Whose Right is Right? Searching for a Common “Right” for Promoting Trust and Water-Related Data Exchange in Central Asia

Mistrust is considered to be one of the main obstacles to cooperation, especially for the exchange of hydrological data and information between newly-independent riparian states. The thesis explores the ways in which trust can be built based on producing common knowledge and agreeing on values. After identifying the origins of trust in relations between the states using most prominent International Relations (IR) theories, a definition of trust based on a constructivist worldview was derived as “belief that other state would do what is right, with the “right” being socially constructed and common for both trustor and trustee”. Using this definition, the important role of epistemic communities and global water virtues are identified in both promoting trust and facilitating data exchange between the states. Examples from a case study of the newly-independent Central Asian states concerning data exchange on the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers are used to demonstrate how trust and mistrust are built through epistemic communities. Finally, the influence of international water virtues on trust are examined through the example of data exchange and its influence on trust in Central Asian states. As a result, the research shows that because of national interests, biased knowledge and competition for funding in newly-independent states, in some cases epistemic communities and global virtues fail to build common understanding of what is “right” and bring trust.

Learn more about Bota Sharipova

I graduated from the WCD Masters Program in 2020. After completing this Masters Program I have a strong belief that every expert, working in the transboundary water management field, needs to study water cooperation and diplomacy. It helped me to broaden my understanding of the complicated relationships that exist among water users and learn about the global experiences of solving water-related issues. Currently I am back in Kazakhstan, working as an independent consultant on regional water education issues.

In my Master thesis I derived the definition of what is trust in international relations and transboundary water management. I also examined ways of how epistemic communities can contribute to better trust, as well as what are the obstacles for these communities to build trust, on the example of the newly-independent Central Asian countries.