Trust in transboundary waters: Identifying trust-building in water diplomacy literature

Marko Keskinen
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; marko.keskinen@aalto.fi

Elina Häkkinen
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; and Finnish Environment Institute (Syke), Helsinki, Finland; hakkinen.elina.a@gmail.com

Juho Haapala
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland; juho.haapala@aalto.fi

Bota Sharipova
Water Governance department, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Delft, The Netherlands; b.sharipova@un-ihe.org

ABSTRACT: Trust-building, one of the key tools in diplomatic negotiations and peace processes, is an essential way to promote cooperation over transboundary waters shared by several countries. Combining water-related know-how with diplomatic mechanisms and foreign policy, water diplomacy provides a particularly relevant context in which to approach trust over transboundary waters. This paper examines trust and trust-building activities in literature related to water diplomacy, linking them to conceptualisations of trust in the fields of international relations and natural resource management. The reviewed publications and key-informant interviews emphasise the importance of trust in water diplomacy processes. The literature and interviews also allow us to identify ten categories of potential trust-building activities in water diplomacy. Based on this, we propose a basic conceptualisation for approaching trust and trust-building in water diplomacy. The findings indicate that, while trust is considered an important element in water diplomacy processes, the discussion would benefit from a more systematic approach. At the same time, water diplomacy processes provide a unique context for studying the role of trust and trust-building in international relations.

KEYWORDS: Water diplomacy, transboundary waters, shared waters, water cooperation, trust, trust-building, international relations, natural resource management