In mid-November, the ICWC International Symposium on Water Diplomacy was held in Stockholm, Sweden. Speakers included Margareta Wahlström (Swedish Women Mediator Network), Aaron Wolf (OSU) and Seifeldin Abdalla (Ministry of Water, Sudan). Participants discussed multi-track diplomacy, regional dimensions, environmental peace-building and grassroots diplomacy, as well as the role of women in promoting and sustaining cooperation around shared water resources.
In recent years, diplomacy has evolved to be more inclusive, open and transparent, involving different actors in order to better tackle complex global challenges such as water scarcity and climate change. The process of water diplomacy has also drawn growing interest from the diplomatic community and security analysts.
Global interdependencies are growing. Decision-making in one part of the world can easily impact possibilities to advance cooperation in others. It is more important than ever to be better at sharing water and its associated benefits, especially with the added pressures of climate change and population growth. Our dependency on water (and the political sensitivity this entails) makes the process of water diplomacy an extremely important one. It engages actors from different levels (international, regional and local), with different expertise, and presents an opportunity to advance cooperation beyond water, making use of different entry points to incentivize dialogue and negotiations around (for example, investment in infrastructure and regional development initiatives).
There are many examples of governments coming together, or maintaining a dialogue around the need for regional water cooperation – often beyond what is considered politically possible at that time. They are willing to take certain political risks however, because water is such a unique and indispensable resource, and failure to cooperate would negatively impact the potential to, for example, increase agricultural production, advance cross-border trade or invest in water storage capacities.
The ICWC Symposium aimed to bridge knowledge and encourage collaboration between researchers, diplomats, decision-makers, thought-leaders and practitioners, to discuss the process of water diplomacy as an approach that contributes to conflict transformation, peace-building and regional security. Participants discussed multi-track diplomacy, regional dimensions, environmental peace-building and grassroots diplomacy, as well as the role of women in promoting and sustaining cooperation around shared water resources.
These subjects helped to unpack the different layers of actors and change agents, organizational and institutional frameworks, perspectives and approaches, as well as incentive structures and behavioral change. The Symposium was hosted by the International Centre for Water Cooperation and SIWI, in collaboration with the International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change, Koblenz, Germany.