Can nexus avoid the fate of IWRM?
Can Nexus avoid the fate of IWRM?
[This discussion is now closed]
Is the nexus approach the harbinger of a transformative paradigm shift? I argue it promises to be the start of such a new journey for both academia and activists but is fraught with pitfalls of old habits and entrenched hegemonies.
Environmentalists have always emphasized the interconnectedness of natural resources. Nexus as a concept has been around for decades. It found new life when the business community discovered the disastrous domino effect cascading through different sectors of the economy with the 2008 financial crisis. A fortuitous convergence of thinking between business and activist communities has broadened the support for intersectoral, i.e. "nexus", solutions. This is potentially unlike the equally laudable integrated water management (IWRM) paradigm which was hijacked by water agencies to prevent radical transformation by focusing on technocratic and procedural solutions.
Examples abound of projects designed and implemented within narrow disciplinary or departmental silos that failed to incorporate important benefits or unknowingly caused harm. However, when one looks for good examples of nexus planning and implementation, they are difficult to find. So, what is new with the nexus paradigm? At its core lie much-ignored aspects of governance: moving away from technocratic fixes of "wicked" problems; recognizing complex trade-offs; replacing faith in full control with flexibility and adaptive management; and giving equal primacy to not-easily quantifiable values of ethics and justice arrived at by listening to marginalized grassroot voices.
Unlike IWRM, which had water as the center of attention and the river basin as the theater of integrated management, nexus broadens the field to energy, food, transport, health, climate change, and much more. This nexus focus across physically dissimilar sectors and wide geographical spread opens up both rich new possibilities and bewildering conceptual and methodological challenges.
For example, linking water and energy inevitably brings in climate change: the energy sector is a major cause, but social and economic impacts are mainly felt through the water sector. It is not just changing flood-drought intensity and frequency, but also changes in humidity/soil moisture leading to the destruction of old cropping practices, prolific spread of invasive species, urban water shortages, disease pandemics, etc. The energy sector has dominated the climate discourse with its problem definition (average temperature rise) and solution (mitigation and shift to renewables). Could a nexus approach to, for example, multiple forms of water storage for multiple uses – from wetlands and water harvesting to groundwater and storage dams –make a better contribution to climate accords by killing several birds with one stone?
Closer to home for this writer, the Indian government recently passed an Act to make the River Ganga (along with 110 other rivers) navigable year-round, which is impossible without storage of monsoon flows in Nepal. Will this see an alliance of commercial interests looking for cheap, energy-efficient transport with environmentalists battling an entrenched irrigation bureaucracy that vows not to let a drop be wasted to the sea? A nexus approach to environmental politics would certainly open up that possibility in the currently moribund transboundary negotiations between Nepal, Bangladesh and India.
Such a nexused outcome is neither inevitable nor easy. As with IWRM, mainstream analysts in big corporations and government agencies are likely to frame the nexus problem as manageable through the same old technocratic tools of methodological individualism – expert modelling using efficiency-driven criteria – and market myopia, which does not bode well. Nexus is in danger of getting enmeshed within the same comfort zone as IWRM, of silo practitioners filtering out uncomfortable knowledge around social injustice and powerful hegemonies that marginalize the weak.
Where would a more nexused journey start from? I argue that any opportunity to transcend silos and practice a real nexus approach can come about in one of three ways: 1) by the serendipitous appearance of enlightened statesmen; 2) during disasters and major disruptions when silo thinking's limitations get exposed (which seems to be happening during the Covid-19 lock-down); or 3) by reforming institutional arrangements to reflect genuine pluralism in management styles.
This third avenue, re-tooling governance, is the most challenging but ultimately most sustainable path to implementing nexus solutions. It will require government agency, market and civic players to be nudged towards a genuine partnership of public-private-civic "constructive engagement". This does not happen naturally, but it lies at the very core of natural resource and environmental politics. In Nepal, the success of community electricity distribution (some run by women's groups operating agriculture cooperatives or community forestry programs) is an example of change through effective nexus politics.
