The often shared, but increasingly scarce and most precious resource, water, can it be a source of cooperation, rather than conflict, between countries? If so, then how? As climate change leads to prolonged droughts and more intense flooding, how will governments cope together? More than 20 ministers, deputy ministers and secretaries of state addressed these issues during the special session on water and peace of the high-level segment of the ninth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection and the use of transboundary and International Lakes watercourses (Water Convention) on September 29, 2021.
Climate change and population and economic growth call for increased collaboration
As stressed by Ms. Olga Algayerova, Executive Secretary of the UNECE: “If we continue with current practices, the world will face a 40% deficit between the demand for water and the available supply. We need to act now. ”In addition, climate change is leading to more intense precipitation and flash floods, as well as more intense droughts in many regions.
These destabilizing effects, combined with demographic pressures, economic growth, deteriorating water quality and environmental degradation, can exacerbate water tensions and make regions under stress. water more prone to conflict. Mr. Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation of Senegal, declared that: “The competition for water… imperatively obliges us to opt for a common and concerted management, in particular in the shared basins… It pushes us towards… international solidarity to avoid conflicts and ensure stability.
Cooperation in the field of transboundary waters is the key to regional peace and stability
“Water connects people and nations,” noted Ms. Maryprisca Mahundi, Deputy Minister of Water of Tanzania, calling for enhanced water diplomacy “to cultivate peace, trust and a win-win situation. winner ”.
Transboundary waters are indeed a global public good and require effective governance. Their protection and sustainable management require concerted action to foster sustainable development, ensure resilience to climate change and reduce disaster risk, prevent the collapse of water-dependent ecosystems and reduce ocean pollution.
Successful joint management of water resources can transform a potential source of tension into a hotbed of positive regional cooperation, partnership and lasting positive change. The experiences of various basins around the world, such as the Rhine, Danube, Senegal, Gambia and Iberian rivers, show that cooperation for the management of shared resources can generate many benefits and galvanize efforts towards peace. .
Mr. Aleksandar Stijović, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management of Montenegro, referring to the recent past of the Balkan region, noted that in regions experiencing conflicts unrelated to the water: “Close cooperation on water conservation can be an opportunity to improve and establish… good neighborly relations and lasting peace.
However, insufficient cooperation in the field of water can entail significant costs and major risks, and constitute a potential source of national, cross-border or regional instability. This is why, in the words of Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid: “It is important to address the root causes of water-related conflicts in [an] early stage. “Cooperation is essential in this regard.
The Water Convention is a powerful tool for preventing conflict and fostering peace
The Water Convention has served as a model for cross-border water cooperation in the pan-European region for over 20 years, and increasingly now in other regions since 2016. It acts as a catalyst for the negotiation of new cross-border agreements and institutions and the strengthening of existing institutions. , as well as to improve national water management and governance. The signing of the declaration on the Senegalese-Mauritanian aquifer basin by the ministers of The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal, on September 29, 2021 in Geneva, is a good example of the capacity of the Convention to support developing countries in the long term. long-term cooperation frameworks in the basins.
“The Water Convention establishes principles for cooperating and holding consultations, exchanging information, concluding agreements and establishing joint bodies,” explained Mr. Jüri Ratas, Speaker of the Parliament of Estonia, detailing the positive achievements that have been made. ‘it had facilitated for cooperation with the Russian Federation. on Lake Peipsi. As Ms Florika Fink-Hooijer, Director-General, Directorate-General for the Environment, European Commission, stressed: “The Water Convention is a vehicle for promoting peace and, as a vehicle for peace, we are proud to support her.
Speeding up progress in transboundary water cooperation is a priority
Mr. António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, in his message, lamented that progress towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water is lagging behind. With only 24 of the 153 countries sharing transboundary waters and all of their transboundary waters covered by operational agreements, progress is urgently needed to ensure that all countries sharing rivers, lakes and aquifers cooperate effectively. He called for “more commitment, courage and solidarity to move forward together” and reaffirmed that “the 1992 Water Convention [was] a powerful tool for advancing cooperation, preventing conflicts and building resilience ”.