Georgia Team to Study Treaties, Rivers, and Water Conflicts

Two University of Georgia researchers will determine how to prevent and manage conflicts between nations that share sources of freshwater.

The two-year project, conducted by international affairs professors Jaroslav Tir and Douglas Stinnett, will focus on the role of international institutions and the efficacy of treaties in governing the use of international rivers. Their research is being funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense.

Due to population growth, pollution, development and climate change, there is considerable concern about the increasing demand on freshwater sources and the conflicts that will emerge as a result. Already a topic of high-level national security debates around the world, the prospect of conflicts arising over shared water sources has been recognized in U.S. strategic planning documents.

“The practical importance of this project is hard to overstate,” said Tir. “Finding effective ways to manage the use of rivers through international institutions would not only address an emerging global security issue, it would be a natural response to the growing problem of water scarcity.”

This project investigates the extent to which international institutions might be able to promote cooperation and discourage conflicts between countries that share rivers. Tir and Stinnett will present their initial research findings next summer at a conference on climate change and security organized by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters.

“Many of the world’s international river basins are not currently covered by treaties, so there is a tremendous opportunity to establish new agreements. Depending on our findings, this project can help illuminate the best way to design new institutions to govern these rivers.”

Stinnett and Tir are professors in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs.

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