Water Security Strategies of Gulf States in Comparative Perspective

This project seeks to explore and analyze the water security strategies of three leading Gulf Cooperation Council members -Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait- in comparative perspective. In doing so the student seeks to explore how these three Gulf states are each responding to the challenge of both absolute and relative water scarcity in their respective territories and what determinants of the chosen policy mix of each state can be identified. What role is there in their respective strategies (and implementation of those strategic plans) for technology- a pathway usually associated with managing the supply side of water security? Which fiscal tools do Kuwait, UAE and Qatar deploy to safeguard their access to water and manage public consumption? How coordinated are such strategies between different ministries and government agencies, or are they mostly the product of the activity of one bureaucratic entity? Up to what extent do Gulf states rely on the indirect strategy of “virtual water”, i.e. the import of goods and services (mainly food and other commodities) that require a lot of water in their production, so that domestic supplies are unaffected by the population’s needs are still met? Etcetera. The objective of the project is not so much to rate or evaluate different country strategies and highlight “good” and “bad” students, but rather to understand how and why different Gulf states have made different choices and to understand the impact of those strategic choices on actual policy formulation and policy outcomes. In that sense, it contributes both to the scholarship on water security in the Gulf in the narrow sense but also to a much broader conversation about governance determinants and dynamics and the ways in which mutual learning between Gulf states and their bureaucracies can further important policy dialogues on existential strategic issues such as water availability and consumption. To do so, this project will rely on a mixture of sources and methods. Some of the research will require both archival work and review of contemporary primary policy documents; other segments of the project are probably best served by a careful dissection of the growing secondary literature on the subject. Importantly, under the guidance of her supervisor, the student will also conduct some interviews with leading policy-makers in the field of water, food and energy security to obtain a deeper and more thorough grasp of the policy making process and the complexity of the challenges at hand.

UREP Cycle: 20

Faculty Mentor(s): Dr. Harry Verhoeven

Student(s): Jihane Benamar


Presentation of theoretical framework and early findings of the research project at the Middle East Dialogue 2018 meeting in Washington DC on 23 March 2018.

Funding: $4,796

The Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP)