Highlights master's theses

The first Water Cooperation and Diplomacy Master students graduated in 2017. We highlight below some examples of the research undertaken by the graduates for their master thesis.

Assessment of effectiveness of River Basin Organizations (RBOs) on the example of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS)

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 my thesis, I examined the representation of women and the conceptualization of gender in water governance organizations.


I did this in two stand-alone research projects. First, I 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. I conclude by offering recommendations based on gender mainstreaming principles to increase gender representation throughout the basin. 


The second part broadened the study area, in which I gathered gender disaggregated data from 45 international River Basin Organizations (RBO) and determine 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 my 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.

Whose Right is Right? Searching for a Common “Right” for Promoting Trust and Water-Related Data Exchange in Central Asia

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.

Water Cooperation and Diplomacy

A joint MSc Programme, organized by: