Do we have sufficient mechanism to promote collaboration, across networks, across sectors, across disciplines?
The Water Research Commission of South Africa is one of the host partners at the Gender, Water and Developed Conference to be held from the 7-11 July 2014 in East London, South Africa. One of the challenges to be discussed is that of water cooperation.
WHAT is water cooperation?
“Water cooperation” refers to the peaceful management and use of freshwater resources at local, national, regional and international levels among various players and sectors. The concept of water cooperation entails working together towards a common goal, in a way that is mutually beneficial. (Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General at the Rio+20 Conferences 2012)
History has often shown that the vital nature of freshwater is a powerful incentive for cooperation, compelling stakeholders to reconcile even the most divergent views. Water more often unites than divides peoples and societies.
WHY is water cooperation important?
Water is a cross-cutting issue which demands attention at all levels and across sectors. Water issues involve any stakeholders with conflicting and competing needs and cross multiple physical, political and jurisdictional boundaries (Rio+20). Cooperation is necessary to deal with issues such as water allocation decisions, upstream and downstream impacts of water pollution and water abstraction, construction of infrastructures, overexploitation, deciding on financing management of water resources and water services. Water cooperation contributes to:
• Poverty reduction and equity
More inclusive governance of water and cooperation between different users can help overcome unequal distribution of water and increase access to water, which is essential for achieving basic human needs and reaching the Millennium Development Goals.
• Economic benefits
Cooperation in the value chain and between local stakeholders can overcome the challenges of increasing water scarcity and uncertainty that industries are facing.
• Preserving water resources and protecting the environment
Cooperation helps to exchange data and information and find joint management strategies.
• Promoting peace
Cooperation on water can help overcome cultural, political and social tensions and build trust between different groups: water communities, regions or states.
What are the CHALLENGES?
Conflicts can arise between various players at different levels on a range of issues. Challenges for water cooperation include:
• Water demand. Given the cross cutting nature of water resources, there are competing demands for its use between sectors, nations, communities, urban and rural environments.
• Water quality and water quantity. Concerns on water quality and water quantity can form a challenge for water cooperation. The upstream use and treatment of water can have consequences for downstream users.
• Infrastructure development. Infrastructure development such as dams may provide significant benefits for society, but can also negatively impact surrounding ecosystems and communities.
• Climate change. Climate change is expected to add to pressures on water resources in many areas with fluctuations in water availability and water quality.
• Economic interests. Economic interests over water and its use can cause conflicts that change the balance of power in a region.
• Financing. Investment needs for sustainable financing of transboundary water management institutions often exceed the resources available to riparian countries.
What are the BENEFITS of water cooperation?
Examples of benefits include:
• Cooperation can avert costs by reducing tensions and disputes between neighbours (e.g. Euphrates, Indus and Jordan Basins).
• Cooperation at the basin level can promote efficient techniques for water storage and distribution, expanding irrigation acreage (e.g. Indus Water Treaty).
• Cooperation at the basin level can enhance flood management.
• Cooperation around international watercourses paves the way for regional cooperation in other domains of politics, economics, environment and culture.
• Cooperation between municipalities and private providers can stimulate resource mobilization (e.g. Water and Sanitation Pooled Fund in India).
• Cooperative management of water resources can improve ecological management and produce environmental benefits such as improved water quality.
• Cooperation over shared water resources enables authorities to jointly face common external threats (e.g. climate risks, malaria).
HOW to promote water cooperation?
• A multilevel, inclusive approach for water cooperation
Water resources management issues must be addressed at the local, national and at appropriate regional and international levels. All stakeholders should be engaged, paying special attention to the livelihoods of the poor and most vulnerable people.
• Innovative approaches for water cooperation
Mobilizing political will and commitment to address water issues worldwide remains crucial. Equally important are forward thinking and a willingness to consider innovative ways to approach local, regional and international cooperation.
WHICH TOOLS can be used to promote water cooperation?
At all levels, cooperation requires the application of a wide range of tools and mechanisms, such as:
• Legal frameworks and institutional arrangements.
• Exchange of information, joint monitoring and assessment.
• Incentives for cooperation.
• Mediation and dispute resolution mechanisms
• Cost and benefit sharing.
(Sources: UNESCO 2012, UNW-DPAC 2012, World Bank 2012, GEF 2011)
Contact: Mr Adriaan Taljaard, Manager Marketing and Communication (WRC) email@example.com w.r.t more detail or visit the conference web site http://global-water-conference1.com/ for information on the event and programme.