Water Security, Migration, and Infrastructural Conflicts in the Middle East

Research in conflict studies and environmental security has largely focused on the mechanisms in which the environment and natural resources foster conflict and contribute to peacebuilding. Yet, two understudied areas of research on environment and conflict concern: (1) the ways in which warfare has increasingly focused on destroying infrastructure and the long-term effects on human welfare and ecosystems and (2) how ensuing internal and cross-border migration have contributed to the securitization of discourses around migration and water, particularly in much of the Middle East.

This talk will examine the human costs incurred from repeated destruction of environmental infrastructures in the Middle East. Moreover, it will elucidate the different ways in which policymakers in the region have sought to grapple with migration in light of the ongoing wars in the Middle East that have targeted infrastructure. In doing so, it will look at how protracted droughts and scarce water resources, combined with internal and cross-border migration, have contributed to the securitization of discourses around migration and water in much of the Middle East. Combined, this talk will offer a more robust understanding of the complex ways in which drought, water scarcity, migration, and infrastructure destruction affect human security.

About the speaker

Erika Weinthal is the Lee Hill Snowdon Professor of Environmental Policy and the Associate Dean for International Programs at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University. She specializes in global environmental politics with an emphasis on water and energy. Her book — State Making and Environmental Cooperation: Linking Domestic Politics and International Politics in Central Asia (MIT Press 2002) — was the recipient of the 2003 Chadwick Alger Prize and the 2003 Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize. She has co-authored — Oil is not a Curse: Ownership Structure and Institutions in Soviet Successor States (Cambridge University Press 2010) and co-edited a volume entitled, Water and Post-conflict Peacebuilding: Shoring Up Peace (Earthscan Press, 2014). She is a member of the UNEP Expert Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding. Since 2011, she is an Associate Editor at Global Environmental Politics.

This seminar forms part of the Environmental Change Institute’s “Welcome to the Anthropocene” week, which provides an overview of the driving forces and implications of global environmental change.