Changes, changes, changes

I am excited to start a new position at Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development starting from this fall. I will work as a researcher in a project on urban water governance in Europe. Continue reading

Posted in Education, General Interest, Policy change | 1 Comment

Policy and Politics celebrate the 2015 Impact Factor with…making the paper on “policy translation” free access again!

Reposted from Policy&Politics Blog.

We are delighted to announce that the 2015 Impact Factor for Policy and Politics has risen to 1.2 and the journal is now ranked as one of the top 20 globally in the Public Administration category of the Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports.

We would like to thank our authors for helping us to remain highly placed, enabling their work to achieve global readership and high citations in the field.

To celebrate this increase we have made the most highly cited articles from the journal free to read for one month:

Depoliticisation, governance and political participation
Authors: Paul Fawcett, David Marsh

40 Years of public management reform in UK central government – promises, promises …
Author: Christopher Pollitt

Representing the family: how does the state ‘think family’?
Authors: James Cornford, Susan Baines, Rob Wilson

Rethinking depoliticisation: beyond the governmental
Authors: Matt Wood, Matthew Flinders

The politics of behaviour change: nudge, neoliberalism and the state
Author: Will Leggett

Rethinking the travel of ideas: policy translation in the water sector
Author: Farhad Mukhtarov

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Future of Food Journal

The Ecological Agriculture group at the University of Kassel publishes a journal “Future of Food”. You are welcome to visit their page and make a contribution. More information is below. Open for Bachelor and Master students as well as more seasoned academics.

Posted in Anthropology, Art, azerbaijan, Bio-economy, Book review, Business interests, General Interest, Methods and Frameworks | Leave a comment

Transfer, Diffusion, Adaptation and Translation of Water Policy Model

On Friday July 01, I am giving a talk at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, NUS. The details are in the announcement. The paper is to appear later this year and will be found on Publications page.


Intensive cross-border movement of policy models is ubiquitous in the water sector. Examples include Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), Water User Associations (WUAs), and River Basin Organizations (RBOs), which have travelled around the world. However, despite the spread of global water policy models and their potential importance for sustainable development, scholars have struggled to develop adequate accounts of this process. To bridge this gap, we examine the extant analytical and methodological tools to study the movement of water policy models. We focus on the fit between a policy model and the context, the micro-politics of knowledge translation, and the inherent contingencies involved in water policy. Having recognized these obstacles, we offer some ways of conceptualizing the movement of water policy models. We illustrate each approach with vignettes from around the world.

The paper is to appear in Oxford Handbook of Water Policy and Politics, Oxford University Press in 2017.

Posted in azerbaijan, Ethnography, Methods and Frameworks, narratives, Policy change, Policy Translation | Leave a comment

Happy Earth Day: April 22!!!

Yesterday was the Earth Day, and the UN 24 hours Live Channel broadcasted the signing ceremony of the Climate Change Accord. But there are many more interesting development issues broadcasted by the UN Channel, here for your attention below. Enjoy!

Posted in General Interest, Global change, narratives, Policy change | Leave a comment

Transition Initiative

Today (18 April) in my class on sustainable development, we watched this video on transition network, an initiative to create and distribute the network of sustainable communities across the world. I think the students liked it. I thought that it would be a good idea to share this with the readers of my blog, and to offer a large feature in the Orion which talks about the initiative at length.

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Renewable Energy Event at ADA

ADA will host an event with Mr. Tom Weirich from American Council on Renewable Energy this Friday. I encourage my students from Sustainable Development class to attend this talk, we’ll get to know where we stand in terms of renewables and how the U.S. government is trying to create business opportunities for being “green” with energy.

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Gateway South East Asia

As some of you may have already noticed through my LinkedIn update, there is a slight change to my professional affiliation. Starting from May 2016, I will join the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, as an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow. This appointment is an “adjunct” appointment, which means that my major affiliation and place of work will remain ADA University in Baku, Azerbaijan. However, the adjunct appointment with NUS in Singapore will allow me to collaborate with world-leading scholars in the fields of public policy and the environment, and especially water resources, in the regions of South East Asia, China and Central Asia. I have already published on the Mekong river basin, have done fieldwork and wrote articles on Vietnam, and am currently working on an article on Sesun 2 Dam in Cambodia with my colleague from Singapore. Continue reading

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Dear Future Generations: Sorry!

