Water access, demand, usage and management become complex due to the crossing of multiple boundaries: political, social and jurisdictional, as well as physical, ecological and biogeochemical. The complexity of many water issues lie in the interconnections and feedbacks among variables, processes, actors and institutions operating in the knowledge and political communities. Consequently, many water management issues become contingent due to the dynamic changes that occur in the knowledge and political communities as well as the interactions and feedback that operate within and between these two communities.

This six-part series – Water Diplomacy: Issues of Complexity Science and Negotiation Theory – will introduce and exemplify foundational ideas from complexity science and negotiation theory to illustrate how Water Diplomacy Framework can connect theory and practice to resolve complex water problems. We will focus on six thematic ideas from complexity science (interdependence and interconnectedness; uncertainty and feedback; emergence and complex adaptive systems) and negotiation theory (stakeholder identification and participation; joint fact finding; creative options).

Here we provide an evolving set of annotated bibliography for complexity science and negotiation theory categorized broadly under “Theory” and “Practice and Case Studies” with a focus on water and related natural resources. Please help us build this knowledge base by providing articles, books, and stories you have found insightful. We will continue to update this list as we progress with the series.


Complexity Science: Theory

  1. Allen, Peter, Steve Maguire and Bill McKelvey. The SAGE Handbook of Complexity and Management. SAGE Publications Ltd. 2011.

    “The SAGE Handbook of Complexity and Management is the first substantive scholarly work to provide a map of the state of art research in the growing field emerging at the intersection of complexity science and management studies. Edited and written by internationally respected scholars from management and related disciplines, the Handbook will be the definitive reference source for understanding the implications of complexity science for management research and practice.”

  2. Ashby, W.R. (1968). “Variety, constraint, and the law of requisite variety” in W. Buckley (ed.), Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral Scientist, Chicago, IL: Aldine Publishing Co. Reprint with introduction by Jeffrey Goldstein. Ashby, W.R. Variety, Constraint, And The Law Of Requisite Variety. Emergence: Complexity & Organization. Issue Vol. 13 Nos. 1-2 2011 pp. 190-207

    A classic paper addressing variety, the count of the total number of states of a system, and the law of requisite variety.

  3. Barabási, Albert-László. Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life. Perseus Books Group. 2002.

    An introduction to network thinking that uses examples from everyday life to illustrate basic ideas of network science.

  4. Ostrom, Elinor. Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton University Press. 2005.

    This book explains the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) Framework and provides examples of how it can be used in experimental and field studies. This framework focuses on analsis of how institutions form, how they operate and change over time, and how these instiutions influence society.

  5. Perrow, Charles. Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technology. Princeton University Press. 1999 (2nd edition).

    Complex systems from a social science perspective. “It takes just the right combination of circumstances to produce a catastrophe, just as it takes the right combination of inevitable errors to produce an accident.”

  6. Warner, Michael. Complex problems…negotiated solutions: The practical applications of chaos and complexity theory to community-based natural resource management. Overseas Development Institute. Working Paper 146. May 2001.


Complexity Science: Practice and Case Studies

  1. Choudhury, Enamul, and Shafiqul Islam. 2015. “Nature of Transboundary Water Conflicts: Issues of Complexity and the Enabling Conditions for Negotiated Cooperation.” Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education 155 (1): 43–52.

    “Using the Indus water treaty as an illustrative case, the paper identifies three enabling conditions that underlie the effectiveness of negotiating a treaty and its continuous efficacy in addressing [transboundary water] problems.”

  2. Ramalingam, Ben, Harry Jones, Toussaint Reba, and John Young. 2008. Exploring the Science of Complexity Ideas and Implications for Development and Humanitarian Efforts. London: Overseas Development Institute.

    “Despite the complexity and interconnectedness of problems faced in humanitarian and development work, they are often approached in an overly simplistic manner, informed by linear ways of thinking. This paper draws on the science of complexity to outline an alternative approach to analysing and understanding these problems.”


Negotiation: Theory

  1. Adler, Peter S. Joint Fact Finding: a briefing paper for government, business and community leaders. Report. Accord 3.0 Network. N.D. Online http://www.accord3.com/pg85.cfm

    A non-technical brief on JFF, which is part of a larger body of resources on Joint Fact Finding, including a user manual and bibliography of theoretical foundation documents and practical case studies.

  2. Karl, Herman A., Lawrence E. Susskind and Kathering H. Wallace. A Dialogue, Not a Diatribe: Effective Integration of Science and Policy through Joint Fact Finding. Environment Magazine. January 2007.

    Argues that JFF can be used to integrate Science and Policy. “The concept of “decisions based on sound science” is predicated upon the presumptions that science is a neutral body of knowledge immune from value judgments, science can predict with certainty and clarity what will happen in the physical world, and policymaking is a rational process. None of these is true. …what is needed is a way to ensure, politics aside, that our understanding of the workings of complex ecological systems informs public policy choices about where and how development should proceed, how natural resources are managed to ensure sustainable supplies, and whether and how to regulate economic activities that pose a threat to human health and safety as well as environmental protection.”

  3. IUCN Water and Nature Initiative. Negotiate – Reaching agreements over water. Dore, John; Julia Robinson and Mark Smith, eds. Report. 2010.

    “Water practitioners are increasingly called upon to negotiate workable agreements about how to best use, manage and care for water resources. NEGOTIATE makes the case for constructive engagement and cooperative forms of negotiation in dealing with complex water issues. It unpacks constructive approaches such as Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MSPs) and consensus building, and finally focuses on the diversity of agreements which can be produced to regulate or encourage fairer and more effective water allocation and use.”


Negotiation: Practice and Case Studies

Shafiqul Islam

Shafiqul Islam is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Water Diplomacy, and the Director of the Water Diplomacy Initiative at Tufts University. Follow on Twitter: @ShafikIslam

Larry Susskind

Larry Susskind is the founder of CBI and Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vice-Chair for Instruction at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School

Elizabeth Cooper

Elizabeth Cooper is a Fellow with the Consensus Building Institute. She completed her M.A. in Conflict Resolution, focusing on environmental policy negotiation, in the Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance at the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2016.

Amanda Repella

Amanda C. Repella was the Water Diplomacy Global Network Coordinator at Tufts University from 2012 – 2016.