Conca discusses two approaches to normative frameworks for shared river governance. At a high level, the two are: the decades long progressive development of global water governance principles found in the 1997 UN Convention, which can modify basin practices and treaty development. This approach says that the principles developed over the decades can pull treaty development and basin governance in a normative direction (based on those internationally recognized principles of soft law). The other is an IR normative framework, which argues that principles of treaties are reflective of considerations of power and interests of riparian states. The principles articulated are reflective of power and interests in the basin, and institution building is likely to follow a basin-specific dynamic, one that is “strongly conditioned by state interest and structural constraints” (p. 264).
What the authors find in their study of treaties from 1980-2000 is a “complex pattern of principled evolution, and not a unidirectional progression towards a global regime for international rivers” (p. 265). There is little evidence of a pull effect, as many of the principles appear as well established at the beginning for the temporal study period as they are at the end.
Most interesting for me was the issue of a dearth of treaty development or agreements in past two decades. There is little evidence of substantial agreements being reached. But, the ones that are reached are concentrated in basins with a prior history of river cooperation. As well, most agreements do not include all riparian states of the basin.
This is an interesting , and potentially useful article, for background knowledge on global water governance, soft law, and use of principles and normative frameworks in international water agreements. A good reference to refer back to.