Watch this and share, please! We need to spread the message!

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March 22 is the World Water Day

Water is life. Water is economic development. Water is peace. Water is friendship. Water is culture. Nothing without water. As simple as that. Today is the World Water Day, celebrated every year on March 22. I want to wish all my colleagues, friends, students and everyone who is concerned about making this world better to celebrate our achievements and to give each other support to continue this struggle.

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Coming Soon: Emotions and Environment at ADA University!!!

This is a pre-annoncement of the experiments that we are planning to start in early April to measure how environmental communication videos work to change the attitudes and behavior of ADA students towards the environment via emotional reactions. This type of experiments has not been conducted anywhere in the world in the field of environmental communication, and it’s certainly first for all fields in the former Soviet Union space.
Continue reading

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Happy International Woman’s Day!

This is to wish well to all ladies who celebrate the 8th of March. I am aware that the holiday has been covered with controversy, and many women refuse to be “celebrated”. But I also know many who do. And while I remain ambivalent about the special day to celebrate ladies, this post is nevertheless a little sign of my great appreciation for the other gender. And it’s good to have an occasion to say “thank you” and “congratulations”!

Happy International Woman’s Day!

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New Paper on Security in the Mekong River Basin

After three years of writing and revising, our paper on various ways of security being framed in the Mekong River Commission has come to light in International Relations journal Globalizations. Here one may read it. This is yet another wonderful collaboration with Andrea Gerlak with whom it is pure pleasure to work and write.

The key point of the article is that security has many faces, and it is not always what one expects. We studied the official documents of the Mekong River Commission in order to see what challenges and policy options to overcome such they have. And, to our surprise, we found that it is not “water security” that is the paramount concern to member-states, but “food security”.

This may be an interesting model for other scholars to study securitization of natural resources with the use of official documentation.

Posted in Global change, Methods and Frameworks, Policy change, Water policy | Leave a comment

Democracy in Crisis: What Public Policy Can Do?

We live in the times of democracy in crisis. This is obvious not only in authoritarian countries, but also in traditionally democratic societies such as the US and The Netherlands. Those that are between the worlds, such as Hungary and other Eastern European countries, democracy is a patient in the emergency room. A prominent public policy scholar Helen Ingram delivered a plenary keynote speech last year at the International Conference on Public Policy in Milano, and there is a footage of this speech about democracy, politics and public policy. I invite all public policy students, scholars and professionals to watch this wonderful lecture. Click on the picture to get linked to the video of Helen’s talk. Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the recording.


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Lost in Translation: How to Study the Travel of Ideas in Water Sector?

This is a re-post from my earlier post (September 2010) on a blog that I used to co-run back in 2010. Funnily, my thoughts of policy translation in 2010 were already ripe, 4 years before they appear in print. This tells you how long it takes to develop ideas and then get them published in academia.

“Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come” (Victor Hugo)

What happens when a policy idea becomes internationally popular? An idea that becomes a darling of international policy communities that propagate it and institute a system of reward and punishment around its application. And how then do we know if an idea is only a buzzword or a real instrument that solves problems on the ground? At what level do we start such an examination, and using what set of criteria? Are we starting with the question of effectiveness, that is whether or not a policy is of any good in terms of problems it has been evoked to solve; or rather with the question of how an idea is proliferated and spreads around, that is the question of mechanisms, actors and interests of the process. In other words, what is to be studied first: the process of spread or the outcome of the spread?

And finally, when policy ideas spread internationally and ubiquitously, how can we position ourselves to make sure that the process is not random and completely unmanaged? What actions can we take to make sure that good ideas spread, that they spread in a certain way and get applied to the right type of problems and situations? If that is possible at all…

Examples help. Think of “participation” and “empowerment” along with “poverty reduction” (Cornwell and Block 2005). Or Integrated Water Resources Management (Mukhtarov 2009), River Basin Management (Molle 2008) and multi-stakeholder platforms (Warner 2006). Environmental policy is full of policy ideas and innovations that are popular internationally, yet have either unrecorded or dubious implementation record on the ground. Let’s take one, Integrated Water Resources Management and try to explore the problem a little bit in-depth. For this, revisiting the the title is a good idea as you perhaps started to wonder what do elephants have to do with all these.

