SOAS University of London

CWD Members at ECPR Bordeaux, September 2013

16 September 2013

CWD members Kate Bayliss, Marja Hirvi and Peter Mollinga participated in the 7th European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) general conference, 4-7 September 2013, at Sciences Po, Bordeaux, France. Kate Bayliss and Peter Mollinga chaired a panel each in a series of four panels on water resources policy, titled, respectively, 'Privatisation  and Pricing in Water Supply and Treatment: What Impact do New Management Forms (such as PPPs) have on Water Prices, Policy Outputs and Outcome?' and 'Who Wants to be Part of IWRM? The Politics of Scale in Basins and Catchments.'

Privatisation and Pricing in Water Supply and Treatment: What Impact do New Management Forms (such as Public-Private Partnerships) have on Water Prices, Policy Outputs and Outcomes?  

Marja Hirvi (SOAS CWD) presented a paper in this panel, titled 'The politics of privatisation in Ghana: Conflict and institutional incentives in the management contract for urban water supply 2006-2011'. The paper explored water privatisation as a case study of market oriented development policy, and looked specifically at the problematic relationship between the public and private water companies operating a management contract in the urban water supply between 2006 and 2011. Interpreting these conflicts and the controversial outcomes of the management contract through the framework of Cultural Political Economy, the paper showed how the politics of the management contract drew from the broader historical and economical context of urban water supply in Ghana. The paper concluded by proposing ways of accounting for these socio-political environments in evaluating privatisation outcomes.

Three further papers were presented in this panel, addressing a cross section of topical debates.  Annabelle Houdret (German Development Institute) and Simon Bonnet (Institut Français de Géopolitique) presented their findings from research into the impact of the privatization of irrigation in Morocco which highlighted the potential conflicts arising from private sector engagement in water management. , The presenters showed how privatization has failed to bring about the anticipated benefits, with outcomes affected by socio-political relationships between agents.

The focus then shifted to alternative modes of public water delivery. Carsten Hezburg (University of Potsdam) presented a typology of public utilities and outlined six different ideal-type models drawing on cases from Germany and France.  The final paper, presented by Chiara Fratini (Aalborg University) took the example urban water governance in the city of Copenhagen to demonstrate the challenges of managing conflicting priorities when urban ‘liveability’ comes up against pressure for economic efficiency.

The papers were followed by a lively discussion which drew on the parallels between the different papers, particularly the limitations of and constraints imposed by privatization as well as the challenges faced by public modes of water delivery. Tensions and conflicting interests play out in different ways and the commodification of water has increasingly come to dominate water delivery across locations.  The cases presented also raised the question of democratic accountability which was taken up in the discussion, with participants  identifying areas for further debate and research.  

Who Wants to be Part of IWRM? The Politics of Scale in Basins and Catchments

Five papers were presented in this panel. Jeremy Allouche (IDS, Sussex) presented a paper on the history of the concept of IWRM (Integrated water resources Management), particularly its post-Rio 1992 history. The paper showed the contested nature of the concept, as well as its wide global diffusion. The four subsequent papers discussed different ways in which IWRM is contested. Timothy Moss (IRS Erkner) presented a German case study of the multi-scalar strategies associated  with the Water framework Directive implementation, as well as a typology of the different types of  scalar strategies and practices in ‘scalar politics’. Jeffrey McNeill (Massey University) discussed the capture of IWRM policy in New Zealand, at regional level, by notably farmers.  Anja Senz (Duisburg University) discussed the transboundary politics (hydropolitics) of the Brahmaputra basin, FOCUSING ON THE Eastern Himalayas, showing how geopolitics prevents ‘integration’. Lastly, Christian Bréthaut (Geneva University) discussed the transboundary governance dimension of the Rhone river between France and Switzerland, where an increasing number of actors became involved over time because society put new demands on the (use of) the river water.

CWD members at ECPR Bordeaux
© Picture by Hans Bressers
Conclusion and follow up

The water sessions at the conference prompted broad interest and participation from across Europe. Presentations addressed questions of water governance from multiple angles ranging from conflict resolution to private sector involvement in large scale irrigation projects. These provoked a lively debate regarding appropriate modes of water management and governance and how to study these in the contemporary policy context, opening up new avenues and questions for future research projects.

Selected papers from the in total four panels are being considered for a joint publication by an editorial team consisting of Karin Ingold (Bern University, CH), Manuel Fisher (Geneva University , CH) Cheryl de Boer (Twente University, NL) and Peter Mollinga (SOAS, UK).