Are there limits to environmental peacebuilding?

A critical reflection on water cooperation in the Jordan basin

Authored by: Anders Jägerskog

Routledge Handbook of Environmental Conflict and Peacebuilding

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138202528
eBook ISBN: 9781315473772
Adobe ISBN:


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In the last decades, it has been noted that environmental change may lead to conflicts of various sorts. Water scarcity, among other environmental stresses, was highlighted as a source of conflict and even war (e.g. Starr 1991; Falkenmark 1986; Shiklomanov 1990; Homer-Dixon 1994). As noted elsewhere in this volume, the prophecies later emerged as being overly deterministic in their prediction of conflict and wars. Later in the debate, 1 and as a result of significant undertakings in establishing a quantitative understanding, for example, of water, conflict and war pioneered by Aaron Wolf and colleagues at the Oregon State University (Wolf et al. 2005), it has been shown that conflicts over transboundary water (be it groundwater or surface water in rivers and lakes) tend to lead to cooperative outcomes rather than, as first assumed, to deeper conflict and wars (Transboundary Freshwater Database, Oregon State University). It has been shown, at the global level, that around two-thirds of the interactions over transboundary water have been of a cooperative nature and about one-third of a more conflictive nature. In the last decade or so that insight has been further developed and broadened as a range of scholars (Zeitoun 2006; Zeitoun and Warner 2006) have been deconstructing what type of cooperation has emerged, asking questions such as: “does the cooperation produce equitable outcomes?” and “can the cooperation be seen as fair and just?” The so-called Hydro-Hegemony theory has highlighted the need to analyze and understand how power asymmetries are affecting the outcomes in river basins in which countries “share” transboundary waters.

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