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Handbook of Global Environmental Politics

Edited by Peter Dauvergne

The first Handbook of original articles by leading scholars of global environmental politics, this landmark volume maps the latest theoretical and empirical research in this young and growing field. Captured here are the dynamic and energetic debates over concerns for the health of the planet and how they might best be addressed.
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Chapter 27: Growth and Fragmentation in Expert Networks: The Elusive Quest for Integrated Water Resources Management

Ken Conca


Ken Conca Water is affected by everything, and water affects everything and everyone. (World Water Council1) The river basin management concept has been driven by a rational analytical model as seen in the use of the words such as ‘coordinated’ and ‘comprehensive’. While this model might provide an ideal, no matter what shape it takes, it does not fit reality. The reality of river basin management goes beyond notions of unified administration and rational analytic models to one of facilitated dialogue and negotiation among stake-holders in the basin. (Jerome Delli Priscoli2) Expert networks have often been an important lubricant to international environmental cooperation. They move information, frame problems and responses, and press governments in ways that can promote the creation of institutions for supranational environmental governance, such as treaty-based international regimes. Models of knowledge-driven institution building have stressed several different factors, ranging from the influence exerted by ‘epistemic communities’ of technical experts to the more politicized role of problemframing ‘knowledge brokers’ to the knowledge-disseminating role of transnational ‘social learning’ networks (Litfin, 1994; Haas, 1990, 1992a, 1992b; Social Learning Group, 2001). These models differ, often dramatically, in their characterization of the networks that shape and carry knowledge. They also differ in their conception of the balance between narrowly technical and more broadly political sources of influence, but they share a presumption that actors with shared knowledge foundations and value orientations can be an important – perhaps even authoritative – source of norms in world politics. Most studies of the...

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