Transboundary water management – illustrating the complexity of climate change
In this video, Ashok Swain, professor in peace and conflict studies at Uppsala University, discusses how climate change affects international cooperation and may lead to new types of security challenges.
According to Swain, climate change has developed from being a ‘soft’ security issue, relating to local livelihoods and access to natural resources, to a ‘hard’ security issue, which relates to natural security concerns:
What has happened with climate change is that we have made it a military level security issue. And here we are talking about how we will be able to stop large scale migration, how the military will be prepared to act in case of different types of climate change.
Swain notes that in terms of the international management of transboundary rivers, every river basin is unique:
The golden principle of water management or transboundary water management is not to have a golden principle. Every basin is different. […] [T]here are different cultural, historical, geographical and civilizational challenges that exist in the different basins.
While climate change creates new security risks and challenges – by changing the river flows, increasing the risk of natural disasters and even shifting international borders – it might also create new arenas for cooperation:
So what I’m saying is that there is a possiblity that climate change related uncertainties might break the traditional pattern of blaming each other and letting the countries work together to find new solutions. But that doesn’t mean that climate change is good.
Here you can watch extra material where Ashok Swain explains and discuss the following topics:
- What is the difference between soft and hard security?
- What are success stories of transboundary water management and which new developments can be seen?
- How do institutions work in practice on transboundary water management.
Read more in Climate change and transboundary rivers: testing times for hydrodiplomacy, 2016, by Ashok Swain.
© Ashok Swain, CEMUS and Uppsala University