HH6: Sixth International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony TRANSBOUNDARY WATER JUSTICE 12-13 January 2013

The purpose of the workshop is to explore to what extent ‘justice’ can serve transboundary water interaction.

Equity and fairness are at the very heart of the Dublin Principles, IWRM, many developing notions of ‘water security’, international water law, and multiple transboundary treaties – or so it is claimed. The reality in many transboundary basins and aquifers is very different: power asymmetries allow steering of the outcome, whenever there are trade–offs. When expectations about what is achievable and what is fair are set, social equity typically loses out, against economic efficiency and, possibly,  environmental sustainability.

The stated but wanting concern for equity is yet another factor that helps to explain how situations of transboundary water interaction can appear calm, even when the outcomes are asymmetric or extremely asymmetric. Social justice theory serves to elucidate: a situation where the lion’s share of water goes to the state that squeezes the most ‘dollars per drop’ (Allan 2007) may be fair to someone with a utilitarian world view, for instance, and outrageous to an egalitarian. For their part, liberal conceptions of environmental justice may focus on the process of transboundary water interaction, ignoring the outcome decried by social activists.

Effective analysis of transboundary water interaction, then, must consider ‘justice’ alongside the role of soft power, sanctioned discourse, power asymmetry, and coercive cooperation. Understanding whose world view is invoked and whose interests are served is critical to evaluate claims that an asymmetric outcome is fair, or ‘fair enough’ – particularly when these come from hegemonic actors. The interests of those holding prevailing concepts of justice may contribute, after all, to re–enforcing an unfair status quo. Justice may also serve to break it, and counter the hegemony.

All practitioners, academics, journalists and activists are called to London in January 2013 to test the assertions in an open, critical and creative atmosphere to help answer the following questions:

– Do ‘power asymmetries allow steering of the trade–offs away from social justice’ in transboundary water interaction, or do they only lead to a different form of equity?

– More precisely how does power affect an evaluation of what is just and unjust?

– How are conceptions of justice used to undermine or reinforce bargaining and ideational power – and vice versa?

– Which groups invoke which world views on justice? On which philosophical basis and legitimised in which ways?

– How is bargaining power used in social justice movements over transboundary waters?

– To what extent is international water law informed by justice? By power?

– How can the reproduction of unjust situations be avoided, through counter–hegemonic efforts?

– What sense of justice underlies ‘pro–poor’ and other apparently subjective justice policy (even on transboundary water initiatives)? Who evaluates it and how?

– Is the term ‘equity’ more palpable than ‘justice’ to the prevailing order? Is it therefore more or less effective?

– How can activism for justice serve equitable outcomes?

For further details on the workshop, visit www.uea.ac.uk/watersecurity/events