Closing the governance gaps in the water-energy-food nexus: Insights from integrative governance

The water-energy-food nexus has become a popular concept in environmental change research and policy debates. Proponents suggest that a nexus approach promotes policy coherence through identifying optimal policy mixes and governance arrangements across the water, energy and food sectors. Although the nexus literature identifies some barriers to achieving coherence it does not clearly explain why the barriers are present, what influences them, and how they can be acted upon. These gaps disconnect the nexus literature from the governance processes it ultimately seeks to influence. This paper examines how the integrative environmental governance literature can help to close these gaps. It extracts insights from seven streams of research literature and discusses their relevance for the nexus literature. We argue that connecting the nexus to decision-making processes requires: i) rethinking the boundaries of nexus analysis vis-à-vis other sectors and levels; ii) elaboration of shared principles that can guide decision-making towards policy coherence − or an appropriate form of fragmentation − in different contexts; iii) viewing policy coherence as a continuous process of changing values and perception rather than as an outcome.