The aim of the ‘Water Diplomacy: Making Water Cooperation Work’ project is to identify and operationalize the key factors that contribute to the transformation of water conflicts to cooperation over water.

The rationale for this project follows from the large challenges for water governance in the 21st century:  Not only will it become more difficult to provide access to water to all (and particularly to vulnerable groups), also the multiple groups of traditional and non-traditional actors will increasingly influence decision-making on the distribution of fresh water.

This will lead to more water-related conflicts, sometimes small and covert, sometimes open and violent, between local communities but also between nation states.

Unit of analysis

Our unit of analysis is a transboundary river basin (i.e. Brahmaputra and Jordan River basin), while recognizing that cross-border dynamics can only be understood by also analyzing the processes of support and contestation at multiple levels within the respective countries.


Our state-of-the-art research entails:

  • The development of a multi-track water diplomacy framework for understanding and advancing transboundary water cooperation.
  • Legal and political-economy analysis focusing on the specific challenges and the options for cooperation
  • Analysis of the effectiveness of existing cooperation processes (i.e. negotiations and multi-stakeholder dialogues)
  • Identification of the zone of possible effective cooperation (ZOPEC)
  • Development of concrete recommendations on how to foster effective cooperation.

The framework will be tested and fine-tuned in the Jordan and Brahmaputra case-study basins. The research findings, on the specific challenges and opportunities related to water cooperation within the basin, will be presented and discussed in dialogues.

The key research questions include:

  • Based on empirical evidence from the case studies, what are the key factors influencing effective water cooperation?
  • How can these insights successfully be used to inform and improve multi-track water diplomacy?

The international consortium consist of leading organizations in the field of water diplomacy, governance and law, such as The Hague Institute for Global Justice, IUCN Asia, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Uppsala University (Sweden), Helmholtz Centre (Germany), Tufts University and the UNESCO Category II Centre on International Water Cooperation.