Shared Waters Partnership

The Shared Waters Partnership (SWP) is a platform 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.

The overall objective of the Partnership is peaceful cooperation between basin states sharing transboundary water sources.

The security landscape is chequered with water related conflict

Most of the world’s freshwater resources come from rivers, lakes, and aquifers that are transboundary by nature – meaning, that they cross the political boundaries of two or more countries.

  • Approximately 50 per cent of the earth’s land surface area is comprised of shared river and lake basins.
  • There are some 276 transboundary river basins. These service approximately 40 per cent of the global population and up to 60 per cent of global food supply.
  • An additional 2 billion people depend on groundwater, which includes well over 300 transboundary aquifier systems.

Along with climate change and the subsequent increased variability of access to water, households, farmers, and manufacturers will become even more dependent on shared water resources.

Often there are legitimate, yet competing interests – both within and across borders. As such, transbounday water issues are viewed through a national security lens and embedded within a broader set of economic, social and geopolitical issues.

Many countries view water as a sovereign issue and discourage outside intervention. However, when a river system is managed unilaterally, its benefits are reduced.

The global security landscape has been chequered with conflicts driven, to some extent, by freshwater resources (or lack thereof).

Laying a foundation for social and political stability, economic prosperity and poverty alleviation

Water tensions harm regional development, reduce resilience to climate change, and raise the risk of geopolitical hostility.

Conversely, shared waters implies an opportunity for influencing regional politics in the direction of increased regional co-operatoin, laying a foundation for social and political stability, economic prosperity and poverty alleviation.

The benefits of cooperation over shared waters can have far reaching impacts extending beyond the ‘river’, like e.g.:

  • Cooperation on shared waters can expand the level of regional integration and spur economic development.
  • National investments in water related infrastructure depend on transboundary water cooperation and would benefit from joint management.
  • Water can also serve as an entry point to cooperation when more difficult issues make dialogue between parties difficult.
Transboundary cooperation through collaboration

The Shared Waters Partnership facilitates dialogue, fact finding and information sharing to remove roadblocks to enhanced transboundary cooperation.

Its activities aim to:

  • Build trust among basin stakeholders
  • Enhance knowledge and capacity
  • Promote inclusive multi-stakeholder platforms
  • Improve the alignment of diplomatic and development work in transboundary basins
  • Building political commitment to cooperation.

SWP works as a catalytic mechanism resolving political hurdles to cooperation. It serves as a complement to more traditional support from development agencies.

The programme is informed by on-going analysis of basin-specific cooperation challenges and opportunities, adapting to changing contexts and lessons learned. Collaboration with relevant actors in the region is used to identify discrete interventions that can engage key change agents.

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Agile and responsive, SWP addresses specific needs, as they arise, within international water cooperation

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.

The SWP applies a multi-track diplomacy approach. This approach recognizes that there are many different actors that have the ability to both catalyze conflicts over water and who can create windows of opportunity for cooperation over water. These actors range from government officials (at the state and local level), non-state actors, the private sector, civil society, and the media.

The areas of activities and outputs of the SWP programme are:

  • Basin interventions that drive the political dialogue and processes for cooperation on shared waters and peace building forward. These activities are tailored to the unique needs and opportunities of every basin and promote innovative solutions to complex transboundary challenges.
  • Strategic analysis and advisory services: Through continuous analysis of the political economy and processes affecting cooperation and conflict, SWP provides regular updates and advice to SWP foreign policy and development partners. 
  • Partnership Platform to facilitate and host meetings to exchange in-sights and to coordinate and integrate diplomatic and development efforts.

The SWP gathers expertise from research institutes, transboundary water organizations, riparian governments as well as third party foreign policy and development institutions, to coordinate efforts and leverage unique opportunities to share analysis.

 

It takes advantage of SIWI’s extensive experience and strong analytical and implementing capacity in the field of transboundary water management, as well as its large regional networks. The programme benefits substantially from research capacity provided by the UNESCO International Centre for Water Cooperation (ICWC) hosted by SIWI.