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UN–Water and its Role in Global Water Governance

Thomas Baumgartner, University of Freiburg
Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Institute of Environmental Systems Research, University of Osnabrueck


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UN–Water was established in 2003 to coordinate United Nations activities on water. There have been no scientific assessments about this coordination mechanism and, hence, we focus on the role of UN–Water in global water governance. We use an analytical framework to conceptualize relevant natural and social phenomena, actors, and institutions in the field of global water governance. This framework ultimately allows an assessment of UN–Water’s role in this field. Our work draws upon official UN–Water documents, a formal external review of UN–Water, and semistructured expert interviews to assess UN–Water’s influence on global water discourses, particularly on the discourses of water and climate change, and integrated water resources management. This helps to identify UN–Water’s specific functions in the field of global water governance. The mechanism acts as a bridge between the expert-centered background and the political foreground of global water governance.

Key words

global water governance (GWG); integrated water resources management (IWRM); UN–Water; water and climate change
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087