Expected Council Action
In June, the Council will hold a high-level briefing on “Transboundary Waters and Preventive Diplomacy”. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to brief. Bolivian President Evo Morales will preside. No Council product is anticipated.
Key Recent Developments
When the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in September 2015, it included water security as one of the agenda’s core goals. In particular, goal 6 calls for sustainable water management, including by “implement[ing] integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate”.
In November 2015, a group of 15 countries launched the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace. The panel, which is chaired by former Slovenian President Danilo Türk, seeks to develop proposals to strengthen the global architecture to prevent and resolve water-related conflicts and to facilitate the role of water management as a factor in building peace. It is expected to complete a final report by September, proposing concrete measures for the prevention and resolution of conflicts related to water and to promote the use of water as a peacebuilding tool.
At the initiative of Senegal, the Council held an open debate on 22 November 2016 on Water, Peace and Security. Although Senegal hosted an Arria-formula meeting on 22 April 2016 on this issue, this debate marked the first time the connection between water and security was addressed in a formal meeting of the Council.
At the debate, the Council was briefed by Türk; then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; ICRC Vice-President Christine Beerli; and Sundeep Waslekar, president of the Strategic Foresight Group. Ban underscored the potential for states to cooperate over access to water, noting that “more than 200 water treaties were successfully negotiated” in the second half of the 20th century. Türk said that mechanisms for managing the transboundary use of water are still relatively limited, maintaining that “political support for additional cooperation in this domain is needed” and that “much of that political support can be generated by the United Nations, in particular by the General Assembly and the Security Council.” Noting that the protection of water resources is a component of international humanitarian law, Beerli urged the Council to facilitate dialogue between parties engaged in disputes over water. Waslekar called on the Council to consider adopting a resolution focused on the protection of water resources, citing as a precedent resolution 2286 on the protection of health care in armed conflict adopted in May 2016.
One key issue is how much impetus the briefing can provide to the Council’s engagement with issues related to climate, development and security.
Another important issue is to determine the best role for the Council in supporting cooperation and mediation on disputes over water resources and how its efforts relate to those of other UN entities, including regional offices such as the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia, regional organisations, and member states working on water security issues.
One option is for the Council to adopt a presidential statement that:
- recognises the linkages between water, peace and security;
- highlights examples of good practice with regard to cooperation over water resources;
- encourages states to refer transboundary water disputes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ);
- requests the Secretary-General to address water security issues, as appropriate, in country-specific reporting; and
- encourages the work of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace.
In addition, a possible option is to request the Secretary-General to produce a report highlighting current and potential disputes related to water security issues in order for the Council to determine whether and how it can engage on these issues, including in a preventive capacity.
Another option would be for Bolivia to produce a chair’s summary of the meeting to capture the most salient points.
The Council has on several occasions held meetings on the general link between conflict, development, natural resources, and climate change. Most members recognise the security implications of water-related disputes and believe that it is appropriate for the Council to discuss this matter. France, Kazakhstan and Senegal are among the 15 states that launched the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace.
Bolivia, which is hosting the briefing, and Chile have had long-standing disputes both over usage of the Silala River and over Bolivia’s call for access to the Pacific Ocean. Both of these matters are currently being adjudicated as separate cases in the ICJ.
Russia in the past has expressed concerns about discussing water, peace and security issues in the Council. In last November’s debate on this issue, it maintained that water itself was not a root cause of conflict, but rather how it is managed that could exacerbate conflict; it maintained that the relationship between water, peace and security should be addressed not in the Council but in other parts of the UN system.
UN Documents on Conflict Prevention
|Security Council Meeting Record|
|22 November 2016 S/PV.7818||This was an open debate on water, peace and security.|
|Security Council Letter|
|14 November 2016 S/2016/969||This was a concept note circulated by Senegal for the open debate on water, peace and security.|