A group of 30 leading practitioners and scholars in trans-boundary water relations met at the House of Lords, London, on 24 October 2016 for the exchange of insights. The meeting was convened by Strategic Foresight Group and the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflicts at Harris Manchester College, Oxford University. The free flowing nature of conversation helped connect dots in the water diplomacy sphere. Some of the observations made at the meeting were:
· Water is thus an issue for peace and security in some of the basins as much as it is a global security issue, in conjunction with other factors. It is expected that this growing realisation will be reflected in the Budapest Water Summit Declaration (November 2016) and the report of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace (September 2017).
· Maximum effort should be made to resolve differences over large infrastructure or other issues at a low threshold level and before water dispute contributes to the breakdown of the state and the society. Once the dangerous threshold between a society operating on rational choices and the one facing existential risks is crossed, water needs to be part of a larger package of conflict resolution.
· The falling cost of desalination can bring about the paradigm shift. As desalination is best done near the coasts, it is possible to imagine that they will become upstream with water flowing through pipelines to the hinterland which will in effect become the new downstream.
· The sheer volume of groundwater (30% of the earth’s water resources), in comparison with the volume of water in lakes and rivers (0.4%), makes it essential to factor it in the future management of water resources as groundwater can be a cause or remedy for conflicts in some parts of the world.
· It is possible to construct an approach to find solutions to water-related conflicts using tools that may be applicable to each point in the continuum. It is more interesting to explore how water can be an entry point for dialogue for broader peace.
The meeting was also useful to sharpen the Water Cooperation Quotient and strongly focus it on water and peace equation. The new version of the Quotient will be prepared in the coming months.
For a short report on proceedings and the List of Participants
A Conversation in London