Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

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DPPG 8502

WaterConflict&Devp in Asia

Dam projects have long been associated with uneven development, human insecurity, injustice and even indirect and direct forms of inter-region or inter-state conflicts. Almost all Mekong River countries have made ‘damming Mekong’ a policy priority to achieve economic development and secure clean energy.
China now is the largest investor, trading partner, and aid donor in the region and has invested in major infrastructure projects through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) across the region. China’s extensive dam-building in Southern China, and its development financing in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, have given it extensive control of the waters of Mekong River states in Southeast Asia that have long depended on the river for agriculture, fisheries, and increasingly for hydropower and energy supply.
After preparation during the fall 2023 semester, our faculty-student research team will travel to Vietnam and Thailand to compare large foreign-financed dam projects that have been completed or currently under construction.
Through a two week field research experience in Vietnam and Thailand, we will guide students to conduct in-person field work, including semi-structured interviews (and potentially surveys) with government officials, think tank experts, environmental NGOs, hydropower companies, and local citizens in Vietnam and Thailand.
In addition to traditional security threats, we will spend ample time exploring the non-traditional security threats that plague the region, including debt sustainability, access to water and electricity as basic human rights, environmental insecurity, and forced relocation of low-income farmers along the Mekong River. 
Students will get to workshop and select the specific research questions inside the following overarching topics of water conflict:
Through extensive field research, students will study selected questions in groups exploring water politics and conflict transformation comparing the two countries, such as how do they secure foreign investment but also balance local environmental and water use concerns to avoid conflict over scarce water resources?
Learning Objectives
To deepen students’ understanding and appreciation of both the policy and development challenges faced by Southeast Asian country policymakers and local citizens, including organized advocates like environmental NGOs and hydropower companies.   
(1) development of knowledge and skills on conflict transformation regarding water conflict
(2) Build familiarity with main theoretical and empirical perspectives on development projects and their social, environmental, economic and political implications in a region so culturally, politically and economically diverse and at the same time strategically important to the United States
(3) Apply field research methods and writing skills
(4) Foster communication skills for diverse audiences, including formal presentations and informal discussions in class, semi-structured interviews with foreign experts and government officials and with culturally and religiously diverse local populations
(5) Understanding and appreciation of cultural sources of individual, community, and national identities, cultural values, and culturally-informed perspectives on and approaches to conflict over public policies addressing environmental challenges and development concerns. 
Development Practice & Policy
Development Practice & Policy
Intl Policy & Management
Requirements Fulfilled:


Spring 2024 - MIIS, MIIS Winter/J Term only

DPPG8502A-S24 Lecture (Liang, Teets)