Blind men and an elephant

As John Godfrey Saxe famously put it in “The Blindmen and the Elephant,” humans often dispute complex issues of whose essence they have grasped only partly. Being a versatile concept that exists at multiple levels and in multiple forms, IWRM has provoked a lively debate about its basic meaning, function, ways of implementation and the overall practical value. Few agree on a specific definition; the critics point to the poor record of implementation and the idealistic nature of the concept, whereas the proponents see it as a “boundary” concept that provides a common ground for various disciplines to come together. Still, one could see IWRM as a proverbial elephant to which Saxe alluded in the epigraph, but with an important difference: owing to the international popularity of IWRM and its proliferation at the global scale, it is rather a “flying elephant”. And not only IWRM, but many other policy ideas that are intensively debated can be seen as flying elephants.

Policy Translation

Introduced in this context, policy translation is a concept that attempts to capture the process of travel of policy innovations and the complexity involved in this process. This is an attempts to see all dimensions of an elephant, and see how different actors in different settings buy into varying interpretations and understanding of an idea.

The concept of translation is very attractive because of its breadth of possibility to look at several issues simultaneously through the same lens: “it comprises what exists and what is created; the relationship between humans and ideas, ideas and objects, and humans and objects – all needed in order to understand what in shorthand we call ‘organizational change’” (Czarniawska and Sevon 1996: p.24). Translation, in my definition, is the process of modification of policy ideas/innovations and creation of a new meaning and design that reflects the political struggle of actors within a particular context in which an innovation is introduced. As such, policy translation is different from policy transfer or diffusion as it allows for modification of ideas and views this process as essential to the process of policy making.

Implications for future research

There are 4 areas in which policy translation is innovation and in which it can be developed in the future. These are as follows:

1) It allows for explicit and better treatment of the issue of rationality and deliberateness in the transfer of policies, ideas and innovations.
2) It explicitly acknowledges and attempts to deal with modification of ideas and policy innovations in the process of travel.
3) It explicitly deals with the issue of scale in the travel of policy ideas, focusing on the “spill-over” effect of policy ideas which often are re-produced at multiple governance levels.
4) Finally, it allows for empirical examination of these ideas in contrasting policy contexts, such as in developed, developing and transition countries. The underlining hypotheses are that different context will influence different dynamics and trajectories of policy translation.

Thus, we are interested in “flying elephants” and in policy translation.

Future References for Interested

Bennett, C. and Howlett, M. 1992. The Lessons of Learning: Reconciling Theories of Policy Learning and Policy Change. Policy Science, 25: 275-294.

Busch, P., Jorgens, H., and Tews, K. 2005. The Global Diffusion of Regulatory Instruments: The Making of a New International Environmental Regime. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598.

Dolowitz, a. M. 2000. Learning from Abroad: The Role of Policy Transfer in Contemporary policy-making. Governance:. An International Journal of Policy and Administration.

Dolowitz, D. a. M., D. 1996. Who Learns What from Whom: a Review of the Policy Transfer Literature. Political Studies,, 44: 343-357.

Evans, M. a. D., J. 1999. Understanding policy transfer: a multi-level, multi-disciplinary perspective. Public Administration Review, 77.

Hall, P. A. 1993. Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State. Comparative Politics, 25: 275-296.

Huitema, D., and Meijerink, S. (eds) 2009. Water Policy Entrepreneurs: A Research Companion to Water Transitions around the Globe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Kern, K., Jörgens, H., and Jänicke, M. 2001. The Diffusion of Environmental Policy Innovations: A Contribution to the Globalization of Environmental Policy. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung, Berlin

Lendvai, N. and Stubbs, P. 2009. Assemblages, Translation, and Intermediaries in South East Europe. European Societies:1-23.

Molle, F. 2006. Planning and Managing Water Resources at the River-Basin Level: Emergence and Evolution of a Concept. International Water Management Institute, Colombo.

Molle, F. 2008. Nirvana Concepts, Narratives and Policy Models: Insights from the Water Sector. Water Alternatives, 1: 23-40.

