The case is designed to highlight the role of the REC in addressing cross-boundary water issues in two specific projects and to discuss the reasons why the organization has taken the role of intermediary and secretariat, as opposed to taking on more of an action-oriented role. The most important lesson the readers should glean from this case is that cross-boundary sustainability issues require more process-based approaches than cases where just one city or country is involved. The text box on the Pilot Harju Sub-river Basin Project in Estonia should spark discussion regarding these differences.
Further, the stakeholders’ perceptions of an issue are extremely important and contribute to the success or failure in resolving the problem. From Bulgaria’s perspective, the Timok River degradation was seen primarily as a Serbian problem. As a result, the onus to complete the project fell almost entirely on Serbia. In addition, because the mining industry was responsible for most of the point-source pollution of the Timok River Basin, the problem was seen as a mining issue. When the project ended, no other stakeholders came forward to continue to seek solutions. The Drina River pollution, on the other hand, involved three countries, several cities, and many local communities, all of whom had a stake in managing waste and keeping the river clean. Even when the initial project was terminated, other international actors, such as the World Bank and Oxfam, deemed the issue significant enough to initiate projects on their own.
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