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Node and regime: Interdisciplinary analysis of water-energy-food nexus in the Mekong Region

Tira Foran
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, Canberra, Australia; tira.foran@csiro.au

ABSTRACT: Understanding complex phenomena such as the water-energy-food nexus (resource nexus) requires a more holistic, interdisciplinary inquiry. Spurred by a sense of imbalance in approaches to the nexus dominated by integrated assessment/complex systems methodologies, I re-examine the findings and recommendations of a major 'nexus' research-for-development project in the Mekong region. The concept of 'regime of provisioning', a synthesis of social science concepts related to meso-level social order, allows essential political economy and discursive elements of the resource nexus to be analysed. I show that socio-political regimes constrain societal investment in three 'nodes' of the nexus previously identified as critical to manage sustainably: energy efficiency, wild-capture fisheries, and diversified smallholder agriculture. I discuss implications for the 'nexus' as a new policy agenda and offer three propositions for ongoing inquiry and inclusive practice.

KEYWORDS: Water, energy, food security, nexus, critical social science, complex systems, Mekong region