Water Risks in Global Perspective

Panelists discussing Water Risks in Global Perspectives at the Bled Strategic Forum (BS) on Tuesday underlined the importance of international cooperation on water issues.

Presenting the US perspective, Mr Tom Harvey, Co-Chair of the US Water Partnership, said the severity of water risks could not be understated and that even top US military officials considered water risks to be the most “significant, toxic threat”.

Dr Danilo Türk, Former President of the Republic of Slovenia and Chairman of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, said the US was a major player. “I find it very beneficial when the security issue is expanded to water,” he said, adding that was not a new concept. “Change starts with fear. If an issue becomes worrying, people start looking for solutions,” he said.

Turning to the situation in the Alpine region, Mr Markus Reiterer, Secretary General of the Alpine Convention, said the situation might seem very good at the moment, but that the region was pressed by two issues: climate change and growing population numbers. »In dry periods, in the summer, 90% of water for Europe comes from the Alps… We need to manage the resources very cautiously,« he warned.

Ambassador Pio Wennubst, Assistant Director General and Head of Directorate Global Cooperation at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, said Switzerland had launched in 2009 blue diplomacy to “institutionalise processes leading to a compromise”. “We are trying to instigate dialogue among countries… By working with countries we are slowly moving forward and then slowly, we can reach some political commitments.”

Ms Pamela Goldsmith Jones, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senate of Canada, noted that Canada enjoyed a tremendous public trust. It has a lot of expertise and is being asked for help from many countries. But it also has a lot to learn, she said. She called for expansion of coastal protection in the face of sea level rising, and for more freshwater research.

Ambassador Mohamed Elorabi, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Egyptian House of Representatives, highlighted the conflict between the right of people to exist and the right of people to development in the Nile basin. “The Nile basin should be a place of cooperation, harmony, working together between African countries… The situation is now very unbalanced, unfortunately. A win-win situation will be difficult to reach,« he said, adding that this conflict should be resolved internationally.

Ms Susanne Melde, Research and Policy Officer on Migration and Environment at the International Organization for Migration, noted that  the lack of water or floods were displacing just as many people as armed conflicts if not more. “Migration tends to be viewed as very negative, but it can also have positive effects,” she said, noting that migrants often send money back to their local communities, contributing to positive changes there.