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The emergence and boundaries of the water-energy-food nexus in development cooperation

Author: Katrin Strobehn M.Sc.

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Helmut Breitmeier


Reinforced climate variability, heat waves and even longer drought periods are confronting many countries with challenges on securing water, food and energy availability. In addition, also land degradation, population growth, urbanisation and inefficient natural resources management have a strong impact on the availability and quality of these resources, thereby pointing out the need of adequate governance and management mechanisms. Prior to the Rio +20 conference in 2012, an international conference on “The Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus – Solutions for the Green Economy” took place in Bonn in November 2011, highlighting the increasing interest in nexus approaches in the field of water, energy and food security. This interdependently entanglement of various sectors was also emphasised by the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, pointing out the need of enhancing coordination and policy coherence across different sectors, regions and states. Since decades, improvements in the water, energy and agricultural sector also play a significant role in international development cooperation. Thus, international development cooperation is dealing with various purposes and challenges related to water, amongst others, water for basic needs, food and energy production, water-borne diseases, pollution and water access as a driver of conflict and migration. In addition, also water-related natural hazards as e.g. droughts and floods are considered which confront local communities differently based on their level of vulnerability and exposure. Regarding this, the integration of water- energy-food nexus approaches in international development cooperation becomes highly relevant to mitigate or prevent adverse impacts of sector-specific projects on other sectors and to promote cooperation. Against this background, the dissertation project aims at analysing the emergence and boundaries of water-energy-food nexus approaches as part of sustainability concepts of selected stakeholders in international development cooperation by assessing the understanding, critical reflection and diverging perceptions and/ or different implementation approaches of water, food and/or energy related projects/ strategies as well as projects focussing explicitly on the water-energy-food nexus. The dissertation project considers international relations theories with a possible focus on critical norm research and regime complexes.