Shared Rivers; Conflict and Cooperation

Jan 2005 – Jun 2005

MA Thesis in political science at NTNU.
PRIO supervisor: Nils Petter Gleditsch, CSCW

Research question: Under what conditions do states that share river basins cooperate? If they cooperate, will they then have less conflict?

After the end of the Cold War it has been argued that the ideological focus on conflicts have diminished among scholars, and other themes such as for instance ethnicity and the competition for scarce resources have grown more important. Whether this growth is absolute or relative, is a subject for debate, but what is a fact is that many scholars are concerned with the topic of resources and conflict. This is not to say that these focuses are new in the area of peace-research. An old claim held by several scholars says that most conflicts are over scarce resources, at least if territory is counted as a resource (Vasquez 1995, Hulsti, Klare 2001, Homer-Dixon 1994). But there is a debate in this field, and according to Nils Petter Gleditsch (2003) the participants in this debate can broadly be divided into two main approaches; the neomalthusian and the cornucopian. This debate will create the theoretical framework for my paper, as I try to find out whether sharing a river basin makes states cooperate, and if they cooperate, will that in turn reduce the conflicts among them. More than 200 river systems are shared by two or more countries, and many of these countries also share a history of conflicts. To answer my research question I will do a multivariate analysis in four parts. I will use Gleditsch and others’ study on conflict over shared rivers from 2004 as my starting point, and therefore the first thing I will do is to replicate their study. They found support for the theory of water conflict. When I have replicated the study I will include several more variables to account for the importance of water for the respective countries. The thoughts behind doing this is that if the water does not matter to the government in a country, the leaders will be less concerned with the condition of the water they share with others. This is what Kathryn Furlong (2004) claims when she says that it may be the underlying threat of a conflict that lead the states to cooperate, and also what for example Klare (2001) says about resources being regarded a security concern for the government if the access is limited, or the resource is scarce, and at the same time essential for the country.In the third part of my analysis I change the dependent variables into two different measures for cooperation (Joint membership in an IGO and dyadic trade) and conduct one analysis with each of these. In the last part, I change the dependent variable back to conflict, to see if the combination of cooperation and shared river lead to less conflict.

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