On 4 September 2013, the Water Diplomacy Consortium (WDC), in which The Hague Institute for Global Justice is a partner, was officially launched during the World Water Week in Stockholm.
Together with its partners in the WDC – Clingendael, UNESCO-IHE, UPeace Centre The Hague, and the Water Governance Centre The Hague Institute hosted a seminar on “Water and Peace Diplomacy: from Conflicts to Cooperation”. Water diplomacy resonates strongly with this year’s World Water Week theme, which calls for strengthened cooperation over water. This seminar attracted over eighty participants representing academia, the private sector, civil society, governments, and religious groups.
Abi Williams giving the opening speech, photo by Thomas Henrikson.
The seminar was opened by Dr. Abiodun Williams, President of The Hague Institute. Dr. Williams announced the official launch of the WDC, which builds on the internationally renowned Dutch expertise in all issues related to water aspiring to become a knowledge hub for water diplomacy, governance and law, and to contribute to conflict prevention and conflict resolution related to intrastate and transboundary water management. “Through practicing water diplomacy,” said Dr. Williams, “we could turn access to water from a source of conflict into a catalyst for cooperation and peacebuilding.” Since there are 276 transboundary river basins in the world and an estimated 148 states have international basins within their territory, sound water management based on cooperation on all levels is needed in order to ensure the different and sometimes conflicting needs, claims and cultures from upstream and downstream users alike.
Henk van Schaik, UPeace, chairing the discussion, photo by Thomas Henrikson.
Dr. Williams’ opening address was followed by a presentation from Professor Aaron Wolf, a renowned expert on transboundary water resource issues from Oregon State University. His presentation pleaded for the inclusion of personal and spiritual needs in water diplomacy, using the example of the
Israeli-Palestinian dispute over the water from the Jordan River.
The conference continued with break out sessions centered on six roundtable discussions:
- creative approaches to water cooperation;
- “know your resource” – critical reflections on system analytical approaches for sharing international waters;
- environmental peacebuilding and water governance;
- the role of peacebuilding tools in strengthening the outcomes of Integrated Water Resources Management;
- “making cooperation work” – water diplomacy from the legal, institutional and political perspective; and
- grassroots water diplomacy.
Patrick Huntjes, photo by Thomas Henrikson.
The roundtable discussions showed that disputes over water can only be prevented or resolved by convening all actors including the grassroots level to the central government, engineers and diplomats. A representative of the Arab League also mentioned the importance of training diplomats similar to the activities organized by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Clingendael, and the Technical University of Delft. The WDC intends to include trainings in its spectrum of work.
Pieter van der Zaag, Unesco-IHE, photo by Thomas Henrikson.
As one of its first major activities, the WDC will host a conference on the 14-15 November at the Peace Palace in The Hague, focusing on Water Security and Peace. The conference will bring together various actors and create a learning moment for water diplomacy practitioners at local, regional and global levels to bridge disciplinary divides and mandatory responsibilities.
Learn more about the Water Security and Peace Conference.