Bureaucratic agencies with their penchant for control and market individualism focused on monetary profit are conservative forces of silo thinking and practice. However, they can be nudged towards a nexus approach by a coalition of civic society partners. Academics engaging in trans-disciplinary research and advocacy can influence and support journalists and politicians who often need to consider multiple interlinkages in their work. Trans-disciplinary academia promotes "problem feeding" from one discipline (and thus one silo) to another, to redefine the nature of the solution they would otherwise have promoted. This of course is somewhat theoretical.
In practice, getting powerful technocratic bureaucracies to open themselves up to the lived experiences of the marginalized will be a very political process, of different intensities in varied societies. Success or failure (or probably something in between) of the nexus approach, and avoiding the fate of IWRM, will be determined by the nature, scale and intensity of the engagement, which is bound to be clumsy, as all political processes are.
Dipak Gyawali is a hydropower engineer-political economist, an academician with Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and used to chair Nepal Water Conservation Foundation. He was Nepal's minister for water resources in 2002/2003.
I am afraid that the interrelations that the nexus concept describes are too many, too diverse, too vaguely defined and too complex to be manageable to any meaningful extent; also we do not have yet institutions in place (neither legislation, nor agencies, nor traditions neither customs, nor procedures for decision-making, not user organizations) to manage any single component of the nexus in an integrated manner. And there are probably good reasons why this is so (fear of high transaction costs, Leviofan bureaucracy, contradictory incentives, political dynamics, etc.). So this (nexus management) simply cannot be done, for now and in the, at least, medium-term future, I even would say in the long-term future. Rather, it should be considered as one of the guiding principles in the gradual improvement of our current management institutions. Also it will be useful in the consideration, on the case-by-case basis, of certain problems that involve all (or some of the) nexus elements in an integrated manner.
The role of geopolitics is a critical one. In the Asian context , the annexation of the previously independent kingdom of Tibet has forever altered the transboundary discourse. Responding to the mention of transboundary river basin with mentions of India, Nepal and Bangladesh and without a mention of China, makes for an incomplete understanding. Almost all the major river basins-Brahmaputra, Indus, Sutlej, Mekong (which further feed the other major subcontinetal rivers) needs to be cognizant of these realities. Without taking into account the dynamic geopolitics, role of IFIs, businesses and domestic politics of riparain countries in the truest sense, the nexus concept will fall woefully short, and not be an advancement over the IWRM idea. Academia in particular needs to take a hard look within and come up to speed with the changing realities. Most importantly community based organisations need to have a real seat at the table to bring the people's voices who will bear the brunt of these decisions
I agree with the analysis, and can add that the Nexus approach can also be compared to the idea of integrated basin management and to the new paradigms imposed by climate change. All these approaches require a multi-sectoral approach and face the same challenges.
I also agree with Andrei's comment, especially in the Chilean case (which I know better), where one can see that any change to the legislation on water (free market approach) is resisted by a strong lobby of sectors such as mining, agriculture and energy.
In general, I believe that the Nexus approach is useful for providing background for decision makers, but it does not allow for addressing the historical problems of institutions (i.e. dispersion of powers, lack of coordination, etc.) and obsolete legislation. In my view, both the Nexus approach and the challenges of climate change face the same fate, because they have to deal with the same barriers: vested interests, the prevailing economic paradigm, institutional inertia, among others.
What is the impact on the ground of the literally tens of books on the 'water+' nexus, and of the global conferences devoted to it in the past decade? What benefits can be exhibited against the costs of these discussions? A clear, largely negative, impact is the associated discursive emphasis on capital-intensive, expert-driven, market-oriented solutions that further cement the global discourse on the 'green economy', 'ecological intensification', 'payment for environmental services', 'pricing and market instruments' and other business friendly responses to water scarcity compatible with growth and profit maximization.
