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Environmental Security Issues No Longer of Secondary Importance for Regional Cooperation or Conflict: The Case of the Mekong River

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Water Security in Asia

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When addressing environmental issues, a standard response is that environmental/ climate change issues are viewed with lesser sensitivity for regional cooperation and integration than topics related to national security, even though environmental/climate change related risks are identified as a potential ‘threat multiplier’. Indeed, it is argued that cooperation on subjects like environmental security may contribute to cooperative behaviour between states even when confronted with serious issues of national security. Yet the paper challenges such a perception by arguing that non-traditional security threats have become more significant in their impact, with environmental security representing a prominent example. After all, the risks and development challenges related to environmental security are not only diverse, but increasing in their severity with regard to their impact on the development prospects of societies and the livelihood of the people. Not only can environmental/climate change related risks hamper development, but also undermine development goals that have already been reached. Consequently, we should no longer accept that environmental related risks are of lesser importance for national security and regional cooperation, indeed, environmental/climate change related risks indicate a new quality of security risks with potentially far-reaching consequences. It is also often emphasised that proximity represents a pre-condition for regional and sub-regional integration processes, yet, proximity with regard to environmental/climate change security issues takes on a different quality by harbouring potential serious negative implications for adjacent geographic locations with a particular regional context. The Mekong River, as a trans-national river system provides a specific case, since various countries having strong interests in utilising its resources for national development, and in doing so increases the prospect of a competitive development dynamic among the states within the Mekong region.

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Ploberger, C. (2021). Environmental Security Issues No Longer of Secondary Importance for Regional Cooperation or Conflict: The Case of the Mekong River. In: Babel, M., Haarstrick, A., Ribbe, L., Shinde, V.R., Dichtl, N. (eds) Water Security in Asia. Springer Water. Springer, Cham.

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