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Solidarity in water management

Andrea Keessen, Utrecht Centre for Water Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University
Martinus J. Vink, Public Administration and Policy group, Wageningen University; PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency
Mark Wiering, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University
Daan Boezeman, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University
Wouter Ernst, Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University
Heleen Mees, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University
Saskia Van Broekhoven, Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University
Marjolein C. J. Van Eerd, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University


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Adaptation to climate change can be an inclusive and collective, rather than an individual effort. The choice for collective arrangements is tied to a call for solidarity. We distinguish between one-sided (assisting community members in need) and two-sided solidarity (furthering a common interest) and between voluntary and compulsory solidarity. We assess the strength of solidarity as a basis for adaptation measures in six Dutch water management case studies. Traditionally, Dutch water management is characterized by compulsory two-sided solidarity at the water board level. Since the French times, the state is involved through compulsory national solidarity contributions to avoid societal disruption by major floods. In so far as this furthers a common interest, the contributions qualify as two-sided solidarity, but if it is considered assistance to flood-prone areas, they also qualify as one-sided solidarity. Although the Delta Programme explicitly continues on this path, our case studies show that solidarity continues to play an important role in Dutch water management in the process of adapting to a changing climate, but that an undifferentiated call for solidarity will likely result in debates over who should pay what and why. Such discussions can lead to cancellation or postponement of adaptation measures, which are not considered to be in the common interest or result in an increased reliance on local solidarity.

Key words

adaptation; climate change; collective action; governance; solidarity; water management

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087