What's In Blue

Posted Thu 21 Apr 2016

Arria-formula Meeting on Water, Peace and Security

Tomorrow afternoon (22 April), Senegalese President Macky Sall will chair an Arria-formula meeting on water, peace and security. Members are expected to discuss the interlinkages between water, peace and security; best practices in water cooperation; and cooperation between UN and regional organisations in water resources management. Besides Council members, a number of other member states have been invited as well as representatives from regional groups and the Joint UN and World Bank High-Level Panel on Water.

The scheduled briefers are: Kabiné Komara, the former Prime Minister of Guinea, who is the High Commissioner of the International Basin Organization of the Senegal River (OMVS); Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenĉa; and Joseph Donnelly, the permanent delegate to the UN for Caritas International.

Keeping in mind that ensuring water security of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the sustainable development goals, members will be interested in hearing from Komara about OMVS’ experience in water cooperation. The organisation—which was established by Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal—has been given the authority to regulate the networks and electrical grids that facilitate transport and navigation along the Senegal river. It also owns and operates dams, and facilitates political dialogue to end ethnic and border conflicts.

Members are expecting Jenĉa to provide examples of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) mediation role in regions where water scarcity may have played a role in conflict. In 2015 DPA, together with and the UN Environment Programme, published a guide to help mediators working on natural resource conflicts, which included the example of the water-sharing mechanism between India and Pakistan. He may also cover examples from Central Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Donnelly from Caritas is likely to focus on the crucial role of water in our lives and the deprivations of those lacking access to water. In this regard, he may stress that it is a basic justice and human security issue. He may also touch on other issues related to water including the privatisation of water.

Ahead of the debate Senegal circulated a concept note to help guide the discussion. It stresses how with rapid population growth, industrialisation, agriculture, urbanisation and the impact of climate change water scarcity is a growing threat to social, economic and political gains in many parts of the world. Among other things, it suggests that this meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss DPA’s contribution to mediation in areas where water has been a source of conflict, the role of UN agencies such as UN Water, and the role of the Peacebuilding Commission in helping countries that are facing challenges in the management of or cooperation on water resources.

This will be the first time Council members will discuss water as a separate issue connected to peace and security. However, the Council has discussed the link between conflict, natural resources and climate change, both within the Council and in Arria-formula meetings. While not singling out water specifically, the Council’s 20 July 2011 presidential statement (S/PRST/2011/15) expressed concern that possible adverse effects of climate change may, in the long run, aggravate certain existing threats to international peace and security. The statement noted the importance of including conflict analysis and contextual information on the possible security implications of climate change in the Secretary-General’s reports, when such issues are drivers of conflict, represent a challenge to the implementation of Council mandates or endanger the process of peace consolidation.

Some members have mixed feelings about the topic of this meeting. They are aware that water can be a very politically sensitive matter, but appear to have been open to discussing this issue in an Arria-formula meeting. It seems that Russia, which has expressed unhappiness with certain topics being discussed at Arria-formula meetings, may have had more misgivings than some of the other members, but has agreed to participate in the meeting. Senegal appears to be hoping that this discussion may open up the possibility of further consideration of this issue by Council members at some stage.

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