The 21st century began as a period of increasing water scarcity, conflicts over shared water resources and major flood disasters. This context keeps the establishment of effective basin management on the top of the global water agenda. Capacity development in the field is often modelled on the experience of existing river commissions, such as the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR), widely perceived as a reference for successful trust and knowledge-based collaboration. The relevance of knowledge in transboundary river basin management is uncontested, but its concrete function remains unclear. This pilot study investigates the influence of knowledge collaboration in internal working groups on ICPR development during the implementation of its milestone Rhine Action Programme, testing a phenomenological approach based on actor accounts. The results suggest that active stimulation of knowledge-based collaboration can lead to substantial influence on policy processes, but that the direction of such influence is ambiguous. Internal dynamics of the ICPR are likely to have assumed patterns of scale-dependent, cross-level interplay at the time. This has significant implications for capacity development, since such dynamics can both support and obstruct the development of effective resource management.

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