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.

Some 276 river basins cross the political boundaries of two or more countries and are home to about 40 per cent of the world’s population. However, roughly two-thirds of these do not have a cooperative management framework.

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.
Advancing equitable and cooperative development of shared waters, both in individual basins and globally. Our strategy includes:
  • 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.
Questions
Regarding Cooperation Over Shared Waters ? Please contact us.

How we work

The International Centre for Water Cooperation (ICWC) is the first UNESCO Category II Centre in the world to focus on transboundary water management in connection with peace, conflict and regional development.

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).

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. Water diplomacy, especially track III diplomacy in combination with track I and II diplomacy, opens up the cooperation dialogue to multiple stakeholders, including municipalities, provinces and civil society.

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).

The Shared Waters Partnership (SWP) is a multi-stakeholder platform designed to increase political will and strengthen riparian country commitment to regional processes that advance cooperation in regions where water is, or may become, a source of conflict.

The SWP is designed to improve cooperation over shared waters in regions where water is, or may become, a source of conflict or where water can serve as a catalyst for peace. It provides opportunities for stakeholders (governments, regional organisations, civil society, media, academia etc) to engage in processes to strengthen cooperative transboundary water management practices that play a critical role in building and maintaining peace within and between countries sharing the same river basin or aquifer.

By outlining the incentives and benefits of deepening cooperation between parties sharing transboundary waters, we promote the formation of regional management frameworks for them.

The SWP’s unique approach is based around multi-track diplomacy and tailored capacity building interventions, including timely and flexible responses to identified needs, opportunities and requests. It works both with existing institutions and by creating new formal or informal platforms for engagement and dialogue.

The primary activities are basin interventions that drive the political dialogue and processes for cooperation on shared waters forward. These activities are tailored to the unique needs and opportunities in the specific basin.

 

Such interventions can include:

  • enhance skills and provide opportunities for parties to engage in dialogue and negotiations and consider alternate approaches to reaching an amicable solution;
  • provide access to new knowledge and ideas (from research, experiences in other basins etc) that can resolve bottlenecks to cooperation;
  • strengthen basin stakeholders’ (media, CSOs, local governments etc) capacity to support cooperative solutions and contribute to a more enabling environment;

Other activities include:

  • Strategic analysis and advisory services, providing regular and updated analysis on the political economy and processes affecting cooperation to SWP foreign policy and development partners. This analysis lays the ground for the identification and design of the basin interventions, and builds on SIWI’s access to internal and external experts and networks.
  • Meetings to coordinate and integrate development and diplomatic efforts, based on access to and exchange of information that help decision making.

For more information, contact Kerry Schneider.

Cooperation over shared water resources is essential for securing water for future generations.

Dr. Therese Sjömander Magnusson, Director, SIWI