Pillars That Connect Water Diplomacy’s Roof To Foundations

How to define "Water Diplomacy"?

21 Sep 2021 by The Water Diplomat
Geneva, Switzerland

An upcoming publication in the November issue of the Journal of Hydrology proposes a new model for water diplomacy which can be applied to different settings in a four-step process and posits that the increasing scarcity of freshwater, the impacts of climate change and an increasing disregard for international agreements usher in the necessity of new kinds of diplomacy.

The new research has applied a mixture of methods developed over the past three years including in depth literature review, expert interviews and focus group discussions. From this, the researchers distilled five aspects of water diplomacy, each with its own attendant set of approaches and mechanisms, which provide a practical approach to water diplomacy as well as some entry points for a generally accepted definition of the concept of ‘water diplomacy’.

The researchers have noted that there is no single, standard definition of water diplomacy and that transboundary water cooperation and water diplomacy are closely related but separate concepts. Conducting work to clearly separate these concepts helps the definition of each and demonstrates for instance that they have different geographical and legal bases as well as different institutions and processes.

Past approaches to water diplomacy have tended to focus on two key aspects. The first is the political aspect: a process of inherently political interactions that occur among stakeholders with different, often conflicting interests, positions and agendas. The second is the technical aspect, focusing on water as a physical resource  that requires allocation and use and the related monitoring, knowledge generation and management.

Between the ‘technical’ foundation and the ‘political’ roof, the authors propose three pillars, i.e. the preventive pillar focused on conflict prevention and mediation, the integrative pillar bringing together multiple and diverse stakeholders and decision making levels, and the cooperative pillar, i.e. cooperation and good governance to promote reasonable and equitable water use.