Berardo, R., & Gerlak, A. K. (2012). Conflict and Cooperation along International Rivers: Crafting a Model of Institutional Effectiveness. Global Environmental Politics, 12(1), 101–120.

The effectiveness of institutions tasked with the management of international water resources is discussed by Berardo and Gerlak. They provide a framework through which effectiveness can be assessed and “conditions under which institutions are most like to foster meaningful cooperation in the management of shared rivers” and be explored (102), though they argue that the design elements of the framework are “necessary but not sufficient conditions for a complete explanation of cooperative outcomes to interstate problems and conflicts along international rivers” (106).

The framework they propose involves two levels for examining effectiveness. The first level – a broad level focused on interstate agreements – helps to “structure and shape the relationships among all parties involved in the use of the common resource” (103-104). This can involve river basin commissions, that can provide the space for state interaction, as well as knowledge exchange and achievement of settlements (104).

The second level addresses the process design elements – the processes that are continually challenged to achieve collaborative solutions to problems in shared river basins. These design process elements are, briefly,
– Transparency in decision making processes
– Production and dissemination of scientific knowledge
– Conflict resolution
– Public input and representation

Each of these second level process design elements, as the authors stress, are needed but not sufficient to achieve cooperation along international rivers. Dinar et al. (2014) discuss institutional mechanisms relevant to treaty resilience and stability – including enforcement, monitoring, conflict resolution, and international joint committees or commissions. This suggests that a number of process design elements or ‘mechanisms’ have been discussed throughout the discourse literature, and that instead of a silver bullet(s) for institution design and success, a suite of options must be considered, depending on context, history, social and ecological realities, political situation, etc.

For reference, below is the framework diagram Berardo and Gerlik (2012) developed at the conclusion of this paper. The change they made, after the analysis of their case study, is to relocation of the design element ‘public input and representation’ to an intermediate position between interstate agreement and process design, at the first level of effectiveness (114). This was done to reflect the reality that “Given the importance of water as a scarce resource upon which whole communities depend for their livelihood, no decisions should be made without assigning a central role to the representatives of those communities” (114).

Screen shot 2014-08-06 at 12.10.41 PM

The authors champion the stance that room must be made for local participation and public input into decision-making processes. This echos the theme of localism, discussed and critiqued by Norman and Bakker (2009), as well as reflecting the importance of ‘polycentricity’ and multilevel governance (Andersson and Ostrom 2008) within institutional processes for natural resource governance. Though, where Norman and Bakker (2009) provide a critique at length of localism as inherently the most suitable scale for governance over water resources, Berardo and Gerlak (2012) simply argue that public input and representation must be part of the decision-making process, so as to “incorporate a wider range of voices” (114)

The issue of effectiveness of institutions has been discussed throughout the literature i’ve read, most notably by Oran Young (1999), to which I will write on separately.

This entry was posted in Reading Reflections, Theme 2: Transboundary Water Governance and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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