Is it time to refocus the Water-Energy-Food nexus?

Protest by citizens affected by a large scale dam project

The water-energy-food nexus is the ‘new kid on the block’ in development thinking since 2008, and is a key concept within the UN post-2015 development agenda. The current framing of the nexus, however, needs to refocus onto the big issues of inequality and local access rights to resources, according to a new Special Issue of Water Alternatives.

In the Special Issue, leading researchers propose a new framing of the nexus which puts the question of control and access to resources at its heart. The issue is edited by members of the STEPS project on dams, securitization, risks and the nexus.

Different understandings of the nexus

‘Critical Thinking on the ‘New Security Convergence’ in Energy, Food, Climate and Water: Is the Nexus Secure … and for Whom?’, is guest edited by STEPS member Jeremy Allouche, (Institute of Development Studies), Carl Middleton (Chulalongkorn University) and Dipak Gyawali (Nepal Academy of Science and Technology).

The introductory article argues that current understanding of the nexus – in particular an influential formulation by the World Economic Forum – is defined by technological and market responses to economic issues. The politics of who has control and access to finite resources and the technologies that facilitate this control remains largely hidden within the debate. Yet this is the crux of many current challenges towards sustainable and equitable resource use.

Taking an inclusive approach

The authors highlight the need for the inclusion of all existing local resource users in defining the use of interconnected food, energy and water resources – namely, ‘the nexus’ – and its relationship to sustainability and human wellbeing. They highlight the value of decentralising and empowering institutions, decision-making processes, and technologies, which should be at the centre of the nexus.

As the global community gets set to finalise the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September, where the nexus is incorporated throughout, this special issue proposes how the nexus could be framed, understood and acted upon towards achieving the goals of sustainability, addressing poverty, and redressing inequality and social injustice.

Read the articles

Water Alternatives special issue, February 2015
Critical Thinking on the ‘New Security Convergence’ in Energy, Food, Climate and Water: Is the Nexus Secure… and for Whom?
(open access, free to download or read online)


Related content

Not another nexus? Critical Thinking on the New Security Convergence in Energy, Food, Climate and Water (STEPS Working Paper 75 by  Shilpi Srivastava and Lyla Mehta)

The Nexus Network – an initiative bringing together researchers, policy makers, business leaders and civil society to improve decision making on food, energy, water and the environment

 Image: No Dams on the Mekong by International Rivers on Flickr (cc-by-nc-sa 2.0)