Governing a River Basin: The Work of the Mekong River Commission

TitleGoverning a River Basin: The Work of the Mekong River Commission
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsBoer, Hirsch, Johns, Saul, Scurrah
Secondary TitleThe Mekong: A Socio-legal Approach to River Basin Development
SectionChapter 4
Place PublishedLondon and New York
Key themesHydropower, Transboundary Governance

This chapter explores the theme of governance, a socio-political practice into which law frequently blends. It does so through a study of the MRC, the main institution with a transboundary mandate under a binding agreement for river basin management. In particular, it explores the role of science-based technical support in shaping the ways in which projects are proposed, assessed and regulated. Focusing on a central set of procedures instituted by the MRC for notification and consultation on dams, it reveals the interplay between harder and softer modes of regulation and influence in decision-making. The chapter shows that the technical field has its own politics, helping to shape the terms within which projects are considered, and tending towards particular outcomes that are often counterintuitive from a science-informs-policy-informs-decisions perspective. It also shows how unexpected openings for societal input on decisions are fostered by otherwise highly structural and institutionalized procedures.


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