Border Diplomacy: How Water Unites Cities

Authors: Michael D Bennett II*, University of San Diego, Suzanné Walther, University of San Diego, Andrew Tirrell, University of San Diego
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Water Resources and Hydrology, Political Geography
Keywords: city diplomacy, environmental policy, regional integration, transboundary issues, water
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Stones Throw 2 - Slate, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The San Diego-Tijuana border region has undergone transformative political, economic, and social integration in the age of globalization. These changes have given rise to regional institutions, governmental partnerships, and other cross-border apparatuses that capitalize on the economic might and political significance of the border while acknowledging its unique challenges. The existence of transboundary issues surrounding water management and protection across this international watershed, particularly within the Tijuana River Estuary, has provided a similar cooperative arena for local and regional actors to establish and maintain mutualistic partnerships. The impetus for regional actors to tackle pragmatic issues that remain a lesser concern for far-off central governments raises key questions about the future of transboundary cooperation. As cities have risen in prominence in their shares of global population, economic power, and social clout, local actors may be uniquely poised to tackle transnational challenges with specialized practical approaches to diplomacy. The opinions and perspectives offered by actors at multiple levels of government suggest that such cooperation has represented an increasingly valuable tool for tackling environmental issues. Much deliberation has occurred in recent years on the viability of “city diplomacy” or paradiplomatic engagement that exists among municipal-level entities. Despite naysayers, the formal and informal institutional integration that has occurred among public and private entities in the San Diego-Tijuana border region lends both credence to and guidelines for the viability of such political partnerships.

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