Research question – take 3!

Recognizing that my research focus and question was getting a little 1) convoluted, and 2) difficult to find empirical evidence for, M-L suggested a way to simplify. This is in line with what ST suggested as well last we spoke.

How are domestic water interests shaping transboundary water governance regimes and institutions for shared waters between two or more sovereign nations? And, specifically, how do urban water interests articulated by sub-state actors, interact with transboundary water governance regimes?

I recognize I will need to clarify and distinguish between ‘regime’ and ‘institution’. This is just a first cut of the latest framing. I think it will be important to look at this as a multi-scale (ouch!) approach. I will want to explore how domestic water interests shape governance regimes for shared waters. This may seem like a foregone conclusion – of course domestic water interests shape governance regimes. If we consider states as representing their own (domestic) interests in negotiations (whose other interests would they represent?) and governance regimes over shared waters, then the stance a state takes would inherently be reflect its domestic interests. Yet, this risks keeping the analysis within the confines of a regime approach, explicit in IR literature, and stuck in the ‘territorial trap’, which focuses “on the nation-state as the geographical scale of sole or primary importance” (Norman and Bakker, 2009, p. 100).

But, as argued by Hirsch and Jensen (2006), many states could be guilty of not representing their ‘national interests’ in TW regimes/institutions, as evidence in the Mekong River Commission. Often, a narrow set of interests from a powerful/influential sector or elite are what is represented as the ‘national interest’. I might then decipher if powerful interests are in fact being represented as dressed up as the national interest. Further, this might lead me to inquire whether these interests represent urban water needs, or the water needs of other sectors. It would be interesting to understand who has been articulating these water needs at the domestic scale (networks of sub-state actors focused on urban water issues, municipalities themselves).

This certainly still needs some moulding. Im still at the ‘giving a haircut with a shotgun’ stage – its still all a bit messy.

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