Shared Resources, Shared Boundaries

In her first book, Fletcher Assistant Professor of International Environmental Policy Melissa McCracken examines how transboundary water cooperation is defined and evaluated.
Melissa McCracken

International water policy and management expert Melissa McCracken is an Assistant Professor of International Environmental Policy and the William R. Moomaw Assistant Professor of International Energy and Resource Policy at The Fletcher School. She also is the Director of The Fletcher School’s Shared Waters Lab at Tufts University.

In her first book, Defining Effective Transboundary Water Cooperation, Melissa McCracken examines how transboundary water cooperation is defined and evaluated. Her broader research addresses cooperation and conflict over shared surface and groundwaters, and conflict transformation surrounding environmental resources.

While transboundary water cooperation is globally recognized as a tool for improved governance and management, no accepted standard definition exists in the literature or in practice.

McCracken establishes the Four Frames of Cooperation – legal, institutional, relational, outcome -- a neutral modular framework for developing context-specific explanatory definitions; and the Weighted Model of Effective Cooperation, which presents a first step in qualitatively evaluating the effectiveness of transboundary water cooperation. This model defines effective transboundary water cooperation and operationalizes a method to evaluate its effectiveness over internationally shared waters.

It is McCracken’s hope that together, the two models will improve the understanding of cooperation and encourage a detailed evaluation of the quality, success, and effectiveness of cooperative processes. She emphasizes the importance of place, scale, and context in the development and continuation of cooperative processes, and that cooperation is not always positive.  Reframing transboundary water cooperation as a neutral process with the potential to contribute to both positive and negative outcomes will enable more effective processes.

For cooperation to be effective, she explains, it should be both equitable and sustainable, and we are all responsible for ensuring our interactions over transboundary waters meet these two effective process imperatives. And beyond water cooperation and diplomacy, valuable lessons learned from this work can be applied to many other shared natural resources.

Publication: Defining Effective Transboundary Cooperation