DAVOS, Switzerland – Water resource researchers and diplomats at the World Economic Forum announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 24) a plan to create an international consortium called the Universities Partnerships for Water Cooperation & Diplomacy.
Its goal is to harness the expertise and resources of water resources specialists around the world to help prevent conflict and resolve issues related to the sustainable use of fresh water.
Coordinating universities for the consortium include Oregon State University, the German-Kazakh University in Kazakhstan, IHE-Delft Institute for Water Education in The Netherlands, the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, and the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
Many more universities from five different continents have expressed interest in participating. Initial funding is being provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
“Water has become one of the most critical issues in the world and addressing water rights and usage can become quite complicated because many rivers and lakes cut across the boundaries of two or more nations that may have different social, political and religious beliefs – not to mention water needs,” said Aaron Wolf, an Oregon State professor, internationally known water rights expert and co-organizer of the consortium.
“Getting people together in the same room is the first step toward developing what is becoming known as ‘hydro-diplomacy,’” Wolf said. “Once that happens, it becomes possible to find common ground and began addressing issues.”
The new consortium will focus on key socio-economic and geopolitical issues in shared water management at local, regional, national and international levels. The coordinating members have identified three key focus areas:
This international consortium expands the work of an international joint education established in 2015 by Oregon State University, the University for Peace in Costa Rica, and the UNESCO-IHE Water Education Center in The Netherlands, which trains graduate students in water resources and conflict management at those institutions.
Wolf is author of the recently published book, “The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict,” published by Island Press last fall. He is a professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.