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Universiteit Leiden (2015)

Water as a political tool ? Water management in Syria from the advent of Hafez al-Assad to the current Syrian crisis

Hollander, Welmoed Florien

Titre : Water as a political tool ? Water management in Syria from the advent of Hafez al-Assad to the current Syrian crisis

Auteur : Hollander, Welmoed Florien

Université de soutenance : Universiteit Leiden

Grade : Research master thesis | Middle Eastern Studies (research) (MA) 2015

Résumé
Debates around water in the MENA region center on its potential for conflict or for cooperation, with predictions of future water wars. Water is presented as a natural resource or an economic or political commodity. The debate is mostly focused on the international, inter-state scale. In recent years, however, some scholars have argued that a focus on the national or local level would generate more interesting and useful research regarding the importance of water and water management. The Middle East is generally regarded as a very water-scarce and fragile region. Syria, that since the Arab Spring of 2010-2011 has been torn by civil war, is particularly interesting. Water scarcity and climate change have been mentioned in scholarly and popular discourse as possible factors for the Syrian population’s dissent. In this thesis I explore the theoretical and practical political dynamics of water within the paradigm of water as a tool for conflict or cooperation. Through an integrative historical framework I identify four possible political functions of water : water as a tool for diplomacy, development, democracy, or war. Political water management can be conducted at different scalar levels via pragmatic strategies that serve different political agendas. I argue that both the notion of relative availability of water and the appearance of pragmatic strategies in water management must be taken into account in the debate on water. Furthermore, through balancing theory and practice of Syrian water management, both abstract and concrete political dynamics are revealed

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