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Domestic and international dimensions of transboundary water politics

Filippo Menga
University of Manchester, School of Environment, Education and Development, Manchester, UK; filippo.menga@manchester.ac.uk

ABSTRACT: A considerable amount of research in the field of International Relations (IR) has acknowledged the interplay between domestic politics and foreign policy. Few studies, however, have investigated this phenomenon in the narrower field of transboundary water politics. There is also a general lack of research exploring how the formation of a national identity can overlap with the construction of a large hydraulic infrastructure, and how this can have repercussions at the international level. This paper draws on Robert Putnam’s (1988) two-level game theory to illustrate how the interrelation between the domestic and the international dimensions matters in transboundary water politics. Perspectives from IR, political geography, and water politics serve to present a conceptual framework which is then linked to studies on nationalism. This helps to highlight the analytical relevance of such a perspective to understand the issue of large dams. The paper takes the cases of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia and the Rogun Dam in Tajikistan as examples.

KEYWORDS: Transboundary water politics, hydropolitics, international relations, nationalism, dams, Ethiopia, Tajikistan