Nations that work together on trans-boundary water issues have better overall cooperation than nations that do not discuss water sharing, according to a new tool and report released this week by Mumbai-based think tank the Strategic Foresight Group.
“Water cooperation between countries sharing trans-boundary water resources is directly correlated with security of nations involved in such cooperation, and peace in the continent or subcontinent they belong to,” the group said.
At the same time, “absence of active water cooperation is directly correlated with risk of war between countries sharing trans-boundary water resources.”
An interactive map developed by the group looked at 148 nations that have a shared water resource, and found that 37 of those face the risk of war, whether that war be over water or other issues like land, religion, history or ideology. These 37 nations are not only home to the largest population on earth, but also lack active water cooperation with their trans-boundary neighbors.
The group made these determinations through what it calls the Water Cooperation Quotient (WCQ), which measures the effectiveness and intensity of trans-boundary cooperation. It has 10 parameters: a formal agreement for cooperation; whether the cooperation has been institutionalized in a permanent body like a commission; whether the cooperation is a matter of priority at the ministerial level; whether there are joint projects at the technical level; whether the nations involved work together for environmental monitoring or quality control; whether they jointly monitor water flows; whether they collaborate actively and transparently on issues related to flood control, dams and reservoirs; whether there is a commitment at the highest political level; whether water cooperation is integrated with regional economic cooperation; and whether information available from open sources indicated whether the concerned cooperation mechanism is functioning efficiently.
It then calculated a numerical value based on how well an agreement or lack of agreement performed on the 10 parameters, with 100 being the top. The 37 nations that face the risk of war all had a WCQ of below 33.33.
The group also released a report, “Water Cooperation for a Secure World: Focus on the Middle East,” which gave an overview of these issues on a global scale, then analyzed basin organizations in the region and around the world -- the Senegal, the Zambezi, the Orange-Senque, the Mekong, the Amazon, the La Plata, the Rhine, the Danube, the Rio-Colorado, the Yarmouk, the Tigris-Euphrates, the Jordan, the El Kabir, the Orontes, the Mountain Aquifer, the Coastal Aquifer and the Great Lakes of North America -- to determine the relevance of their experience for the Middle East.
The report examined the level of government involvement, inclusion and exclusion of riparian parties, organizational structure, treaties, guiding principles, responsibilities of riparian states, finance and dispute mechanisms, provisions for revision and amendment, sharing and utilization arrangements, environmental protection efforts and information-sharing within these organizations. It also looked at their responses to climate change effects and policies for sustainable development and livelihoods.
The Strategic Foresight Group, together with the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation developed a “Blue Peace” approach, “where water is seen as an instrument of collaboration rather than a cause of crisis.”
The approach brings together political leaders, government officials, media, and regional experts to encourage using water to promote peace.
“Such a community can pave the way in establishing regional cooperation councils for the sustainable management of trans-boundary waters to facilitate joint monitoring of water flows; to harmonize standards to measure water and climate indicators; to negotiate joint investment plans in water-related large projects; and to discuss exchanges between water and public goods,” Prince Hassan bin Talal, chair of the UN advisory board, and Sundeep Wasleker, president of Strategic Foresight Group, said in a joint statement.