Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

Transnational Policy Networks in Global Water Governance in India

Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

Transnational Policy Networks in Global Water Governance in India

Article excerpt

Introduction

Knowledge of public policy is socially relevant and forms an important agenda for the democratic functioning of a nation. In order to understand policy that so greatly affects and touches the daily lives of millions of people, it is important not just to know about public policy in theory but also to understand (a) the processes of policy-making and how, specifically, policies are negotiated and (b) why particular types of knowledge, practices, and values are established in policy. While the predominant area of theorization in public policy and water governance has focused on the linear model of planned intervention, there has been little theorization regarding the overlap of policy pressures associated with the sorts of complex, multi-scalar policy production processes and networks that have resulted from globalization and the rescaling of the state (Asthana, 2009). These policy networks are bound by their discourses that highlight the ways in which particular uses of water come to gain legitimacy. My purpose in examining these networks is not to adjudicate or draw conclusions about how diverse objectives of market efficiency in water and justice can be best achieved. Rather, I aim to emphasize the contingency and mutability of positioning of actors, not as an outcome of unfettered individual choice, but as it is configured within the continuous interplay of culture, history and power.

The privatization of water is a keenly contested issue in an economically liberalizing India. Since the 1990s, large social groups across India's diverse and disparate communities have been renegotiating their cultural relationship with each other according to whether they support or oppose privatization water policy reforms affecting the urban water supply. It is therefore imperative to understand how particular ways of thinking about water gained ascendancy and came to determine the frame through which water is defined, measured, and tackled. The task here is to understand how political interests, policy entrepreneurs, and external factors led India to retreat from the implementation of vast bodies of regulatory controls and public management policies that have prevailed for decades and move toward a fundamentally different way of perceiving the role that government should play in the critical task of providing water to its population. This paper analyzes the role of transnational policy networks in determining the way water is positioned amongst these networks and how knowledge produced in the process became constituted as useful, hegemonic and legitimate.

Transnational Policy Networks

There is a growing convergence within the discipline of political science on the role and importance of transnational policy networks (TPNs) in global public policy. A variety of terms are used to address the actors that form the umbrella term TPNs including "international civil servants" (Weiss, 1982); "supranational bureaucrats" (Held & Keoning, 2004, p. 128); lateral bureaucrats (Shastri, 1991); epistemic communities (Haas, 1992); and transnational advocacy coalitions (Keck-Sikkink, 1987). TPNs form one of the mechanisms of global public policy whether they are addressed as partnerships or alliances or whether they refer simply to a forum within which to achieve a common goal (Stone, 2008). Global policy processes may look distinguishable from national and intergovernmental processes, but they remain deeply interconnected through these networks. Risse-Kappen (1995, p. 3) defines transnational policy networks as a group of public and/or private organizations in which at least one organization does not operate on behalf of a national government or intergovernmental entity. These networks have become an attractive approach for solving a number of public policy challenges in the context of globalization. They are the carriers of ideas, standards, and policy practices. These actors within these networks are connected by significant levels of interactions across national boundaries and participate in policy design and implementation. …

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