Itay Fischhendler, Shlomi Dinar, and David Katz

Global Environmental Politics 11:1, February 2011

Cooperative adaptation has become a fashionable concept that has been prescribed for many transboundary environmental problems. In water/land interactions this option has a distinct spatial form of action that includes establishing joint managerial jurisdictions that span borders. Yet, this study shows that such an option requires that certain conditions be met. Cooperative adaptation requires some degree of political and economic stability among all partners to allow working relationships to be built and, in the case of developing countries, to have access to an active donor community. It assumes that all agreements are adjustable and that sequential construction of the regime is viable through procedures that absorb unexpected shocks. But, these conditions tend not to be satisfied among countries with conflictual relations.
As shown in this case study, asymmetries between parties in power, institutional and economic capacity, and geography (upstream versus downstream) combined with a protracted conflict to create conditions in which a sudden political shock was able to change the incentives from cooperative to non-cooperative adaptation, and thus in favor of a unilateral approach to addressing transboundary environmental issues.