The Rockefeller Foundation

Water security in a changing world: coping with threats

Sunday 28 August | 11.00-12.30 | Room: FH 300
Photo by Nic Dunlop/ The Rockefeller Foundation

International and regional crises and conflicts, and changes in the environment and climate, are threats to water security and sustainable growth. Massive political and economic consequences accrue from regional tensions in transboundary basins, in part resulting from human pressure on finite water resources. Conflicts at the national level often relate to water resources (among others) and climate variability, which becomes even more apparent in situations of weak governance. 

The effects of climate change risk increasing the problems. The outcome of the UNFCCC COP 21 will therefore be important for future management of these threats. Resilience to climate change goes beyond mere adaptation measures and into the core of societies. What mechanisms can promote growth under situations characterized by conflict and change? How do transboundary and domestic challenges differ? What type of water management is required to promote economic development?

The seminar will address challenges to achieving water security under situations of crisis and change, with particular focus on water. This includes sustainable growth in conflict zones, climate change adaptation, knock-on effects of crisis situations beyond the country/region and achieving resilient water management in conflict and crisis areas.

Please find the posters connected to the seminar under Resources.


Understanding water insecurity                             
Chair: Dr. Anil Mishra, UNESCO-IHP
Moderator: Dr. Anders Jägerskog, Embassy of Sweden, Jordan and Sida

11:00     Welcome
              Dr. Anil Mishra, UNESCO-IHP

11:05     Water Wars? Lessons from MENA
              Dr. Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group

11:20     Attaining water security in fragile contexts
              Dr. Claudia W. Sadoff, The World Bank

11:35     Reducing transboundary frictions through assessing
              intersectoral links, trade-offs, and benefits
              Dr. Annukka Lipponen, UNECE

11:45     Achieving sustainable growth in post-conflict and refugee-
              hosting countries
              Shigeyuki Matsumoto, Japan International Cooperation Agency

11:55     Climate, Drought, and Drinking Water: Survey Results from
              California Utilities
              Amanda Fencl, University of California- Davis

11:57     Groundwater under the pressures of humanity and climate
              Tales Carvalho Resende, UNESCO

11:59     Drought relief and bulk water distribution strategies for South
              Dr. Jan Adriaan Swanepoel, Department of Water and
              Sanitation, South Africa

12:01     Civil society engagement in sustainable transboundary water
               Dr. Yumiko Yasuda, International Centre for Water
               Cooperation/The Hague Institute for Global Justice

12:03     Water related crimes and threats in Europe,
              Dr. Lorenzo Segato, RiSSC

12:05     Water Services to assist decision makers in Africa,
              Dr. Abou Amani, UNESCO

12:07     Interactive discussion 


On the 28th of August, 2016, the seminar “water security in a changing world: coping with threats” took place. The first session of the seminar, entitled “understanding water insecurity”, introduced the concept of water security, contextualizing it in our current changing world, in terms of both political and physical aspects. The presenters provided an overview of the international and regional crises and conflicts, changes in the environment and climate, which are contributing to create situations of water insecurity. In particular, this session outlined the inter-linkages between conflicts and crisis with water insecurity.

The second session, entitled “threats to water security: context and crisis,” further analysed the different types of threats to water security. This session explored what we can see as threats to water security. It contextualized this with other threats coming from changing conditions, such as conflict, forced migrations, and climate change. The presenters showed the political and economic consequences that accrue from regional tensions in transboundary basins, in part resulting from human pressure on finite water resources. Conflicts at the national level often relate to water resources (among others) and climate variability, which becomes even more apparent in situations of weak governance.

The third session, entitled “achieving water security,” addressed solutions to achieving water security in a changing world. It discussed different overviews of how potential solutions may look like, what are key ingredients to increasing resiliency, what makes them sustainable, discussing whether they could be applied in conflict zones.

The main messages that emerged from this seminar are:

  • Water security is crosscutting across the world: developing countries are affected as well as developed countries. However, they face different kind of challenges.
  • Water security is generally more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts, but it can also be more costly to fail in these contexts.
  • Enhancing resilience necessitates a shift from a solely “reactive” mode of support to also include a “proactive” component, whereby bridging short term with medium to long term responses are necessary to secure “development holds” that withstand development reversal.

Some highlights that emerged during the seminar are:

  • The international communities working with crisis management and those working with water management often work independently of one another; more dialogue between them could enhance sustainable development under changing conditions.
  • Recent work included compiling an inventory of crimes related to water, which is another type of threat seldom considered.
  • Actively pursuing the 2030 Development Agenda and complying with the COP21 Paris Agreement should contribute to achieving water security, but implementation through innovative approaches that enhance community and regional resilience is needed.