I would argue that the nexus per se is not a problem (it does draw our attention to the complex tradeoffs that have to be made between sectors) but, if becoming a global hegemonic policy concept (consuming huge intellectual and financial resources), it certainly is a step backward with relation to IWRM: IWRM, at least, is a boundary concept which people concerned by the social and environmental dimensions of water can engage with. The nexus offers nothing of the like and remains largely confined to approaches and concepts such as optimization, tradeoffs, input-output, life-cycle assessment, material flow analysis, etc. that, in addition, bump into poor/inexistent data and overwhelming complexity, 'flatten' reality, and eventually achieve very little (see the recent review of 245 'nexus papers' by Abrecht et al. which concludes that "nexus methods frequently fall short of capturing interactions among water, energy, and food—the very linkages they conceptually purport to address"…). Although some of the nexus commenters (and even promotors) have called for a 'deepening' or 'widening' of the concept, in particular towards social dimensions, what's left of that at the end?
To echo Andrei's comment: let's take sectoral policies at the governmental level, for example: where has 'the nexus' been able to go beyond instilling a discrete acknowledgement that indeed 'everything is connected'? Where has nexus-thinking led to the recognition of detrimental spillover effects of one policy over another sector to the point of motivating substantial policy changes? What we see rather, to take one example, are pervasive agricultural development policies that unrelentingly make light of both the environment and energy implications. Counter-examples of nexus pennyworth to prove this wrong are welcomed!
I agree with what has been said in the forum thus far. If we look at the WEF nexus concept, I do not think that it will bring about a paradigm shift within the water community, be it a policy paradigm shift or a scientific paradigm shift. Within the policy community, the incorporation of WEF nexus thinking, like IWRM, into policies will be superficial with stakeholders proclaiming they are practicing a nexus approach in the their respective arenas, but it will be business as usual on the ground. In this business as usual scenario, old habits and entrenched myopic thinking along empirical and positivist thinking prevails. The reference to the Abrecht et al. article Francois provided shows how empiricism and positivism are entrenched in nexus thinking particularly where nexus assessments favour quantitative approaches and the limited use of social science methods. This indicates a flatland fallacy, also mentioned in the article and by Francois, where scholars proclaim complexity thinking to address complex problems but do not consider the theoretical limitations of the theory. Many scholars and practitioners think that complexity is the only perspective needed to explain and understand realities around the interaction between water, energy and food. However, complexity is one of many theories with the ability to explain and understand numerous interconnections. Academia and practitioners treat it as a parsimonious theory that perports an efficient way of painting a simplified picture of complex reality. Complexity is ontologically a low dimensional theory and as such it is apolitical in that it does not take political realities into consider other than by saying these are complex.
By default this holds also for the WEF nexus in that the focus is on three seemingly interconnected sectors each focusing on a specific benefit and involving particular disciplines and professions entrenched in empiricist and positivist thinking. The focus on water puts the resource front and foremost and links it with sustainable development theory and ideology that promises benefits through instrumentality. Here various natural science disciplines are dominant. For energy and food; economics, efficiency and engineering are the call to arms, so to speak, with their empiricist and positivist inclinations towards explaining how these two sectors connect with water and how the instrumental application of quantitative analytical methods will bring about positive outcomes.
My conclusion from this is that the WEF nexus is efficiently interconnected at a scientific paradigm level where the dominance of scholarly hegemonies leans towards empiricism at the expense of normative manifestations in society. WEF nexus thinking paints a picture of a world that 'is' interconnected between water, energy and food and rarely asks what 'ought' to be. Dipak touches on the 'what ought to be' question when he argues for a public-private-civic arrangement and brings politics and decentralised energy arrangements in Nepal into the equation.
From a Political Science and International Relations perspective, we need to ask ourselves when investigating WEF nexus arrangements, who governs and who benefits (Hobson and Seabrooke)? In my opinion it will show that certain disciplines connect with governance and political arrangements driven by the belief that science speaks truth to power. Should we ask the question differently, who acts and what are the consequences of their actions (Hobson and Seabrooke), we will start seeing instances where citizens take action in providing water, energy and food at a communal level with governance arrangements independent from centralised government in place that could play a more emancipatory role for those who need the three resources the most: the poor and marginalised.
