Time to redirect the focus of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus

5 February 2015

The water-energy-food nexus is the 'new kid on the block' in development thinking since 2008, and is a key concept within the UN post-2015 development agenda. The current framing of the nexus, however, needs to refocus onto the big issues of inequality and local access rights to resources according to a Special Issue of Water Alternatives, published this week. 

MALI Nafadji - Water Alternatives

In the Special Issue leading researchers propose a new framing of the nexus which puts the question of control and access to resources at the heart. 

Different understandings of the nexus

‘Critical Thinking on the ‘New Security Convergence’ in Energy, Food, Climate and Water: Is the Nexus Secure … and for Whom?’, is guest edited by Jeremy Allouche, Institute of Development Studies Research Fellow, ; Carl Middleton, Chulalongkorn University and Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

The introductory article argues that current understanding of the nexus – in particular an influential formulation by the World Economic Forum – is defined by technological and market responses to economic issues. The politics of who has control and access to finite resources and the technologies that facilitate this control remains largely hidden within the debate. Yet, this is the crux of many current challenges towards sustainable and equitable resource use.

Taking an inclusive approach

The authors highlight the need for inclusivity of all existing local resource users in defining the use of interconnected food, energy and water resources – namely, ‘the nexus’ – and its relationship to sustainability and human wellbeing. They highlight the value of decentralising and empowering institutions, decision-making processes, and technologies, which should be at the centre of the nexus.

As the global community gets set to finalise the UN Sustainable Development Goals in September, where the nexus is incorporated throughout, this special issue proposes how the nexus could be framed, understood and acted upon towards achieving the goals of sustainability, addressing poverty, and redressing inequality and social injustice.