Professional expertise in the management of international freshwater commissions: The case of the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico
The study of international freshwater treaties’ joint mechanisms for treaty implementation has thus far given little attention to the value of professional expertise in the leadership of these institutions, most of which are structured as international commissions. Few such commissions actually require certain expertise as a condition of appointment to the commission, raising the question as to whether such a requirement advantages the work of a commission, or not? This study addresses this deficiency by examining the role of professional expertise in the hydro-diplomacy of one of the oldest such commissions, the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico (IBWC), established by the 1944 Water Treaty. After situating the IBWC in its historic context and describing its treaty mandate and functions, we compare the pattern of commissioner appointments at its U.S. and Mexican national sections for evidence of the governments’ respect for the IBWC’s technical expertise and the value they attach to expert leadership at its respective national sections. We then review scholarly analysis of the IBWC’s performance for evidence of assessments of the IBWC’s technical orientation as it affects its hydro-diplomacy. We follow with a look at the IBWC’s work in resolving the three highest priority controversies on its docket since 1990. A preponderance of evidence suggests that requiring engineering expertise for commissioner appointments has not hindered, but facilitated the IBWC’s hydro-diplomacy in this period. Further comparative analysis is needed on other commissions to establish the value of requiring specific expertise as a condition of leadership for strengthening these commissions capacity to fulfill their treaty mandates.