What's In Blue

Posted Thu 25 Oct 2018

Water, Peace and Security Arria-formula Meeting

Tomorrow afternoon (26 October), an Arria-formula meeting will be held on water, peace and security. The meeting is being co-hosted by Security Council members Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, and the Netherlands; incoming members Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, and Indonesia; and Italy, a member in 2017 in a split term with the Netherlands. Panelists in the meeting will be Danilo Türk, chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace; UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča; and Manish Bapna, the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the World Resources Institute on behalf of the Water, Peace and Security Initiative.

All member states, permanent observers, and non-governmental organisations are invited to attend the meeting, which is also open to the press. The Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands, Ambassador Lise Gregoire-van Haaren, is expected to make introductory remarks, followed by presentations by the panelists. After the panelists make their presentations, Council members, co-hosts and other member states will make brief statements and will be given the opportunity to ask questions of the panelists. A report on tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting is expected to be drafted and shared with the UN Secretariat and other interested parties.

Türk may discuss the role that water can play in promoting peace, rather than as a source of conflict. In this respect, he may focus on good practices with respect to water management, diplomacy and cooperation. Türk briefed the Council during an open debate on water, peace and security under the Senegalese presidency in November 2016 (S/PV.7818). During that meeting, he maintained that “water issues are often among the important contributing factors” to armed conflict, and that during armed conflict, “water usually becomes a military and strategic tool”. As such, Turk emphasised the relevance of water-related issues to the work of the Security Council.

Jenča will most likely emphasise how the Department of Political Affairs is addressing water, peace and security issues. Looking at the issue from a conflict prevention angle, he may note the importance of addressing water scarcity, which has the potential to aggravate tensions and spark conflict, while underscoring the UN’s mediation capacities. When Secretary-General António Guterres briefed the Council on water, peace and security alongside Türk in November 2016, he highlighted the work of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) in using “its good offices, convening power, and analytical capacity and partnership with regional organizations to promote dialogue and build trust” with respect to water diplomacy: Jenča may refer to the work of UNRCCA relating to water diplomacy tomorrow.

Bapna may describe the tool developed by the Water, Peace and Security Initiative to analyse indicators of water stress and use them to determine conflict risks. He might describe situations where the tool has been used and how it can be helpful to regional organisations, national governments, and the UN in assessing and responding to the risk of conflict.

In the past 18 months, the Council has recognised the need for risk assessment and management strategies to address climate-related risk factors such as water security, drought, and food insecurity in the context of the Lake Chad Basin (S/RES/2349 of 31 March 2017), West Africa and the Sahel (S/PRST/2018/3 of 30 January 2018), Somalia (S/RES/2408 of 27 March 2018 and S/RES/2431 of 30 July 2018), Mali (S/RES/2423 of 28 June 2018), and Darfur (S/RES/2429 of 13 July 2018). A key objective of the meeting is to explore ways in which risk assessments and management strategies can be developed, in accordance with these Council outcomes, so that the Council can be provided with the information it needs to make timely and well-informed decisions that address underlying factors sparking conflict. In this regard, a concept note prepared by the co-hosts encourages participants to consider questions such as:

• how the Council can be informed adequately and on a timely basis about potential instability and conflict, including in relation to water stress;

• what kind of reporting, risk analysis and assessment should be provided and when;

• what are the Council’s options for concrete action to address water-related security risks; and

• how cooperation among the Council, other UN entities, and the wider international community can be enhanced with regard to monitoring the root causes of conflict, including water stress.

Several Council members, including France, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, the UK, and others have shown interest in the security risks of water insecurity. These members have worked assiduously to incorporate language calling for climate-related risk assessments and management strategies in Council outcomes during the past 18 months, and are likely to reiterate their view that the Council needs to be aware of the multiple factors causing and exacerbating conflict to make well-informed decisions. Other members, including China and Russia, among others, have expressed concerns about Security Council engagement on climate change, maintaining that this is not within the organ’s Charter mandate and encroaches on the prerogatives of other UN entities. Given that tomorrow’s meeting is broadly cast on water security issues, some members may use the opportunity to focus on the need to promote cooperation over trans-boundary waters: in this respect, Bolivia, one of the co-hosts of tomorrow’s meeting, held a high-level briefing on “Preventive diplomacy and transboundary waters” during its presidency of the Council in June 2017 that was chaired by its president, Evo Morales (S/PV.7959).

The Council’s focus on water security issues is likely to continue in the coming years. Although tomorrow is not a formal Council meeting, it is co-hosted by four of the five incoming members—Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Germany, and Indonesia.

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