Governance of the water-energy-food security nexus: A multi-level coordination challenge

The Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus is increasingly perceived as promising approach to overcome governance failures in dealing with complex and interconnected resource management challenges. Are such expectations warranted and what is required to mobilize the transformative potential inherent in this approach? The paper addresses these questions and argues in favour of developing a nexus paradigm which guides processes of purposeful design and of self-organization of nexus governance systems. Such a paradigm could be anchored in addressing water, energy and food security from a nexus perspective if such a security concept is appropriately defined and operationalized. To develop the argument, governance challenges arising from the different logics of the concepts of water, energy and food security are addressed with a definition for WEF security from a nexus perspective. An analytical framework using a network and ecosystem services perspective is introduced. The power of the approach introduced is illustrated for a typical case to identify coordination failures and persistent sustainability problems but as well leverage points for transformative change. The paper concludes by elaborating on the transformative potential of the SDGs and on the role of a WEF nexus approach in realizing such a potential.