Policy dialogue is central to the nexus approach
I agree with all the elements developed in the different posts/comments. Nexus approach recognizes that we have many goals, all-legitimate, and that addressing them all may in some cases be synergetic (poverty reduction and food security) or antagonistic (produce more and consume less resources), in which case the art of the dialogue is to find acceptable solutions (trade-offs).
The nexus offers an approach that combines understanding the complex relationships and interactions between different sectors, incorporates knowledge of dynamic local conditions and context, and aims to produce policy-oriented and practical resource management results. Policy dialogue is central to the nexus approach and finding sustainable solutions from an environmental, political, social and economic perspective. Policy dialogue brings together all stakeholders to improve understanding of past stresses, current trends and future risks.
The current management and regulatory systems, the competition for scarce resources and budgets between different ministries and agencies, and the difficulties in data management and access to information, they all do not encourage cooperation between different sectors. They also make it difficult to organize coordinated actions involving multiple ministries and public agencies to address cross cutting issues in a coherent way that takes into account: the economic; social; environmental and political dimensions, especially knowing the budgets of the separate and independent bodies. The lack of relevant information hampers the possibilities of establishing objective relationships not only between sectoral strategies, but also between them and users. The declination at the regional level is disconnected from the vision advocated at the national level. It relies more particularly on instant responses to the evolution of the "challenges of the day".
Investment planning and strategies for each sector take place within the relevant ministry and their regional agencies as well as local authorities. Improved data would help to understand policy interactions and how government support is coordinated across the wide range of ministries, public institutions and authorities; and sub-national, basin, farm or sectoral level data to enable a better understanding of the potential impact of different policies.
Much the same as IWRM the Nexus concept requires basic common sense and relevance in planning and operational processes. From a management leadership perspective there has to be the planning, oversight, execution, maintaining, and upgrading, based on the supply and demand for the specific e.g. nexus resource. IWRM was developed, originally with northern hemipshere countries in mind. One of the reasons for its criticism was that developing countries faced (and still do) a multitude of problems in the management and governance of water and sanitations services. Complex systems and cultural diversity in water and wastewater processes have to be accommodated.
There needs to be more scaling of nexus components from the very local (even personal) to the global (planetary) level in a creative snd functional way where we can perceive the obvious benefits or disadvantages to the way in which the small granules of ideas and reality pass through the nexus in the universal time glass.
Chances are that resilience, as was the case with sustainable development (as a result of its moralising high ground) will become outdated.
A pragmatic adaptive shift will then be required for the water sector to move on to yet another plane of thinking in the evolution of human thought, technologies and whatever social-ecological needs may be.
Working in the humanitarian context, I am thinking of the nexus in a more practical way on a smaller scale than even river basins.
I think that with the current challenges the main takeaway is to get away from thinking in silos. The settings we work in, the beneficiaries we work with, they and their needs as well as environmental and future needs can't be put in silos.
We can't have a technocrat who doesn't consider social backgrounds or a social worker who doesn't understand how to implement a water supply system.
But we do need a bit of all the different fields in order to deliver our work as good as possible.
I personally think that water+ nexus thinking helps a lot in understanding the importance of interdisciplinary work.
I was personally taught in IWRM and later the nexus and I can say that the nexus influences my thinking, working and planning in all matters and I think that's a good thing.
Yet, it's a more philosophical issue that all practitioners of any academic field in the sense of inter/transdisciplinary work adding to all fields.
Still, especially in my context I don't see ways of practically implementing it as it really gets to big for a project team that often only consists of 1 or 2 people and limited financial resources which often makes decide for one or the other while we know there would be a number of other issues to combat if we could.
