Chapter 14: International political economy and the global governance of hydroelectric dams
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Hydroelectric dams are massively controversial, and the social, economic and environmental backlash against them in the 1990s led to the emergence of new modes of global governance, wherein local social movements and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) formed effective anti-dam alliances with global civil society. This in turn led to the 2000 World Commission on Dams – an attempt to create new, shared norms for establishing systems global governance. However, with the emergence of the 2011 Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP), based on corporate social responsibility (CSR), competing norms in effect exist – with conflict between global civil society on the one hand, and states, the hydropower industry and global governance institutions on the other. This conflict revolves around participation – the World Commission on Dams’ (WCD) attempt to ‘mainstream participatory governance’ versus HSAP’s requirements for ‘community engagement’ in the context of involuntary resettlement. The chapter traces the process through which participatory norms were watered down, attempts to institutionalise global governance failed, and civil society itself was weakened.

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