Transboundary Freshwater Dispute Database | Publications

Davidsen, Pal. 2006. The Making and Unmaking of the Politics of Exceptionality Studying Processes of Securitisation and Desecuritisation in the Orange and Okavango River Basins.[PDF file]

This study acknowledges the shortcomings of, on the one side, keeping the concept of security in international relations limited and confined to state protection by military means from perceived internal and/or external threats and, on the other side, widening and broadening the concept of security to encompass all aspects of social life perceived to threaten a specific referent objects of security. By drawing upon the work of the Copenhagen School of International Relations (CoS), the study develops a comprehensive framework which examines how securitising actors discursively attempt to construct certain state of affairs or developments as threatening to specific referent objects of security. By also paying attention to the concept of desecuritisation, how to unmake security, which has received scant attention by the Copenhagen School, the thesis delineates the complex dynamics between securitisation and desecuritisation in the context of perceived water scarcity in two international river basins in Southern Africa, the Orange and the Okavango. It is argued that the foundation of the interaction between securitisation and desecuritisation is much dependent on the different ways in which nature has been constructed; the Orange River has become a symbol of “Humankind’s conquest of nature” while the Okavango has been constructed as “God’s gift to humankind”. Drawing upon the discourse theoretical framework of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, it is argued that when enacted through the logic of equivalence, securitisation invokes a Schmittian understanding of the political which reduces social antagonisms between
stakeholders in the river basins to a dichotomy between friend and enemy. It is further argued that where attempts of desecuritisation take place, these have the potential of creating a more cooperative climate between the respective stakeholders in the basin states. However, by employing the logic of difference most of these cooperative endeavours are identified as carrying important and unattended side effects, leaving central, contentious issues aside, ultimately making desecuritisation appear in a bleaker light in the Orange and Okavango River Basins.