In this useful comparison between IWRM and nexus approaches, IWRM wins.
First, nexus approaches reinforce the myth of ‘sectors’ – ignoring how human beings need water to meet multiple domestic and productive needs. ‘Sectors’ depoliticize intra-sectoral differentiation and, hence, the broader power relations that determine whether and how even basic domestic and productive water needs are met, or not.
Second, sectors and nexus keep ignoring the lowest-hanging fruit of integration: multi-purpose water infrastructure from household to basin scales. Low incremental costs to a single-use design bring high benefits.
Third, in nexus approaches, powerful professionals hand pick the ‘sectors’ of their liking. For example, nobody has been working on a productive-reproductive/domestic nexus. Yet, this would be key for gender equality, nutrition, food security and income, leaving no one behind, certainly in today’s pandemic.
Fourth, sector and nexus approaches cement competition among professionals at the expense of the most vulnerable. For example, the WASH sector focuses on legitimate, widely recognized priorities of safe drinking water and hand washing, but ignores other domestic water uses (which don’t require drinking water quality) and even basic productive uses, such as homestead cultivation. Yet, the WASH sector remains toothless in competition with any productive nexus of sector. The latter simply relegate the responsibility to prioritize ‘domestic water uses’ to the WASH sector, leaving them no other options than sending expensive water tankers.
Fifth, persistent promotion of sectoral and nexus interests continues to leave the burning question about the rationale behind administrative sectoral organization unanswered: how can central treasury both avoid overlap in allocating funding and organize specialist expertise, but in other ways than through sectoral departments?
In contrast, IWRM is a useful concept, provided all ‘managers’ are included, also beyond the formal realms. Informally, communities combine multiple, variable water sources, to meet their multiple needs through – unsurprisingly - multi-purpose infrastructure as the rule, and single-purpose infrastructure (e.g. to distant fields) as the exception. Informal sharing arrangements evolve. Rural communities have managed this complexity and incremental improvement as a matter of daily life, if not survival, since time immemorial. They can explain this to outsiders in a morning of resource mapping and an afternoon of transect walks - if outsiders listen to this people-driven ‘pull for integration from below’.
Hi Barbara. I thought from previous interaction you were foresworn against IWRM, I now guess it was more a critique of its mal-application than total opposition to the concept and principle. Thanks for putting very succinctly what IWRM offers
Hi Simon, even more good things of IWRM: it did unite all water professionals in a joint endeavor to get water on general policy agendas, as SDG6. Within the (hardening?) general silos, water - beyond urban middle class interests- easily evaporates (e.g., climate change, agriculture). So, yes, our point was the malapplication of IWRM. The resulting 'lost decades' are well documented in the WaA Special Issue on 'Flows and Practices. The politics of IWRM in Southern Africa' (Mehta, Derman and Manzungu eds).
Today's challenges require polycentric and transformative approaches like nexus thinking, circular economy and sustainable food systems to provide answers to today's challenges. The idea that everything should evolve around water is gone. In actual fact, nexus thinking or nexus planning is about cross-sectoral analysis and not sectoral, no sector is considered to be more important than the others. Once a so called nexus approach focuses on one sector it ceases to be one and diverts from the chore of the concept. Moreover nexus thinking is not only about WEF nexus, but there are many nexuses out there. Thinking only of the WEF nexus is also misleading. In other words there is no cherry picking of sectors in nexus planning. There are other nexuses like urban nexus, water-health-ecosystems-nutrition nexus, among others.But of course the WEF nexus has been the most popular.
The myth that nexus planning is only good as a conceptual or discourse framework is gone. There are tools that have been developed that provide cross-sectoral quantitative relationships between sectors and indicate priority areas for intervention. Nexus planning has evolved into an important analytical framework,important in decision-making. Actually, through ongoing nexus research, there are analytical tools that have been developed and have been helpful in assessing progress towards SDGs. A paper to this effect will be published in two weeks time in the Environmental Science and Policy Journal (Elsevier).
