Stockholm Seminar on Water and Peace
January 31, 2014

Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI), Sweden’s leading foreign policy think tank organised a seminar “Can Water Make Peace” in Stockholm on 31 January 2014. It was based on the Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) report “ Water Cooperation for a Secure World” prepared with support from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Anna Wieslander, Head of Information at UI, chaired the seminar. She emphasised the significance of examining the water issue from a peace and security perspective.

Dr. Therese Sjömander Magnusson, who has recently been appointed to head the UNESCO Water Centre in Stockholm, explained that water relations are really about power relations. As countries try to maximise their power, it is tempting not to cooperate with other countries sharing a river basin. However cost of non-cooperation is heavy. It is reflected in recurring floods and droughts, disincentives to foreign investments and the undermining of human security.

She explained that the global debate has shifted from water wars to using water cooperation as an instrument of peace. It is necessary to institutionalise cooperation not only through treaties and agreements but also through concrete actions aimed at enlarging the size of the pie. Thus, quality of cooperation is significant.

She informed the audience about the role played by various organizations to promote water cooperation. She explained the work done by Stockholm International Water Basin Institute, which will house the UNESCO Water Centre, in promoting collaborative water management with strong technical support. She said that in this context the role of Strategic Foresight Group was essential as a key actor in the Track One political space.

Esse Nilsson of Sida said that Sida has a long term perspective. She made two key recommendations. First, she emphasised an inclusive and comprehensive approach which must take into account climate change, food security and poverty alleviation while developing solutions to the trans-boundary water issues.

Secondly, she recommended a long term approach which must create platforms and mechanisms for dialogue for stakeholders from countries which may be engaged in conflicts in the short term.

Sundeep Waslekar, President of SFG, presented the key observations from the report, “Water Cooperation for a Secure World” and explained the philosophy underpinning it. He said that Blue Peace framework makes it possible to address power relations, comprehensive nature of the water issue and long term dialogue needs. This framework brings in mainstream political stakeholders in soft and hard institutional frameworks to explore trade-offs and joint solutions to the trans-boundary water issues.

Sundeep Waslekar and Ilmas Futehally, Executive Director of SFG, also had several bilateral meetings with Swedish Government departments, universities and think tanks in Stockholm.

To view a video of the seminar see: