Potential Areas of Conflict

Friday, 12. October 2007 | 10:45 Uhr


Thomas Bernauer


CIS, ETH Zurich


Prof. Thomas Bernauer, CIS, ETH and University of Zurich outlines the topic “International water conflicts – reasons and evidence”. The conflict about the source of the Jordan River between Israel and Syria in the sixties is normally mentioned as a textbook example. Generally, and also in this case, the question is rather about whether the water issue plays a decisive role at all, apart from other, more important tension-causing developments and reasons. There are case scenarios and exhaustive statistical surveys, but generally we face a “black box” that hides a mixture of other motives and variables. It is true that tensions and conflicts about water are usually internal and do not have cross border elements. Questions/comments from the audience: Alberto Garrido cannot think of a water conflict between Portugal and Spain. However, there are tensions again and again; local decision-makers could provide evidence of this. Also, during the wars over the Alsace region the Rhine never played a decisive role. Prof. Kinzelbach also mentions important water related areas, such as upstream-downstream sharing, and especially the access to port facilities and to the sea. Apart from that, there are tensions without people being killed.

Thomas Bernauer

Thomas Bernauer is a Professor of Political Science (International Relations) in ETH Zurich’s Department of Social Sciences and Humanities (D-GESS).

He heads a group that forms part of the Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS) and the Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED). Currently he also serves as Director of the CIS and is a member of the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Research Council.

Thomas Bernauer studied political science, history and international law at the University of Zurich, where he received an M.A. in 1988. From 1988 to 1992 he worked as a research associate at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva. During that period he wrote a doctoral dissertation analyzing the negotiations on a global chemical weapons ban. In 1992 he received a Ph.D. from the University of Zurich. After two years as postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University (1992-94) he served for one year as a senior lecturer in Political Science at the University of Zurich before joining ETH Zurich as an Assistant Professor of Political Science (International Relations) in 1995. He became Associate Professor in 1999 and Full Professor in 2004.

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