Missing links in Global Water Governance: a Process-Oriented Analysis

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Ken Conca, Annika Kramer, Josefina Maestu and Falk Schmidt have a new paper out in Ecology and Society that is in the special feature on Global Water Governance that David Groenfeldt and I wrote a paper on water and ethics for. The papers are freely downloadable here.

The ‘missing links’ metaphor is very interesting – because it situates us in some chain of events, aims or objectives. These are what my latest work is focusing on. I’ve now got about 1/3 of my new book in hand and it presents a very different view of the “chain” of global governance. I hope to have the whole thing done by year’s end and, perhaps, will have a paper or two out on it around then as well.

Missing Links in Global Water Governance: a Processes-Oriented Analysis


Over the past decade, the policy and scholarly communities have increasingly recognized the need for governance of water-related issues at the global level. There has been major progress in the achievement of international goals related to the provision of basic water and some progress on sanitation services. However, the water challenge is much broader than securing supply. Doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of some of the existing governance processes, in the face of trends such as the unsustainable use of water resources, the increasing pressure imposed by climate change, or the implications of population growth for water use in food and energy production. Conflicts between different water uses and users are increasing, and the state of the aquatic environment is further declining. Inequity in access to basic water and sanitation services is still an issue. We argue that missing links in the trajectories of policy development are one major reason for the relative ineffectiveness of global water governance. To identify these critical links, a framework is used to examine how core governance processes are performed and linked. Special attention is given to the role of leadership, representativeness, legitimacy, and comprehensiveness, which we take to be critical characteristics of the processes that underpin effective trajectories of policy development and implementation. The relevance of the identified categories is illustrated with examples from three important policy arenas in global water governance: the effort to address access to water and sanitation, currently through the Millennium Development Goals; the controversy over large dams; and the links between climate change and water resources management. Exploratory analyses of successes and failures in each domain are used to identify implications and propose improvements for more effective and legitimate action.

Geopolitical Material

This is an interesting post, and it is very nice to see the link of feminism and geopower in Grosz’s work come increasingly to the fore in political geography.


Throughout my time as a PhD student at Royal Holloway (coming up to three years in September) I have been looking for a way to better understand the role of the material in geopolitics. It is in the work of the feminist philosopher Elizabeth Grosz that I have come across one of the richest resources for doing so.

Specifically, I am interested in Grosz’s ideas about ‘geopower’. Grosz’s use, like Gearoid Ó Tuathail’s (a seminal figure in critical geopolitics), of the term geopower belies a concern for ‘geo-politics’. For Ó Tuathail, geopower is about how human actors use the relationship between power and geographical knowledge to produce and manage physical space (for example, through institutionalised or taken-for-granted ways of seeing, displaying and marking the earth).

Grosz’s use of geopower is markedly different. For Grosz, geopower refers to earthly forces that are entangled and interfere with all forms of life, whether…

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