Presentation Title

Water in divided societies: scarcity, conflict and the community experience

Start Date

10-2-2021 5:15 PM

End Date

10-2-2021 6:15 PM

Proposal Type

Presentation

Proposal Description

Rhetoric of war over scarce water resources pervades public policy, despite quantitative debunking of such claims. The first-hand views of those experiencing water-scarcity conflict have had little attention. Understanding competing views and human motivations is essential if a conflict is to be addressed effectively. Grounding research in lived experience, this study aimed to identify barriers and opportunities to peaceful outcomes in water-scarcity conflict.

Combining interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) with dissimilar comparison (DC), this study illuminated differences in lived experience between levels of social influence in two contexts: Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin and Yemen’s Red Sea Basin. It also offered the opportunity to test the dominant theory of Transboundary Water Interaction (TWI).

Participants described experiences of water-scarcity conflicts with greater nuance and detail than the dynamics put forward by TWI discourse, making clear conceptual distinctions in their everyday language between conflict and violence; and between cooperation and peace. The study identified more grievances with structural and cultural violence than physical violence. Participants frequently identified challenges with information sharing, as well as impaired access to justice and compliance mechanisms as common barriers to peaceful outcomes. Where physical violence was discussed, it was often cited as an obstacle to water access rather than the result of competition. Participants identified non-tangible boundaries that divided water-sharing societies along lines of identity, industry, and roles and responsibilities in addition to typical upstream/downstream rifts.

TWI discourse should abandon its current use of ‘conflict intensity’ as a metric. Conflict is better viewed as a phenomenon: the interaction of competing perspectives. Violence should be delineated into physical, structural and cultural elements, as they affect and motivate water stakeholders differently. ‘Transboundary’ water should not be limited to interstate borders. Less tangible but no less important boundaries exist, with opportunities to bolster cooperation around scarce water resources lying in minimising these barriers.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Feb 10th, 5:15 PM Feb 10th, 6:15 PM

Water in divided societies: scarcity, conflict and the community experience

Rhetoric of war over scarce water resources pervades public policy, despite quantitative debunking of such claims. The first-hand views of those experiencing water-scarcity conflict have had little attention. Understanding competing views and human motivations is essential if a conflict is to be addressed effectively. Grounding research in lived experience, this study aimed to identify barriers and opportunities to peaceful outcomes in water-scarcity conflict.

Combining interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) with dissimilar comparison (DC), this study illuminated differences in lived experience between levels of social influence in two contexts: Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin and Yemen’s Red Sea Basin. It also offered the opportunity to test the dominant theory of Transboundary Water Interaction (TWI).

Participants described experiences of water-scarcity conflicts with greater nuance and detail than the dynamics put forward by TWI discourse, making clear conceptual distinctions in their everyday language between conflict and violence; and between cooperation and peace. The study identified more grievances with structural and cultural violence than physical violence. Participants frequently identified challenges with information sharing, as well as impaired access to justice and compliance mechanisms as common barriers to peaceful outcomes. Where physical violence was discussed, it was often cited as an obstacle to water access rather than the result of competition. Participants identified non-tangible boundaries that divided water-sharing societies along lines of identity, industry, and roles and responsibilities in addition to typical upstream/downstream rifts.

TWI discourse should abandon its current use of ‘conflict intensity’ as a metric. Conflict is better viewed as a phenomenon: the interaction of competing perspectives. Violence should be delineated into physical, structural and cultural elements, as they affect and motivate water stakeholders differently. ‘Transboundary’ water should not be limited to interstate borders. Less tangible but no less important boundaries exist, with opportunities to bolster cooperation around scarce water resources lying in minimising these barriers.