top of page
Highlights master's theses

An important part of the programme is the master thesis, which is supervised by a committee consisting of representatives of all three partner institutes. Below are some examples of the research undertaken by the students for their master thesis.

Agreeing to Nothing? Exploring the Role of Ambiguity in International Water Treaties

By Dina Kaskina, Kazakhstan

Year of graduation: 2022

Ambiguity is a typical element of treaty documents. Its success in accommodating divergent interests, creating boundary conditions leading to dispute prevention and facilitating the conclusion of agreements has been widely recognized, yet less is known whether or not intentional ambiguity or unintentional ambiguity, or perhaps both, lead to challenges or opportunities in transboundary water governance. This research is focused on exploring the role of ambiguity in the design of four water agreements. The 1994 water agreement within the Israel – Jordan Peace Treaty, the 1960 Indus Water Treaty, the 1996 Ganges Treaty, and the 1996 Mahakali Treaty were used as case studies. This study attempted to determine the prevalence of intentional ambiguity and unintentional ambiguity in the selected treaties. I adopted the framework developed by Mirumachi (2015) to identify the extent to which ambiguity led to increased cooperation or conflicts over interpretations in a post-treaty period. The results show that the inclusion of ambiguity was mostly intentional in three cases (the 1994 water agreement within Israel – Jordan Peace Treaty, the 1960 Indus Water Treaty and the 1996 Mahakali Treaty). The analysis also demonstrates that this intentional ambiguity has brought high-intensity disputes over the Indus River Basin and low-intensity disputes over the Jordan River Basin and Mahakali River. Thus, intentional ambiguity is useful during treaty formation in regions with fragile settings, yet it is not useful in transboundary water governance after treaty formation, since along with contextual factors it fails to lead to improved cooperation.

Role of the “Blue Paradiplomacy” in Cooperation over Transboundary Water Management

By Mira Dzhakshylykova, Kyrgyzstan

Year of graduation: 2022

In this research, the concept of paradiplomacy, meaning international interaction between sub-national actors, is analyzed in terms of transboundary water cooperation and called "Blue Paradiplomacy". Two case studies are compared: the Great Lakes region and the Central Asian region. The concept of paradiplomacy is applied within the context of multi-level governance, and the case analysis is based on a typology of diverse political regimes. Types and levels of blue paradiplomacy are compared and analyzed by the interlinking political systems of riparian countries, using for reference the archetypal case of the Great Lakes experience upon which the concept of "blue paradiplomacy" was developed. In order to see whether blue paradiplomacy contributes to or, on the contrary, has negative implications for transboundary water cooperation, this research has applied a situation mapping with actors’ involvement for both case studies. Additionally, the blue paradiplomacy initiatives such as Small Basin Councils in Central Asia and Great Lakes Cities Initiative are analyzed. This research explores the role blue paradiplomacy plays in transboundary water cooperation.

The Role of Emotional Narratives in Fostering Water Nationalism. The Case of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) in Turkey

By Aigul Arynova, Kyrgyzstan

Year of graduation: 2021


The study explores the role of emotions in extensive hydraulic projects that become part of nation-state building processes and have transboundary impact. The main objective is to investigate how political leadership uses emotional narratives to foster water nationalism in the case of the Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) in Turkey.

The theoretical framework is based on the previous works from the international relations field on emotions, with emphasis on ‘affective community’ and ‘chosen trauma’ concepts developed by Emma Hutchison. This study also uses the water nationalism concept developed by Jerome Allouche, which describes the deliberate process of nation-building through use of symbols and slogans around hydraulic projects. The methodology is based on a case study with the use of a computer-assisted narrative analysis, in which NVivo coding software was used to analyze public speeches of two Turkish presidents.

