In 2014, Eastern Washington University partnered with the University of Arizona, host of the UNESCO Chair in Environmental History. UNESCO Chair goals will be two-fold with research-based initiatives and applied activities. In both arenas, the emphasis will be on policy-building that is inclusive and allows all stakeholders a voice. Inherent in policy research and development is the value given to traditional knowledge and lifeways, for example, water delivery systems such as qanats or the falaj that have been sustainable. Policy research will draw from a number of disciplines including but not limited to history, political science, Native American Studies, natural resource economics, law, biology, and hydrology.
This proposal is designed to establish a UNESCO Chair in Environmental History at Washington State University. Partnering with Eastern Washington University, the first five-year research and teaching project of the Chair will focus on “Water and Indigenous Peoples.” The research component of the project will center on the historical trajectories that have defined the relationship between water and indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and indigenous and marginalized peoples in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, China, and Central and South America. The teaching component will focus on the creation of a distance education platform that will offer training in water management/governance to our regional and global network partners. This research/teaching network incorporates “poles of excellence,” including existing UNESCO Chairs and UNESCO Category II Water Centers, to create a structured “north-south-south” collaboration that will generate symposia for researchers, government and non-government policy actors, and the private sector; as well as an exchange of faculty and graduate students. Consistent with the goals of the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation (2013), the “Water and Indigenous Peoples” project seeks a comparative and collaborative understanding of water development pressures in post-colonial and national settings, as well as the recovery, preservation, and extension of indigenous water practices to the benefit of marginalized populations around the globe. Consistent with UNESCO priorities, the “Water and Indigenous Peoples” the project pays particular attention to the experiences and challenges of women and the marginalized peoples of Africa.