Reflecting on twenty years of international agreements concerning water governance: insights and key learning

Naho Mirumachi*, Margot Hurlbert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this article is to examine the research advanced in the journal, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics that represents key insights into international agreements on water and their political, legal, economic and cross-disciplinary dimensions for water governance. The article analyses evidence and lessons learnt over the last twenty years to inform policy through a review of theoretical advances, innovations in principles and policy instruments, outcomes of problem-solving and knowledge gained regarding water agreements and associated institutions. Important international agreement principles of no significant harm and economic frames of water as a ‘commons’ advance equity and community of interest in relation to water. The studies on water, sanitation and hygiene point to the ways the role of the state can be advanced in achieving Sustainable Development Goals and in complex contexts of water scarcity and public private partnerships. Cross-disciplinary learnings substantiate the existence and utility of multiple water frames in legal arrangements and use of multiple policy instruments. Cross-disciplinary insights are significant in addressing equity, whether through the nascent development of water indicators or in advancing social learning. Water governance frameworks increasingly focus on adaptation by incorporating multiple stakeholders. These findings that advance equity and inclusivity are tempered by crucial lessons in our understanding of the very contested, power-laden nature of water governance that impact agency at multiple scales and policy coordination across sectors of water, food and energy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-332
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number2
Early online date19 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Equity
  • Power
  • Sanitation and hygiene (WASH)
  • Transboundary waters
  • Water
  • Water governance


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