Sustainable Development

Water Rights

Of the many environmental challenges facing Sub-Saharan Africa, ensuring safe and adequate access to water is one of the most basic and most urgent. In collaboration with the Robbins Collection at Berkeley Law, the Institute seeks to assess the limitations of existing water regulations in the region and to identify opportunities for more effective water governance. 


Recent Actvities

Water Rights Roundtable

In March 2008, along with the Robbins Collection, the Miller Institute convened an interdisciplinary group of experts from Senegal, France and California to comparatively assess and propose potential legal and policy options to the governance of access to and use of water in Senegal. Discussion began with legal traditions and water rights in Senegal and the disharmonious relationship between newly codified water regulations and customary traditions. Senegalese populations believe that the divinities delegate the use of water to communities and therefore cannot be owned and is not property. Water also cannot be sold, so when an individual leaves the community the water rights return to the community. New formal laws have ignored the communal approach, which has actually reinforced customary ways and the result has been greater conflicts regarding water governance in Senegal.

The discussion then focused on current challenges in water governance where the surprising parallels in the challenges faced in Senegal to those currently and historically faced by California were highlighted. Legal systems in Senegal do not adequately address the growing strains on water access at this time and it is clear that both an international and local solution will need to be derived to fully address the complexities.

Next Steps: Forthcoming are reports on Senegal’s statutory, Islamic and customary laws governing use and pollution of surface water resources and groundwater. The reports will also provide an assessment of the most significant short-term and long-term water resources management challenges faced in the country. A follow on roundatable will be hosted by the Miller Institute and the Robbins Collection  in order to successfully develop an effective legal framework.

For a list of conference participants please click here.

Papers presented at the Roundtable:  Hana Ivanohoe, No Peace without Water: Institutionalized Water Governance for the Avoidance of International Violence, 2008.

Climate Change

The Institute is in the initial stages of developing a research agenda focused on addressing various problems caused by climate change, such as the creation of climate refugees. This work will be done in collaboration with a variety of constituents from Berkeley Law, the University and the community.


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