International Waters and Adaptive Governance – How a Little Flexibility Goes a Long Way
The Nile and the Danube rivers each cross at least ten international boundaries. The agreements that govern the use of these rivers run the structural gamut from relatively inflexible, institutionalized treaties to flexible, adaptive contracts. In her dissertation, “Adaptive Governance of Contested Rivers: A Political Journey into the Uncertain,” Cat Ashcraft, now a Visiting Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, argues that climate change, in particular, is increasing the need for more adaptive, elastic agreements that can respond effectively to the problems that arise in rapidly changing ecological and social environments.
Cat explores the navigation and water protection regimes for the Danube River and the benefit sharing agreement for the Nile. She concludes, among other things, that adaptive models stress not only flexibility over time in the substance and terms of the agreement, but customization of the strategy and process through which they are negotiated (and can be modified). Conventional agreements are hard to change without institutional reform, while adaptable agreements anticipate the need for incremental adjustments and include mechanisms to accomplish them. To see more of Cat’s findings, download her dissertation here.