Within recent memory for many of us, the Cambodian economist Dr. Khieu Samphan (Ph. D., la Sorbonne) was empowered to explore "polycentric and transformative approaches to provide cross-sectoral quantitative relationships between sectors and indicate priority areas for intervention" in implementing "progress towards SDGs". How did that work out? https://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/indicted-person/khieu-samphan
The Nexus is hardly new. In 1970, as part of its bid to resist growing global opposition to apartheid, South Africa's government reviewed the strategic challenges posed by its limited natural water resource. Amongst them it noted that agriculture should not get a greater share of the country's water, use of water for energy would have to be constrained (dry cooled coal power stations and nuclear only at the coast); that was because the growing urban/industrial centres would need more of what was available. So, already then, it was obvious that water/energy/food were connected but that the game-changer would be the urban/industrial economy. To their credit, they even recognised that environmental protection would restrict how much of the available water could be used.
Fifty years on, the conclusions haven't changed - although environmental requirements have received increased prominence and pollution by urban/industrial users is imposing more costs on other users. So a limited focus on the WEF Nexus thinking back in 1970 would have missed the two primary drivers of the next half century. The only value of the concept is to remind us that, in different locations, there will be different sets of water-related interests, working out their modus operandi in the political economy of the moment.
My thesis is that, in 1992, IWRM served one set of (primarily European) interests, the environmentalists, who explicitly identified it as a paradigm that would help to amplify their voice; for example, the focus on the river basin as the locus of policy allowed them to escape from more traditional boundaries of democratic government. Meanwhile the Nexus was promoted by a set of management consultants and given credence by the other WEF (the World Economic Forum) to help rescue a complex policy domain from the IWRM paradigm which had served to sideline many other social and economic interest groups. So, while the notion that there are tradeoffs between different water uses is obvious, the concept of the Nexus allowed other parties to come back to the policy table.
Various elements of this argument at:-
Mike's post says something about the invention of concepts to fit reality, or, more specifically, to invent new policy prescriptions to address problems on the ground. If South Africa already has WEF thinking in place since the 1970s, I am wondering if developed countries are not lagging behind in their thinking/practice nexus? Does the developed world invent new concepts and policy paradigms to impose on developing countries that are already, and for decades, thinking along WEF nexus lines? It would appear that, in South Africa at least, climatic conditions have forced drought prone developing countries to think as Mike described. In Europe, they are only now starting to experience recurring drought. Last year, I visited Germany, and my German colleagues all spoke about the previous year's 'severe' drought experienced by many European countries. Under these circumstances, is a policy paradigm shift, informed by WEF nexus thinking, not more applicable to the European context than to our regularly drought prone situation where we are already thinking and practicing WEF? If this is the case, and I argued this last year in Germany, they should learn from our experiences in dealing with drought and not the other way around. In this regard, climate change thinking could have played a significant role in the development of the WEF nexus. Developed countries start seeing the effects thereof on their economies, invented the WEF nexus as a policy paradigm, informed by empiricism and and positivism, and now have to 'export' the concept in the form of consulting services to developing countries. This relates to the power dynamics found in global governance issues.
Richard, I don't think it's a question of countries lagging behind. Paradigms are successful where they respond more effectively to their context than their competitors (Kuhn, 1960s). So the South African paradigm of the 1970s was not unique - it reflected what was happening the in the western USA as well as Australia from a hydrological point of view. What was perhaps different was the political context with 1970s centralised South Africa more clearly concerned about its strategic security than federal Australia (which took so much longer to get to grips with its cross-border 'problem-sheds' and only did so by invoking the economic competition provisions of their Commonwealth Constitution). But Spain did similar things as well (nothing like dictatorships to help override more complex political processes) until a completely unrelated political upset turned a rash manifesto promise, of a party that did not expect to get elected, into policy - and Barcelona nearly died of drought! Meanwhile, just a couple of months ago, the UK released a water strategy that recognises that water resource planning should cross river basin boundaries and that transfers and storage infrastructure may be important, a response to the recognition that the climate may be somewhat drier and more variable than before.
