The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a major donor and norm-setter in global water governance. Its research programme “Studies on Water” has produced 53 long policy reports since 2009. We identify OECD’s framings around the role for trans-national private sector in the Global South’s water governance. First, we analyse how OECD manages tensions between advocacy for active private sector participation (PSP) and well-established evidence of fraught outcomes of PSP in practice. Second, we study how OECD manages tensions between an apparent self-interest in promoting the OECD-based private sector and advocating for good water governance.
Through innovative integration of qualitative critical discourse analysis and quantitative topic modeling, we identify key topics and actors, their networks, vocabulary choices, and inter-textuality within the dataset of OECD documents giving key critical insight to those tensions. A comparative examination with 12 UN-Water publications (2003 – 2021) offers further insights on OECD’s discourses.
The project applied a series of quantitative natural language processing techniques in conversation with critical qualitative analysis of the OECD reports on water. Both guided and informed by quantitative analysis, the qualitative analysis of the reports continues with the focus on three questions: what are the major governance arguments and propositions that OECD makes with regard to “good water governance” (i), what are the key arguments and who are the key actors (ii) in making arguments about financing water governance, and what are the main sources of rhetorical authority of OECD when speaking about water (iii). The results are promising both content-wise and methodologically as a means of mixing medium-n quantitative analysis with small-n qualitative analysis of texts.