International River Basin Organization (RBO) Database

International River Basin Organization (RBO) Database Design
The International RBO Database provides detailed institutional design data for 121 RBOs in more than 110 internationally shared watercourses. It allows for searching for a specific RBO (by RBO name, year of establishment, continent or member countries) and retrieving information on the institutional design characteristics of the respective RBO.
The database highlights the commonalities and differences across RBOs in the way they are set up and in the functions they fulfill in governing the respective international watercourse. An overview of the main findings is provided in a paper titled “The Institutional Design of River Basin Organizations – Introducing the RBO Institutional Design Database and its main Findings” [link to paper].

Data on the institutional design of these RBOs includes

  • The membership structure (laterality and inclusiveness of RBOs)
  • The functional scope
  • The legal foundations and reference to international water law principles
  • The level of institutionalization and legalization
  • The organizational bodies of the RBO (including their role of their Secretariats)
  • Financing and cost-sharing mechanisms
  • Decision-making mechanisms
  • Data and information sharing mechanisms
  • Environmental and compliance monitoring mechanisms
  • Dispute-resolution mechanisms
  • Means for including external actors such as civil society groups, NGOs, epistemic communities or other regional institutions

Data on the different RBOs has been gathered from a number of different resources – including the underlying agreements and treaties [here we could have a link to the treaty database], subordinary official documents of RBOs such as Rules of Procedures, Annual Work Plans, Strategic Plans or websites, official documents provided by bilateral and multilateral donors supporting the respective RBOs, program and project descriptions related to the RBOs as well as secondary analyses of different RBOs as far as available. An overview of some of the key sources on the institutional design of RBOs can be found here [link to the pdf]. A copy of the read-only excel spreadsheet is available for download [link to file].

A follow up paper, "Clearing the muddy waters of shared watercourses governance: conceptualizing international River Basin Organizations," provides more information about what a RBO is and how many exist across the globe [link to paper].

About the Researcher

Susanne Schmeier is a research fellow with the Earth System Governance Project. Her research focuses on the sustainable governance of internationally shared natural resources and the environment. A particular emphasis lies on the governance of shared water resources and the role institutions play in building resilience to environmental change in internationally shared rivers and lakes.


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