Cooperation Over Shared Waters
Regional cooperation on transboundary waters is a public good that benefits all parties and can open new opportunities for riparian states to sustainably develop water resources. SIWI helps basin actors to engage in transboundary processes with a long-term perspective of promoting both security and development, and encourages a holistic approach that includes the perspectives of other affected sectors. By employing tools such as modelling, SIWI enables decision makers to gain understanding of risks, benefits and opportunities associated with different strategies.
Water is one of the most shared resources on Earth. As the climate changes and water resources become scarcer, the need for effective and equitable governance becomes ever important. Though there is no blueprint for how transboundary cooperation should be done, it is important that:
- The respective riparian states feel ownership of, and political commitment to, the processes of promoting cooperation,
- The benefits of water and productive outcomes of water are shared,
- The respective riparian states shift focus and move from challenges and constraints to opportunities,
- Broad partnerships are built for negotiated outcomes among and within riparian states, and
- Trust and personal relations are developed among riparian delegations from states and between domestic water user groups.
While there are many international water cooperation agreements in place, disagreements and disputes also still occur. It is therefore important that societies set in place domestic, bi- and multilateral mechanisms to support peaceful and effective mediation.
Cooperation is especially critical in water-scarce regions where the upstream and downstream impacts of consumption and pollution are magnified.
Effective and sustainable global, regional and basin-level legal and institutional frameworks, and effective can also be conducive to stable and reliable cooperation, increasing security for competing uses and preventing conflicts.
- Shared Borders
Nearly 50% of the world’s fresh water is in 276 river basins that cross the political borders of two or more countries. In Africa, this number is closer to 90%, making the continent’s development efforts contingent on the effective governance of its shared waters. These realities present the basic premise of the transboundary water management challenge facing the world today.
- Need for Cooperation
Cooperation over shared water resources is essential for climate change adaptation, regional stability and economic growth. It can also open new opportunities for riparian states to sustainably develop their common water resources and assist decision-makers and practitioners to reduce conflict, and increase economic development.
- Few Frameworks Exist
Roughly two-thirds of the world’s transboundary rivers do not have a cooperative management framework. Where international water cooperation agreements are in place disagreements and disputes still occur. It is therefore important that societies set in place domestic, bi- and multilateral mechanisms to support peaceful and effective mediation.
- Applied Research and Tools
Conducts critical analysis of transboundary water management approaches in specific regions and develops tools and methods – such as water diplomacy – to unpack the development opportunities in a transboundary water setting.
- Facilitation of Knowledge and Experience Sharing
Provides a neutral platform to discuss ways forward and serve as a trusted third-party facilitator. Support engagement in transboundary processes with the long-term goal to promote both regional stability and development, and encourage a holistic approach that incorporates relevant sectors.
- Promoting the Formation of Management Frameworks
By outlining the incentives and benefits of deepening cooperation between parties sharing transboundary waters, promotes the formation of regional management frameworks.
- Building Capacity in Partner Organizations
Develop tailored capacity-building programmes built around innovative knowledge and tools, to better equip decision makers, organizations and development partners of transboundary waters to work effectively, thereby also supporting improved cooperation in these basins.
How we work
Water cooperation can assist policy developers, advisors, practitioners and academics seeking to reduce conflict and increase economic development and growth at a local, national or regional level. The ICWC supports this process by developing world-leading knowledge and capacity through international research, training, outreach and policy advice.
An independent research institute, the ICWC is Sweden’s first UNESCO Category II Centre, is hosted by SIWI and delivered in partnership with the Swedish Government and SIWI, under the auspices of UNESCO.
The ICWC has also partnered with Uppsala University and SIWI to open the Research School for International Water Cooperation. For more information, visit the ICWC webpage or contact Dr Marian Neal (Patrick).
What is Water Diplomacy?
Water diplomacy is a dynamic process that seeks to develop reasonable, sustainable and peaceful solutions to water allocation and management while promoting or influencing regional cooperation and collaboration. It enables countries to navigate this risk through the negotiation of agreements on the allocation and management of shared waters such as rivers and aquifers.
Water diplomacy opens the cooperation dialogue to multiple stakeholders, including municipalities, provinces and civil society; while recognizing the mandate and responsibility of central government representatives to ensure a water-secure future for their country.
SIWI has offered bespoke water diplomacy training courses to inter-governmental organisations (such as the European Commission), river basin organisations (Mekong, Orange-Senqu, Incomati, Nile) and national governments (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Palestine, Indonesia).
Relevant topics include:
- Hydro-hegemony & Political Economy Analysis,
- International water law concepts,
- Water in regional development, Benefit Sharing,
- Financing of water resources infrastructure,
- Negotiations and conflict resolutions skills,
- Links between water, food, energy and environmental change
For more information on our water diplomacy training programmes, contact Dr Marian Neal (Patrick).
Cooperation over shared water resources is essential for securing water for future generations.
Dr. Therese Sjömander Magnusson, Director, SIWI