Water is a vital resource: it is essential for food production and good health, but also as a factor of production. Yet only a small amount of the water on earth is available to meet the often competing demands of its different users. It is thus not surprising that many scenarios in the last decade predicted the increasing risk of water wars between countries sharing the precious resource along with a sharp increase of local distribution conflicts. However, cooperation over shared waters also harnesses a great potential to facilitate sustainable development and political stability in riparian nations as well as within countries.
A new study by adelphi, written for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), confirms these findings and points to concrete opportunities for action. Drawing on the examples of several German and multilateral development projects, the study addresses the links between water governance, emerging conflicts and cooperation opportunities. Besides the critical climate-related disturbances in ecological systems, it highlights relevant political, social and economic factors of conflict prevention and water cooperation. An important part of the paper is dedicated to guidelines and concrete recommendations for improved conflict-sensitivity and the promotion of peacebuilding initiatives in water development projects. This includes a better consideration of the socioeconomic and political impacts of water management, strengthening mediation and conflict prevention, reducing exposure to the impacts of climate change and taking into account the vulnerability of specific population groups or regions to water conflict.