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Water insecurity is increasingly a cause of social and political instability threatening peace and security at all levels. However, the actual level of international water cooperation leaves much to be desired. In addition, water problems are becoming ever more central in the armed conflicts of our era, a tendency that serves as a dramatic reminder of the fundamental nexus between water, security and peace.
The United Nations has taken some action by declaring 22 March to be World Water Day, by declaring 2013 to be the International Year of Water Cooperation and the years 2005-2015 to be the International Decade for Action on “Water for Life”, by forming UN Water and by including “Clean Water and Sanitation” as Goal 6 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. However so far the UN has not taken any direction action on the link between water and armed conflict.
So the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace was launched on 16 November 2015 in Geneva with the task of developing a set of proposals aimed at strengthening the global framework to prevent and resolve water-related conflicts, and facilitate the use of water as an important factor of building peace and enhancing the relevance of water issues in national and global policy making.
15 countries co-convened the Panel: Cambodia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Estonia, France, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Oman, Senegal, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland.
The issue of “Water and Peace” has many facets. The Panel was asked to focus on four main themes:
- Identify legal, economic, financial and institutional mechanisms to incentivize multi-sectoral and transboundary water cooperation;
- Examine how to cope with and prevent water-related conflicts, namely transboundary and inter-sectoral — possibly exploring potential mechanisms to promote hydro-diplomacy;
- Promote effective implementation of the global water conventions;
- Promote best practices in water cooperation.
While the Panel is entirely independent, it has worked in close cooperation with relevant stakeholders, notably with the UN which is represented in the Panel through UN-Water as observer and which is involved in all sessions.
Report by the Panel
The Panel produced its report on 18 September 2017 after 2 years of work and four meeting of the Panel, in Switzerland, Senegal, Costa Rica and Jordan, with support from the Strategic Foresight Group and the Geneva Water hub, acting as Secretariat of the Panel.
It describes the Drama of Water as follows
Around two billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Most of them live in fragile, often violent regions of the world. In contemporary armed conflicts, water resources and installations are being increasingly attacked and used as weapons of war. Moreover, water scarcity is exacerbated in a world with a growing population facing human-induced climate change. Despite these problems, humanity will have to find ways to produce 50 percent more food and double its energy production by the middle of the century.
A fundamental rethinking of international water cooperation is essential, with the UN at the center of efforts for the necessary policy and institutional changes. The UN General Assembly should convene a full-fledged intergovernmental Global Conference on International Water Cooperation, with the aim of formulating a cooperation strategy and defining its specific priorities, and devising an action plan for the five-year period following the Global Conference.
The full report can be found by following this link:
Geneva Water Hub
The Geneva Water Hub aims at better understanding and preventing water-related tensions between competing uses, between public and private actors, and between political entities and countries. The Geneva Water Hub is a joint Project of the Swiss Confederation (Agency for Development and Cooperation, Global Programme Water) and the University of Geneva. As of 2017, it became a Centre of the University of Geneva.
The Report of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace is part of the Blue Peace initiative.
The document “Blue Peace – Rethinking Middle East Water” published in 2011 by the Strategic Foresight Group can be found here.
Symphony for Water and Peace
The Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace’s messages and recommendations are finalized, they have also been conveyed in the universal language of music. Indeed, a unique and particularly inspiring feature of the Panel’s work is that it is accompanied and enriched by musicians from around the world. The result, an original Symphony for Water and Peace, has been composed progressively as the Panel convened in different continents. The Symphony for Water and Peace is intended to become a powerful symbol and inspiration for all efforts to make water a source of cooperation and peace.
More information and music can be found here.