Academic journal article Global Governance

Governing the Great Transnational River Systems: An Introductory Word

Academic journal article Global Governance

Governing the Great Transnational River Systems: An Introductory Word

Article excerpt

A LARGE PROPORTION OF THE WORLD'S POPULATION DEPENDS EXISTENTIALLY on the water (and waterpower) of one or more of the globe's major transnational river systems. By virtue of its transnational flow, each system has acquired a set of intergovernmental understandings varying in formality and degree of institutionalization and subject to ongoing practice and discourse. For the most part, those understandings have sufficiently structured discourse and practice to keep competition for water from becoming headline threats to international peace and security. This relatively felicitous condition seems unlikely to endure principally in the Global South where three powerful forces are bound to impose increasingly severe strains on the extant understandings.

One force is demography. Global population, currently about 7 billion, is projected to rise to over 9 billion by 2050 with the increase entirely in the Global South; that "medium" UN projection assumes the further spread of birth control in the poorest nations. The high-end 2050 projection for the Global South involves an additional 3.5 billion inhabitants. The Nile river system is just one example of increasing competition and desperation stemming in large measure from demographic pressure. Egypt's population has increased in just seven years by 18 percent, from 76 million to 83 million people at least 80 percent of whom are dependent on the Nile's current flow for survival. Upper riparian Ethiopia, still one of the world's very poor countries but now governed by a relatively cohesive, development-oriented regime, has grown from 58.0 million in 1996 to 84.7 million people in 2012. Ethiopia's plans to harness more waterpower from the Nile through a series of dams are generating furious anxiety in Egypt.

A second force is increasing affluence in the Global South and related expectations and demands within a growing middle class for higher levels of consumption. With the attrition of ideology and tradition as sources of authority, governments become increasingly dependent for their survival on the satisfaction of those expectations. …

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