These examples illustrate my basic point:
Water resource governance and the paradigms on which it is based reflect the physical and political context (as they ought to). And attempts to impose paradigm from other contexts are likely to fail although, as we saw with IWRM, if they have sufficient funding behind them, they can make a significant impact in poorer communities, despite being manifestly inappropriate.
Mike, thank you very much for supplying more examples to enrich the perspective. Yes, you are correct that policy paradigms reflect physical and political contexts. Considering this, Israel is another typical example where we see changes in policy paradigms. On Kuhn, we need to be aware that policy paradigms and scientific paradigms (e.g. positivism and interpretivism) differ. There is a common denominator running through both, though: ideas in fluid contexts.
It would take too much time to fully respond, but the use of the Spanish case here is incorrect. It is a simplistic and wrong concatenation of facts (New Water Culture; 2004 elections; 2008 Barcelona drought) that do not reflects the evolution of water management and water policy in Spain during the last decades.
It would be nice if you could describe briefly that evolution and its principal political drivers.
Let me try and brutally summarize/interpret the rich discussions so far before outlining some challenges:
Both the nexus approach and its predecessor IWRM are appealing in theory but without much to show in actual successful policy measures. They are, however, forcing us to move to another uncomfortable plane of thinking; but a pragmatic adaptive shift in practice seems to be a long way off.
As with IWRM, Nexus approach too seems to work at the bottom of the institutional totem pole (e.g. the household kitchen and community efforts) but fails rather dramatically as we move up to national and international levels.
Sectoral institutions world-wide have evolved and entrenched themselves in privileged positions they will defend robustly. Over-riding their vested interests and forcing them onto a path of better cooperation with other silos (by whom? How?) via the nexus approach looks bleak at the present.
Policy community is unable to affect a paradigm shift because it is mostly locked into old, entrenched quantitative positivism emphasizing descriptive rather than interpretive social sciences. They consume most of the resources of the nexus world at the expense of praxis activists fighting for urgently needed change.
Policy dialogue is central to the nexus approach but questions remain: dialogue between whom and on what terms within the current context of policy hegemony? This question is more relevant in the Global South that has gone along with concepts developed in the North, with technocrats trying to force "integration" as per their understanding while social activists opt for better "harmony" with existing social order.
Can the potential in the nexus approach be harnessed to breath new life into sputtering environmental and social movements? Should the effort be put in sub-nexuses such as food-transport, water-storage, urban housing-WEF, or nutrition-water-health? Or does championing trans-disciplinary education hold better promise, producing for the future WEF+ nexus resource managers?
Three examples at different institutional levels, local to international, bring home the need for not ignoring a nexused (or integrated or harmonious) approach:
The current Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a dangerous lack of nexus thinking: politicians and film stars have come on TV asking people to maintain social distancing and wash their hands with soap many times for at least 20 seconds in each try. What does this injunction mean (to the WASH efforts in particular) in the vast majority of villages and congested urban dwellings where almost a dozen labourers share a room with one outhouse, and where there is barely 6 liters of water per capita?
In early 1980s, Nepal established a truly nexused platform, the Water and Energy Commission which had permanent secretaries of 12 relevant ministries as members to deliberate on interlinkages and cross-sectoral impacts of development activities. Except in the area of transboundary negotiations, this platform was never asked by the government to provide advice in key controversies, and sectoral decisions were approved by the cabinet, often times to their latter regret. Is a purely bureaucratic nexused platform futile without it being simultaneously a more plural one that includes activists and market players as well?
The clean up of the Rhine post 1986 Sandoz spill represents an outstanding transboundary success of sectors, levels and social organizing styles. If the "Sewer of Europe" could be cleaned up, ANY river in the world should be amenable to cleaning. What nexus lessons can be drawn from this and many other success stories?