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Dissertation: Is it One Nile? The complexity and diversity of the world's longest river

Abeer Abazeed, PhD-student at the Institute of Security and Global Affairs, will defend her thesis on Wednesday april 21st. Four questions about her PhD-research ‘Is it One Nile? Civic engagement and hydropolitics in the Eastern Nile Basin’.

Abeer Abazeed doing fieldwork for her research

How did you end up at Leiden University as a PhD-student?

‘I graduated from the political science department at Cairo university, where I work as assistant lecturer. I got my master degree from the American University in Cairo, specializing in development studies. I came to Leiden through my co-promotor Professor Salih. I met him in Cairo and asked him to give feedback on the first draft of my PhD proposal before deciding which university I would apply for. He suggested to come to Leiden University under the supervison of Professor Hosli and himself. Since that, Prof. Hosli mentors and guides the improvement of my research and fieldwork results with Prof. Salih.’

Your research tackles the role of civil society in hydropolitics in the Eastern Nile basin, why did you choose this subject?

‘I chose this subject because the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 endorsed civic activism and as a result different civil society actors conducted transnational activities, aiming to boost cooperation in the Nile. Such civil society activism was unique, because the prevailing hydropolitics analysis emphasizes on legal dimensions, for example international water law and treaties, or relationships between the states only. I’m fascinated by the Nile because it is the longest river in the world and it is shared by 11 countries and many communities. So the longest river entails diverse and rich stories, not one (one river) or 11 (number of countries) narratives.’

What is the most important conclusion?

‘The most important conclusion is the Nile is complex and diverse. Therefore it is crucial that development plans and policies, whoever designs and implements them, for example governments, NGOs, donors, should be inclusive and consider its diversity and ecology.’

How long did the research and the whole dissertation take and what do you expect on Wednesday during your defence?

‘I started the research in 2017. The fieldwork started in October 2017 and ended in 2018. I did my work in Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda and Egypt.  In the field, I was overwhelmed with the number of civil society actors and their Nile-related activities. I observed how people have direct connections to the Nile. Also, through the fieldwork I visited the two main sources of the Nile for the first time: Lake Victoria in Uganda and the Nile falls (Tis Abay) in Bahir Dar City in Ethiopia. I expect I will have a rich discussion with the examination committee, because it’s quite large, 7 members, and they come from diverse backgrounds. I’m enthusiastic to get their feedback and comments. After my defence I’m going back home to Cairo. The uncertainty of the pandemic forced me to be away from my family more than a year to finish writing and to be present for this moment of defence. I’m going back to work at Cairo University and I’m planning to focus on turning my dissertation into a publication.’

More information about the research you can find here

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