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My panels at IASC 2013: New methods for commons research and Water governance in Mexico

I am chairing and organizing two panels at the 14th Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC), held 3-7 June 2013 in Kitafuji, Japan. The first one is New Theoretical and Empirical Approaches to Commons Research and the second one is Complex Commons and Water Governance in Mexico. You can check the conference program for Friday (today) here.

In both panels, I will be presenting some of my research in progress. I am particularly excited about my two papers, whose abstracts I include here.

Neoinstitutionalism, IAD and polycentric governance of the commons: toward a research agenda on water governance in Mexico

One of Elinor Ostrom’s biggest contributions to scholarly research was broadening our understanding of water as a commons, and of the potential of self-organizing groups to create incentives for collective action that would yield sustainable water management. Firmly rooted in neoinstitutionalist theories, Ostrom and her group developed the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework , which has been applied in a wide variety of settings to assess . Vincent Ostrom built the foundational roots where polycentricity and polycentric governance are set. In this paper, I undertake a historical overview of the joint contributions of the Ostroms to commons governance in Mexico, narrowing my analysis to water. My aim with the paper is to trace the development of applications of neoinstitutional theory, IAD and polycentric governance to Mexican water policy in the past 30 years. In the paper, I discuss some of my own work applying these theoretical frameworks to analyzing the governance of wastewater in Mexico, and I propose a research agenda that both furthers the Ostroms’ legacy and extends our understanding of water governance in Mexico.


Understanding the dynamics of institutional erosion in wastewater governance processes through a case study of the Lerma-Chapala river basin council in Mexico

2.9 billion people worldwide do not have access to a toilet (George 2010). 894 million people lack access to safe water (World Water Assessment Project 2011). 2.6 billion people live without proper sanitation and 1.1 billion still defecate in the open (Joint Monitoring Programme 2012). Governing wastewater necessitates a holistic, integrated view of integrated water management that encompasses the entire hydrological cycle and not only the components that are most visible to engineers and public health professionals. Governing wastewater in Mexico (and worldwide) still remains a large policy challenge.

This paper focuses the discussion on the dynamics of institutional erosion within Mexican water management and how institutional arrangements for wastewater governance have been slowly fractured and weakened through improper design of rules and norms within the river basin councils (Consejos de Cuenca in Spanish) and the river basin organizations (Organismos de Cuenca in Spanish). The paper uses empirical data from wastewater policies in 5 Mexican states (all of which have territory within the Lerma-Chapala river basin), but I argue that the analysis could very well apply to surface and groundwater management. In this paper I analyze the dynamics of institutional erosion within river basin councils after the legal reforms to the Mexican Water Law of 2004. My research has found that the efficiency and efficacy of river basin councils is very much dependent on design elements, political structures, institutional dynamics, extent of institutional erosion, emergence and robustness of formal and informal social norms and other contextual factors. Using lessons drawn from the Lerma-Chapala river basin as a case study, I challenge the validity of the watershed council as a paradigmatic model of institutional reform for water governance, and propose a preliminary set of ways in which we may want to reformulate this paradigm.

Wish me luck! If you are interested in these papers email me and I will make sure to send you a copy.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. My experience at #IASC2013 International Association for the Study of the Commons Conference in Kitafuji, Japan – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on June 16, 2013

    […] Kitafuji in Japan gave me two solid weeks of fully-immersed scholarly reflection (you can read on what I talked about at IASC 2013 here). And the picture below reflects exactly how I feel (as found on the When In Academia […]

  2. On the value of small workshops versus large conferences in academia – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD linked to this post on December 20, 2013

    […] alone, I have participated, so far, in 2 international conferences (the biennial meeting of the International Association for the Study of the Commons, in Kitafuji, Japan, and the 2013 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in Washington […]

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