News & Events
Tijuana River Watershed
What lessons exist for managing our own trans-border environment? Water problems on the US-Mexico border region of San Diego and Tijuana are clear. Urban streams on both sides of the border have had incredibly high concentrations of contaminants and this contamination has flowed to wetlands and beaches in San Diego. Pollution poses immediate risks, in the form of raw sewage and polluted rainwater that flows across the international border, and residents living along the US-Mexico border continue to experience high incidences of tuberculosis, hepatitis and intestinal infections. Individual states and the international community need new ways of managing trans-border environments that generate cooperation and prevent conflicts. The community of stakeholders involved in regional environmental governance at the US-Mexico border is large, including
- The security sector, because trans-boundary environmental problems threaten human security and undermine state sovereignty if natural resources are poorly managed.
- Elected Officials (United States, Mexico and Tribal) because they possess the jurisdictional, political and institutional resources needed to address regional, trans-border water issues.
- But particularly state and local officials, because those living closest to the real effects of polluted water have greater incentives to firmly and consistently support environmental improvement and mindful management.
- Civil society, because they have proven experience and success in fundraising for diverse projects, play the important roles of monitoring compliance and advocating for social justice, and are effective program designers and agents of implementation.
- The private sector, because businesses value the long-term security of investments and have a stake in examining and responding to the environmental threats.
According to the United Nations Environmental Program, collaboration between the private and civic sectors with law-making bodies drives dynamic change from the bottom up and top down through education, science, innovation and new norms. Yet they also find that lack of communication and cooperation between bodies leads to poor administrative capacity and actual implementation potential.
The Tijuana River watershed is shared by two countries, two states, indigenous peoples, civic organizations, local governments, and private land owners. Different jurisdictions and mandates normally promote competing interests in transborder water management, however a unique challenge of the Southern US Border (not shared by the Northern Border) is the juxtaposition of a developed and developing country. The Southern US-Mexico border region experiences an underlying conflict that is based on (1) the unequal development of Tijuana and San Diego and (2) the conflict of interests in promoting economic development in Mexico while at the same time protecting people and resources in the border area from the ecological consequences of downstream pollution. Disputes over water quality are nested within the relationship between San Diego and Tijuana as separate cities in sovereign nations, and individual problem-solvers as separate national and tribal peoples.
Conflict Resolution in Practice
Greening Borders supports hydro-diplomacy and trans-border solutions to water security by discussing emerging transborder water management approaches from around the world, and applying cutting edge thinking to our water security in our own region. The conference is built on the following principles, from the field of environmental conflict resolution:
- Face-to-face discussions;
- Deliberation intended to enhance participants’ mutual education and understanding;
- Inclusion of multiple sectors representing diverse and often conflicting perspectives;
- Openness and flexibility of process;
- Recognizing and building on previous regional and local initiatives;
- Consensus or some variation other than unilateral decision-making as the basis for agreements;
- An environmental element, meaning the interconnected biophysical, economic, political, and social systems encompassing both natural and human systems.
In line with a conflict resolution and peacebuilding approach, this conference planning has been carried out in cooperation with people and parties who affect and are affected by the quality of our shared water source. Experiences, concerns and wisdom on environmental and border issues shared by this regional community are essential in crafting conference workshops and panels so that they cater to the diverse needs and aspirations voiced by these communities.
To actively address communication and cooperation between such diverse communities of environmental stakeholders, interactive working sessions follow each panel for conflict analysis, consensus-building, and for building the political will to build on emerging transboundary water management schemes in our own region. In our final session, a regional vision will be articulated. While that vision can only be defined by participants, it might be expected to include a focus on sustained cooperation, collaboration, and communication across regimes, regions, and stakeholders.
Greening Borders will produce two kinds of outputs: process and behavioral and content. Facilitated workshops will generate the establishment of a collaborative process for continued work. Delegates themselves will decide what this process should look like, based in part on what they hope to achieve together in the short to mid-term future. Discussions over priority goals or issues, accountability, governance, roles and tasks are central to developing the desired process as well as trust, communication and behavioral patterns.
In addition, content outcomes will include:
- A Border Brief – a policy briefing on current water issues, challenges and opportunities at the US-Mexico border;
- Video-taped panel session proceedings for wide dissemination and
- Documented Conference Proceedings and evaluations.