation between riparian nations continues to far outweigh conflict related to shared waters. This holds true even in the contentious Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region, particularly during the most recent study period. The two most controversial issues in transboundary relations continue to be infrastructure and water quantity, a consistent pattern through both study periods. Positive interactions continue to be associated with joint management, flood control and technical cooperation, and the geography of conflict and cooperation remains relatively stable, with a mild increase in the importance of North America. Noteworthy changes include the increasing importance of water quality issues, and, while not documented through our methodology, a flurry of activity on transboundary groundwater.

Keywords: Conflict, Cooperation, Freshwater resources, International river basins, Transboundary

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