The results of this research show that political leaders use a ‘hero-protector’ narrative, in which the current government is portrayed both as a protector from perpetrators and a source of improvement of people’s welfare. This image is further strengthened by reiteration of negative emotions around suffering and struggles related to traumatic experiences. This research contributes to a better understanding of the behavior of Turkey vis-à-vis its riparian neighbors at the transboundary level and towards international water law. Incorporation of an analysis of emotions in political discourse allows to understand that state actions are motivated not only by rational choices based on economic or political interests but are also the result of nation-state building processes that incorporate politically constructed emotional narratives.

Alarming for Nothing?: A Geographic and Sentiment Analysis of Water Securitization in Academic Research

By Sue Kyung Hwang, Republic of Korea

Year of graduation: 2020

“Water security” is an umbrella term that explains a wide arrange of concerns over water. While attaching the term “security” to “water” has often been regarded as an act of securitizing water, its versatile application implies the need to carefully scrutinize whether the use of the term actually demonstrates a securitizing move.

This study examines how the term “water security” is presented in a securitizing way, which may accumulate to have a substantive impact on policy makers. To do so, using 1,208 peer-reviewed journal articles on “water security” written between 1992 and 2018, Sue Kyung undertook an analysis of the national distribution of studies to identify countries that have been understudied considering their vulnerabilities arising from water stress. She then conducted a discourse analysis to assess how water security has been discussed in high and low water-stressed countries.

Through her research, Sue Kyung offers new insights on the potential side effects of the securitization discourse through observation of non-neutral construction of the language used, regardless of intent. Although the context and response of the audience affect the eventual consequences of securitization, an accumulation of securitizing moves can have a significant impact on policy makers. Sue Kyung suggests expansive studies be conducted on the matter of water security, especially in highly vulnerable areas, preferably in a non-securitizing way. It is also important to remind the audience, especially policy makers who hold power to transform the scholarly work to practice, to maintain a critical lens when acquiring seemingly non-political information.

photo_Sue Kyung Hwang.jpg
Transboundary wetlands: exploring formal mechanisms for cooperation

By Zoe Hoffman Rosenblum, USA

Year of graduation: 2021


Research on transboundary water cooperation often focuses on rivers, and has expanded somewhat to explore lakes and aquifers. However, such research on transboundary wetlands fall behind. In an effort to fill this gap, Zoe researched the geographic distribution of transboundary wetlands and then conducted an in-depth analysis of three to better understand the extent to which they are cooperatively managed beyond country borders

The first portion of the research was conducted as a spatial analysis, which incorporated GIS data from the Ramsar Convention, the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme, and country boundaries, to identify the global distribution of transboundary wetlands. The end result was the Transboundary Wetlands Database, a catalogue of 300 wetlands that extend across country borders.

For the second part of the research, Zoe employed document analysis to better understand the extent to which countries cooperate over the management of the wetlands of the Wadden Sea, Okavango Delta, and the Hamoun Wetlands. The results demonstrate evidence of cooperation over the Wadden Sea and the Okavango Delta, further indicating that active, formal institutions may facilitate cooperation over shared wetland resources. This research suggests that wetlands, like rivers, lakes and groundwater, could be further explored as sources of cooperation.

Academic Discourse(s) and Practitioner Perspectives: Gendered Climate Adaptation Strategies for Water Resources

By Theresa Keith, USA

Year of graduation: 2020


Research into the phenomenon of adaptation has surged in recent years as people across the globe face evolving climate situations. Often in this research, and the policy discussions that stem from it, the role of women in adaptation is either unclear or entirely unaddressed - There remains a lack of systematic scientific inquiry into how the role of women in adaptation processes is discussed and conceptualized across the academic community. Additionally, little research has been done on how practitioners active in the field of climate adaptation understand the role of women.