Mollinga, P. P., Dixit, Ajaya, Athukorala, Kusum 2006. Integrated Water Resources Management Global Theory, Emerging Practice, and Local Needs: Sage Pbn.

Mukhtarov, F.G. 2009. The Hegemony of Integrated Water Resources Management: a Study of Policy Translation in England, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. Doctoral thesis, Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University, Budapest.

Rogers, E. 2005. Diffusion of Innovation. New York: Free Press.

Rose, R. 1993. Lesson-Drawing in Public Policy: A Guide to Learning Across Time and Space. Chatham NJ:: Chatham House.

Rose, R. 2001. Ten steps in learning lessons from abroad. Economic and Social Research Council

Smith, A., Voss, JP, and Grin, J. 2009 Designing long-term policy: rethinking transition management. Policy Sciences, 42 (4): 275-302.

Stone, D. 2000. Non-governmental policy transfer: the strategies of independent policy institutes. Governance: An International Journal of Policy and Administration, 13: 45-62.

Tews, K. 2005. The Diffusion of Environmental Policy Innovations: Cornerstones of an Analytical Framework. European Environment: 63 – 79.

Walt, G., Lush, L., and Ogden, J. 2004. International organizations in transfer of infectious diseases policy: iterative loops of adoption, adaptation and marketing. Governance: An International Journal of Policy Administration and Institutions, 17: 189-210.

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On Chess, Public Policy and Strategic Planning

This is a re-post of my original blog post written in October 2011 for my previous blog. I am the sole author of this blog post.

Karl Wittfogel, in 1957, published his seminal book “Oriental Despotism“, his claim that state-formation and organization of societies in hierarchies originated from large structural works, mainly irrigation in Mesopotamia and in the Yellow River in China, received much attention. While the hypothesis of Wittfogel on the link between large-scale irrigation works and “despotism” is currently rejected, the Chinese water engineers can be credited for another achievement: they laid the foundation of the game of chess. Dr. David Lee in “The Genealogy of Chess” directly tied the control of water and disastrous flooding to the creation of the ancient board game of Go and the later game of Xiang Qi, which is seen as a prototype of modern chess. Chess, like water management, reached Europe through the Arab world from where the Moors brought it to the Southern Europe in their conquests. Continue reading

Posted in Art, azerbaijan, Book review, Chess, LifeStyle, Methods and Frameworks, Water policy | Leave a comment

BREAKING NEWS: Storm in the North Sea, Oilfields Evacuated

NOS Reports (Dutch News Service). This is a repost and my own translation from Dutch to English.

At these moments, there is a strong storm in the North Sea. I would like to draw your attention to what is being reported in the news and how the owners of the platform behave. For one, there is news available as the situation develops. Secondly, all evacuations have been completed (or almost completed) with virtually no casualties. What is striking, is that the casualty happened yesterday at the Chinese (!!!) rig, which perhaps tells us something about the safety regulations at the platforms operated by companies like BP and the Chinese ones Continue reading

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Happy New Year 2016!

Friends! It’s the end of the year, and time to count chickens, those that hatched at least.

This year was great for the blog — for the first time since its foundation, more users come from abroad than from Azerbaijan. This means that the blog now attracts people from around the world and not only those who know the founder personally. Another great development is that the number of users almost doubled compared to 2014, and reached 3250 people! These people visited the blog almost 10 000 times this year. The final good news is that there is a swing from the habitual users to new users of the website this year. In 2014, most of the users were “returning users”, this year about 2/3 of all users are “new users”. We are conquering the new heights! Continue reading

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On Writing, Honesty and Van Gogh

I have recently received two reviews on my writing pieces, which felt like a great achievement for a number of reasons. Five or six other journals rejected one article before it was actually reviewed. Another, a chapter for a prestigious collection, which I am co-writing with a colleague in Australia, finally got reviews from two prominent scholars in the field of water policy. Many of these comments are very critical. Continue reading

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“Rethinking Travel of Ideas” chosen as a free article in Policy&Politics in December 2015

Once a month, Policy & Politics chooses an article that is branded as “free” on its website and twitter account. This month, my article “Rethinking the travel of ideas: policy translation in the water sector” was chosen! It’s a sign that the article is good enough to be show-cased as a piece of research that gets published in Policy & Politics, something that makes me feel good about my work. Continue reading

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