Rethinking the Politics of Transboundary Water Management: The Case of the Zambezi River Basin

Publication Date: 
01 April 2015
Appearing in: 
International Journal of Water Governance

This article challenges the prevailing ‘problem-solving’ discourse around transboundary water management, according to which river basins are largely taken as a ‘given’ ecological spaces and where the main challenge is to find environmentally sustainable ‘solutions’ to a number of specific ‘problems’ through rational, functional-technocratic or even scientific policies and institutions. Without rejecting the normative attractiveness of ecologically sustainable and basin-wide approaches, this article pays particular attention to the continued relevance of politics, power and national sovereignty. Such political perspective gives rise to a number of general but often overlooked policy issues, two of which are focused upon in this article. The first is the challenge to reconcile national benefits and interests with the common good and basin-wide approaches. The second is related to whether transboundary waters are best governed through specialized and functional river basin organizations (RBOs) or through more multipurpose regional organizations that have a more distinct political leverage?