The aims of the thesis were to understand the ways in which women’s roles in adaptation are conceptualized in literature and simultaneously understand how these roles are perceived by practitioners. The two-part study systematically examined academic literature using a discourse analysis framework and applied this same framework to a series of interviews with adaptation professionals. It was found that narratives of women’s “vulnerability”, which other scholars have previously documented, is still pervasive in academic literature. Other discourses, including that of changing gendered power dynamics, seemed to signal a shifting narrative. Practitioner responses varied from the literature by repeatedly underscoring the centrality of women to climate adaptation processes, particularly in the water sector. These findings provide nuance to the discussion of women in climate change adaptation and help to illustrate current thinking, both in academia and on the ground. The divergence of academic and practitioner perspectives highlights the need for both communities to be active in the creation of adaptation policy.

Assessment of effectiveness of River Basin Organizations (RBOs) on the example of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS)
Chemayeva IMG_0298-2.jpg

By Nataliya Chemayeva, Turkmenistan

Year of graduation: 2019 


The thesis focused on the analysis of the effectiveness of institutional capacities of River Basin Organizations (RBOs), which in this case were perceived as institutionalized forms of cooperation among the riparian states. The interpretation of connections between the institutional design and the regional setting was used as the key to identify hindering factors affecting effectiveness.

The concept of effectiveness was perceived as a continuum, where certain periods were interpreted as variables, contributing to the overall trend of effectiveness. This method was applied because the RBO was seen as a dynamic instrument of regional cooperation, and multiple assessments done within the timeline were crucial to understand how the RBO, as a complex multi-level system, reacted to the external “shocks” of regional cooperation. Further, each period, within the timeline, was researched by applying qualitative and semi-quantitative analysis based on secondary sources.

For the case study, the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) was chosen. This is an existing instrument of regional cooperation among the five Central Asian states (notably, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) tasked to regulate water allocation of two transboundary rivers - Amu Darya and Syr Darya, and to attract funds for regional projects. According to the conducted qualitative analysis it became evident that institutional structures affect the effectiveness of RBOs. Through the expansion of their structures, institutions might become a substantial burden to efforts towards regional cooperation and in their turn affect or trigger certain regional processes.

(In)visible women: Representation and Conceptualization of Gender in Water Governance and Management

By Jaclyn Best, USA 
Year of graduation: 2020

Although there is a substantial body of work on the inclusion of women in traditionally male-dominated processes of water management and water governance, these efforts have mostly been concentrated in the Global South and women are still lacking in positions with decision-making power, making water governance still gender disparate from the top-down. In the thesis, Jaclyn examined the representation of women and the conceptualization of gender in water governance organizations.


This was done in two stand-alone research projects. First, Jaclyn compiled gender-disaggregated data of employees involved in water governance and management of the Deschutes River Basin (DRB) in central Oregon, USA. Findings show that women are underrepresented throughout the DRB, increasingly so in decision-making roles and in traditionally male-dominated sectors. She concluded by offering recommendations based on gender mainstreaming principles to increase gender representation throughout the basin. 


The second part broadened the study area, in which Jaclyn gathered gender disaggregated data from 45 international River Basin Organizations (RBO) and determined if and to what extent RBOs conceptualize women and gender issues. Results indicated that women are underrepresented in RBOs as a whole and in positions of decision-making power. Of the RBOs that did conceptualize gender and/or women, few have incorporated them into explicit policies, and the majority were donor funded and concentrated in the Global South. Findings show that there is no correlation between RBOs that conceptualize gender into their policies or programs and increased equitable gender representation among RBO employees and decision-makers.


The results of the research highlighted the need for more thorough gender-disaggregated data collection and analysis and gender mainstreaming in all levels of water governance and management in both developing and developed country contexts, which could in turn, increase the effectiveness of such processes.

Jaclyn Best.JPG
Whose Right is Right? Searching for a Common “Right” for Promoting Trust and Water-Related Data Exchange in Central Asia
Sharipova Alumni quote.jpg

By Bota Sharipova, Kazakhstan

Year of graduation: 2019 

Mistrust is considered to be one of the main obstacles to cooperation, especially for the exchange of hydrological data and information between newly-independent riparian states. The thesis explores the ways how trust can be built based on producing common knowledge and agreeing on values.

