USIP will host a Water Security and Conflict Prevention Summit on Sept. 10 with two other organizations, an event that reflects a deepening interest within and outside of government in reducing security risks related to natural resources.

Photo courtesy of NY Times

Rather than a one-off event for the Institute, it will be followed by collaborative working groups on two areas with some of the most volatile transboundary water issues: the Indus Basin involving India and Pakistan and the Niger River Delta crossing parts of West Africa.

“We see resource scarcities as drivers of conflict, and water scarcity is the first one we’re taking on,” says Paul Hughes, USIP’s senior advisor for international security and peacebuilding. “USIP will help facilitate a dialogue among civil society, government and the private sector that examines all aspects of water security and its implications for the security of the United States and other countries.” The planned working groups, Hughes says, are expected to function like “Track 1.5” dialogues, drawing together government officials, former officials and other specialists from various backgrounds for frank discussions of ways forward.

The Sept. 10 event itself reflects USIP’s ability to convene wide-ranging groups with interests on peace and security issues. The Institute is joining with the Association of the United States Army and a U.S.-based public-private collaboration called the U.S. Water Partnership to host what is described as the first summit on water security and conflict prevention. The U.S. Water Partnership has more than 60 members, including U.S. government agencies and business, academic and civil society organizations.

The summit aims to build on the growing body of research and data about water security issues. The U.S. National Intelligence Council last year concluded that a number of countries important to the United States will face water shortages, poor water quality or floods that raise the risks of instability, state failure or regional tensions. Without better management of water, the availability of fresh water is not likely to keep up with demand between now and 2040, raising tensions within and between countries and damaging public health and economies.

The U.S. Agency for International Development cites predictions that by 2025 two-thirds of world population might be living under “severe water stress” conditions. In its report, “Water and Development Strategy, 2013-2018,” USAID notes that “ensuring the availability of safe water to sustain natural systems and human life is integral to the success of the development objectives, foreign policy goals, and national security interest of the United States.”

Two recent USIP papers have touched on water security issues. A February 2013 Special Report by Frederick S. Tipson, a USIP advisor on issues of science, technology and peacebuilding, observes that it will be very difficult to peacefully resolve disputes that are exacerbated by the building of upstream dams in the Middle East, East Africa and Southeast Asia and by climate change manifest in glacial melts in South Asia and the Andes and droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. He adds, “The genocides in Rwanda and Darfur owed much to the pressures of land, food, and water competition in fomenting ethnic conflicts.”

In addition, a May “Peaceworks” report by researchers Daanish Mustafa, Majed Akhter and Natalie Nasralla examined the water security-related aspects of growing domestic discord within Pakistan, a strategically vital nation in which the impact of declining water availability and quality is worsened by failures of governance and institutions.

“Water security is a conflict issue and a conflict-prevention issue,” notes Hughes. “We want to highlight an area of growing importance and concern and apply USIP’s conflict-prevention skills.”

Thomas Omestad is a senior writer at USIP.

Related Publications

Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers French (French)

Conflict Management Training for Peacekeepers French (French)

Friday, February 23, 2018

By: Alison Milofsky; Joseph Sany; Illana M. Lancaster; Jeff Krentel

Ce rapport examine le rôle de la Formation à la gestion des conflits dans la préparation des soldats de la paix aux missions des Nations Unies/de l’Union africaine, à travers une évaluation du programme de Formation à la gestion des conflits pour les soldats de la paix proposée par l’USIP. L’évaluation s’appuie sur des données collectées au travers de 137 entretiens semi-structurés avec des soldats de la paix formés par l’USIP et rentrés au pays, des membres de la communauté dans les zones où des soldats de la paix ont été déployés en mission, et des formateurs de pré-déploiement. Le rapport étudie les résultats de l’évaluation et propose des recommandations non seulement pour la formation de l’USIP à l’intention des soldats de la paix mais aussi pour élargir la portée des politiques et des pratiques en matière de maintien de la paix.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Education & Training

South Sudan’s Pitfalls of Power Sharing

South Sudan’s Pitfalls of Power Sharing

Friday, February 16, 2018

By: USIP Staff; Susan Stigant; Aly Verjee

This week, a new proposal for a power sharing government was tabled at the ongoing Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) peace talks for South Sudan. An earlier, 2015 peace deal also contained a formula for power sharing; that arrangement failed and the civil war re-ignited a year later. Power sharing arrangements are appropriate if certain conditions are met, but not enough has been done to ensure the latest proposal will overcome the obstacles present in South Sudan, according to Susan Stigant, USIP’s director for Africa programs and Aly Verjee, a visiting expert at USIP and a former senior advisor to the IGAD mediation, who comment on the proposal and suggest how it could be improved.

Democracy & Governance; Fragility and Resilience; Global Policy

To Stabilize Iraq After ISIS, Help Iraqis Reconcile

To Stabilize Iraq After ISIS, Help Iraqis Reconcile

Sunday, February 11, 2018

By: USIP Staff; Nancy Lindborg; Sarhang Hamasaeed

An international conference opens in Kuwait Monday to plan ways to rebuild Iraq and secure it against renewed extremist violence following the three-year war against ISIS. A USIP team just spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders, part of the Institute’s years-long effort to help the country stabilize. The Kuwait conference will gather government, business and civil society leaders to consider a reconstruction that Iraq has said could cost $100 billion. USIP’s president, Nancy Lindborg, and Middle East program director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, say any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Violent Extremism

View All Publications