Articles | Volume 6, issue 2
Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 659–671, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-6-659-2015

Special issue: Climate, land use, and conflict in Africa

Earth Syst. Dynam., 6, 659–671, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-6-659-2015

Research article 13 Oct 2015

Research article | 13 Oct 2015

Socio-environmental cooperation and conflict? A discursive understanding and its application to the case of Israel and Palestine

T. Ide1 and C. Fröhlich2 T. Ide and C. Fröhlich
  • 1Research Group Climate Change and Security, Institute of Geography, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2Institute for Peace Research and Security Politics at the University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. The existing literature faces difficulties when accounting for the simultaneity of socio-environmental conflict and cooperation. We suggest that this puzzle can be solved by more recent constructivist works, which argue that conflictive or cooperative behavior is driven by discursively constructed interests, identities and situation assessments. Based on a literature review and field interviews, we analyze and compare the dominant water discourses in Israel and Palestine with the discourse dominant among the activists of a water cooperation project between communities from Israel and the West Bank. Our main result is that discourses are indeed crucial for understanding water-related conflict and cooperation. This finding highlights the relevance of constructivist approaches in the study of socio-environmental conflict and cooperation as well as of practices of bottom-up discursive conflict transformation.

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Short summary
We investigate why some social groups engage in conflicts over shared natural resources while other groups cooperate over the same issue. Drawing on evidence from the particularly puzzling case of water conflict and cooperation in Israel and Palestine, we show that the discursive construction of identities and situation assessments is a crucial explanatory factor. This finding highlights the relevance of bottom-up discursive conflict transformation.
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