After identifying the origins of trust in relations between the states using most prominent International Relations (IR) theories, a definition of trust based on a constructivist worldview was derived as “belief that other state would do what is right, with the “right” being socially constructed and common for both trustor and trustee”.


Using this definition, the important role of epistemic communities and global water virtues are identified in both promoting trust and facilitating data exchange between the states. Examples from a case study of the newly-independent Central Asian states concerning data exchange on the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers are used to demonstrate how trust and mistrust are built through epistemic communities. Finally, the influence of international water virtues on trust are examined through the example of data exchange and its influence on trust in Central Asian states.

As a result, the research shows that because of national interests, biased knowledge and competition for funding in newly-independent states, in some cases epistemic communities and global virtues fail to build common understanding of what is “right” and bring trust.

Globalization of Water Resources: Examining Social Learning Using Serious Gaming

By Fatima Abdelbagi Mahmoud Taha, Sudan

Year of graduation: 2017

The research aimed to make a comparison of social experiences by examining the Water Footprint Computer Assisted Board Game (WFCABG) - a serious game concerning the Water Footprint concept - as a tool for enhancing the social learning of water resources issues surrounding commodities trade. The study engaged 73 students and staff from various countries and professional backgrounds, in two academic settings in two different countries: Oregon State University (United States) and the University for Peace (Costa Rica).


The game focused on showing how complicated are the negotiations over water on the international scale. It emphasised on trade-offs concerning water use for different commodities and the environment, a major factor in the decision making. The game could be used for different purposes other than providing a safe learning environment and training, such as encouraging participation and for social behaviour change.


However, careful use of the game mission should be considered in different contexts. The simulation had a great effect on the social learning by increasing the students’ familiarity, enriching their understanding of water-related management issues, enhancing their negotiation skills, and increasing the learning.

Indigenous Approaches to Water Conflict Management: the Anuak and their Approaches to Water Conflict Management

By Tsion Mesfin Woge, Ethiopia

Year of graduation: 2017

This research paper investigates the water conflict management approaches of the Anuak indigenous people in Gambella, Ethiopia. The paper poses the question whether indigenous approaches to water conflict management provide some effective mechanisms that help to resolve conflict? If so, how? In order to provide answers to the research question, the paper will go in depth and investigate; First, how the Anuak indigenous people manage their water resources.


Second, how they resolve conflict arising from the management of shared water resources; third, how they assess the effectiveness of those water conflict management process? And, finally, using their effective indigenous methods of conflict management mechanisms, how can they address conflict arising from the expansion of large-scale agricultural investment in the Gambella Regional State?

What Lies Below: Options to Improve Sustainable Management of U.S./Mexico Transboundary Aquifers

By Christina Welch, United States of America

Year of graduation: 2017

Christina studied three transboundary aquifers shared by two countries and three states (New Mexico/U.S., Texas/U.S., and Chihuahua/MX) within Paseo del Norte study area. This area represent an ideal microcosm to closer examine water management institutions across the local, state, national, and international scales. She assessed the United States and Mexico’s institutional capacity to manage groundwater across each scale.


The problem is imminent since the Hueco Bolson transboundary aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for nearly 2 million people and the fresh water is predicted to be completely depleted between 2020-2050. The ultimate objective was to identify which future legal, scientific and economic options can best contribute to more sustainable management of transboundary aquifers without compromising water security in both countries.

Through a GIS spatial analysis and 28 interviews with water managers in the Rio Grande/Bravo basin, she found that arguably the most important future step would be to increase public awareness of the aquifer exploitation problem. Second, for water managers to accurately plan for future water demands there should be a binational groundwater model built by scientists on both sides of the border; third, joint economic investment in a groundwater desalination plant located in Ciudad Juarez; fourth, an international treaty or regional joint agreement is necessary to legally support groundwater management efforts.

bottom of page