Power and Politics in Water Governance: Revisiting the Role of Collective Action in the Commons

TitlePower and Politics in Water Governance: Revisiting the Role of Collective Action in the Commons
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsSuhardiman, Lebel, Nicol, Wong
Secondary AuthorsSuhardiman, Nicol, Mapedza
Secondary TitleWater Governance and Collective Action: Multi-scale Challenges
SectionChapter 2
Pagination9-20 (12p)
Place PublishedNew York
Key themesFraming Concepts in Water Governance

Water governance scholars have brought to light the importance of politics, power structure, and relationships in shaping common pool resources, primarily in the context of irrigation system management and hydropower development. Focusing on power asymmetry and how this is shaped by inter-state relationships at the transboundary level, international relations scholars have come up with the concept of hydro-hegemony as a framework to analyse transboundary water governance. Examples include the role of media collectives in shaping transboundary water governance discourse in the Indus Basin, differential perceptions of Cambodian dam development among local communities, and the local communities' alliance with a transnational NGO movement in contesting corporate decisions in water infrastructure development in the Andes. The transformation of the commons requires commons scholars to position their work with growing contemporary issues in global natural resource governance, unpack power and politics, and incorporate the notion of equity and social justice in the overall analysis of collective action. This chapter frames how water governance and collective action is examined in the book. Focusing on the need to reintroduce a new system of values that embody equity, diversity, and social justice, it puts the commons at the centre of current debates on sustainable development and identifies it as an integral part of the transnational environmental and rights movement. It argues that positioning the commons as an alternative means to counterbalance the dominant neoliberal development tendency to commoditize nature is crucial for achieving informed, inclusive, and accountable natural resources governance.


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