Tuesday 8th March 16:00pm GMT


The effect of a proposed or planned policy intervention is estimated using a performance indicator that is associated with the difference between 1) a state of the world without the policy intervention, and 2) a state of the world with the policy intervention. Because the effects of most policy interventions play out over time, this comparison requires a forecast of the state of the world without the policy intervention (the “dynamic baseline”). This paper identifies three types of problems that policy analysts confront in specifying the dynamic baseline and their importance for negotiations on managing transboundary water resources: 1) “unexamined baselines”; 2) “uncertain baselines”; and 3) “contested baselines”. My focus in this paper is on the third problem: “contested baselines”. If dynamic baselines are contested by stakeholders, controversy over the outcome of a policy analysis may be due primarily to different ethical or political assessments of the appropriate choice of the state of the world without the policy intervention. I use the current controversy over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River to provide an example of “contested baselines” and their potential importance in understanding disagreements about policy interventions on transboundary water resources.

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