Skip to content

International River Basin Organization (RBO) Database

Schmeier, Susanne. 2013. International River Basin Organization (RBO) Database. Oregon State University. The Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation (PWCMT)


The International RBO Database provides detailed institutional design data for 121 RBOs in more than 110 internationally shared watercourses. It allows for searching for a specific RBO (by RBO name, year of establishment, continent or member countries) and retrieving information on the institutional design characteristics of the respective RBO.

The database highlights the commonalities and differences across RBOs in the way they are set up and in the functions they fulfill in governing the respective international watercourse. An overview of the main findings is provided in a paper titled “The Institutional Design of River Basin Organizations – Introducing the RBO Institutional Design Database and its main Findings” [pdf]. Data on the institutional design of these RBOs includes

  • The membership structure (laterality and inclusiveness of RBOs)
  • The functional scope
  • The legal foundations and reference to international water law principles
  • The level of institutionalization and legalization
  • The organizational bodies of the RBO (including their role of their Secretariats)
  • Financing and cost-sharing mechanisms
  • Decision-making mechanisms
  • Data and information sharing mechanisms
  • Environmental and compliance monitoring mechanisms
  • Dispute-resolution mechanisms
  • Means for including external actors such as civil society groups, NGOs, epistemic communities or other regional institutions.

Data on the different RBOs has been gathered from a number of different resources – including the underlying agreements and treaties, subordinary official documents of RBOs such as Rules of Procedures, Annual Work Plans, Strategic Plans or websites, official documents provided by bilateral and multilateral donors supporting the respective RBOs, program and project descriptions related to the RBOs as well as secondary analyses of different RBOs as far as available. An overview of some of the key sources on the institutional design of RBOs can be found here. A copy of the read-only excel spreadsheet is available for download here.

Related Earth System Governance Working Paper: Schmeier, Susanne, Andrea K. Gerlak and Sabine Schulze. 2013. Who Governs Internationally Shared Watercourses? Clearing the Muddy Waters of International River Basin Organizations. Earth System Governance Working Paper, No.28.

You might like these publication categories

Recent publications

Building Capabilities for Earth System Governance

This Element develops a new Strategic Capabilities Framework for studying and steering complex socio-ecological systems. It is driven by the…

Trade and the Environment: Drivers and Effects of Environmental Provisions in Trade Agreements

The mushrooming of trade agreements and their interlinkages with environmental governance calls for new research on the trade and environment…

The Politics of Deep Time

Human societies increasingly interact with processes on a geological or even cosmic timescale. Despite this recognition, we still lack a…