Energy Cafe: Radical action from above

Radical action from above: The World Commission on Dams and the making of global guidelines for the planning and construction of large dams

Hosted by Christopher Schulz

Large dams are back on the global development agenda. Researchers have counted thousands of dam projects that are currently planned or under construction, particularly in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Balkans. Their primary purpose is the production of hydroelectric energy and as such, they are part of the global transition towards renewable energy systems. Large dams have also always been controversial, due to their significant environmental and social impacts, which are typically most strongly felt among marginalised rural or indigenous communities. The Cape Town-based World Commission on Dams (1998-2000) sought to address this challenge; it was a multi-stakeholder dialogue process that sought to radically change the way dams are planned and built, placing the rights of dam-affected people at the centre of decision-making. This talk will reflect on the process of formulating global guidelines for dam planning, as well as the legacies and impacts of an ambitious and unusual global policy forum.


Register Here


Further reading:

Schulz, C. and W.M. Adams, 2022. Addressing conflict over dams: The inception and establishment of the World Commission on Dams. Water History 14(3): 289–308.

Schulz, C. and W.M. Adams, 2023. The politics of environmental consensus: The case of the World Commission on Dams. Global Environmental Politics 23(2): 11–30.


About Our Cafés 

The Energy Café is an informal, open and inclusive space where people across University of St Andrews, from undergraduates to Professors Emeriti, can come together for an hour to share ideas about the energy research they are working on. It is intended to encourage collaborations, expand research horizons, and inspire new ideas and questions about issues of energy.

Hosted by the Centre for Energy Ethics, the Energy Café is not limited to one discipline, one department or one school – it is open to everyone.



Apr 02 2024


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm