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Geopolitics of Water Wars

Maastricht Summer School
Netherlands, Maastricht
Maastricht Summer School Netherlands, Bonnefantenstraat 2, 611 KL Maastricht, The Netherlands
Tuition fee €600.00 per programme


Oil was the reason for various so-called “resource wars” in the twentieth century. In the twenty-first century, however, water wars will become more commonplace. This has at least been suggested by among others a former president of Egypt, a former Secretary-General of the United Nations and various political analysts. This course offers you a stimulating geopolitical approach towards water wars. It explains why states consider fresh water as a strategic natural resource and, more strongly, a national interest. The course further clarifies the role of hydro-politics by introducing several past water conflicts. Contemporary inter-state relations in various transboundary rivers basins are discussed as well, including the Nile, Euphrates/Tigris and Mekong. You apply and expand your knowledge of water conflicts through a group assignment. This assignment revolves around the potential for conflict and cooperation in a few disputed areas. Interactive lectures and roundtable discussions help you prepare for your assignment. Based on all assignments, we explore the places where water wars may start in the twenty-first century, and discuss how such wars could be prevented.

▪ Exploring the different ways in which water matters to societies different approaches towards water security.
▪ Recognizing the conflict potential of fresh water among states that share water resources.
▪ Understanding the complexity of transboundary river basins in various regions.
▪ Designing a framework to map the various aspects (e.g. geographical, political, economic, historical and environmental) of potential water wars.
▪ Identifying the options for cooperation between states that claim the same water resources.

Instruction language

▪ Strong motivation and good command of English are essential to get a pass for the course;
▪ Basic knowledge of (geo)political ideas and/or trends is recommended;
▪ Aimed at Bachelor/ Master/ PhD students in Political Sciences/ International Relations/ Geography/ History/ Economics/ Business/ Media Studies/ Journalism/ Cultural Studies/ Linguistics. If in doubt, please contact Leonhardt for personal course selection advice.

Suggested literature
Below you find some general reading suggestions. It is not required to do some reading before the course. If you like to read something, select the sources that are closest to your research interests. Alternatively, please ask Leonhardt for personal reading advice or check his website:
▪ Allan, J.A. (2002) The Middle East water question. Hydropolitics and the global economy.
▪ Assouline, J. and Assouline, S. (2009) Géopolitique de l’eau. Nature et enjeux.
▪ Blatter, J. and Ingram, H. (eds.) (2001) Reflections on water: New approaches to transboundary conflicts and cooperation.
▪ Bulloch, J. and Darwish, A. (1993) Water wars. Coming conflicts in the Middle East.
▪ Chellaney, B. (2013) Water. Asia’s New Battleground.
▪ Dinar, A., Dinar, S., McCaffrey, S.C. and McKinney, D.C. (2013) Bridges Over Water: Understanding Transboundary Water Conflict, Negotiation And Cooperation (2nd ed.).
▪ Elhance, A.P. (1999) Hydropolitics in the Third World. Conflict and Cooperation in International River Basins.
▪ Hoekstra, A.Y. and Chapagain, A.K. (2008) Globalization of water. Sharing the planet’s freshwater resources.
▪ Klare, M.T. (2001) Resource wars. The new landscape of global conflict.
▪ Lasserre, F. and Brun, A. (2018) Le partage de l’eau. Une reflexion géopolitique.
▪ Ohlsson, L. (ed.) (1995) Hydropolitics: Conflicts over Water as a Development Constraint.

Teaching methods
▪ Lectures ▪ Presentations ▪ Work in subgroups

Assessment methods
▪ Attendance ▪ Participation ▪ Presentation

▪ Geopolitics ▪ Transboundary Water Conflicts ▪ Fresh Water ▪ River Basins ▪ Nile ▪ Egypt ▪ Ethiopia ▪ Mekong ▪ China ▪ Vietnam ▪ Euphrates ▪ Tigris ▪ Turkey ▪ Iraq ▪ Syria ▪ National Security ▪ International Relations ▪ Analytical Skills ▪

Apply now! Block 5.1 2018/19
Application deadline
Jun 1, 2019 23:59
Europe/Amsterdam time
Studies commence
Jul 29, 2019

Application deadlines apply to citizens of: United States