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RELEASE: New Initiative Calls for Urgent Action on Water and Security

The Water, Peace and Security Initiative will address the complex relationship between water, migration and conflict


BRASILIA, BRAZIL (March 22, 2018)–Europe is still reeling from a migration crisis that has sent over a million refugees to the continent. Some of these refugees were driven from their homes in part by an often-ignored threat: water scarcity. As droughts plague major cities from Cape Town to Tehran, the world is left wondering where and when the next water scarcity event will threaten economies and livelihoods. Today on World Water Day, the Water, Peace and Security Initiative (WPSI), was launched to provide expert guidance on the link between water and security, identify potential “hotspot areas” to prevent the next water-driven security crisis, and provide support to impacted countries.

“Syria was not the first crisis driven by water scarcity – from ancient civilizations to conflicts in Darfur, water often plays a hidden role in instability,” said Charles Iceland, Director for Global and National Water Initiatives, World Resources Institute. “WPSI aims to shine a light on the water-security nexus and develop the first early warning system for potential water-related threats to human security. With the information we'll develop, we hope to identify the necessary interventions to proactively stop the next crisis before it occurs.”

Nearly two billion people currently live in severely water-scarce areas, according a new UN report. And millions are impacted as a result of water insecurity – through loss of income, food shortages and conflicts over scarce resources. With climate change driving droughts, increased destruction of ecosystems, and exploding population growth, the situation is only expected to worsen. As water stress can heighten social disruption, intensify conflicts and spark migration, there is an urgent need to better understand the relationship between water and security, and be able to act in a timely and effective way to prevent situations from worsening.

WPSI was created as a direct response growing water crises. The project concept was developed in 2017 by Deltares, the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), IHE-Delft and World Resources Institute (WRI), with support from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A growing partnership, WPSI has expanded in recent months to include Wetlands International and Oregon State University.

The initiative is centered around four essential pillars for action:

  1. Understand: Much is still unknown about the links between water and security. WPSI will study water and security pathways, and create a global online tool to identify potential “hotspot areas." WPSI will also develop rapid assessments to verify and further research threats, and identify possible interventions.
  2. Mobilize: Many decision-makers are still unaware of the links between water and security, and the management tools needed to address this problem. WPSI will conduct outreach to global audiences (diplomats, defense and development experts), as well as national governments of developing countries where we identify threats.
  3. Learn: WPSI will provide training and capacity-building to help developing countries cope with current and future crises, and avert potential destabilizing conflict and migration.
  4. Dialogue: WPSI will convene water dialogues among key stakeholders at both international and sub-national levels, to try to diffuse tensions and pave the way for solutions.

International relief agencies, development organizations, governments and civil society need timely, decision-relevant information to take action on water and security. WPSI’s models and data will provide these actors with the alerts and information they need to make proactive decisions on water management in times of water scarcity. Tools and datasets are being developed to support this wide range of decision-makers, and their specific needs.

The WPSI partnership was announced at the 8th World Water Forum event Towards maintaining peace and security in a water insecure world. WPSI is acting quickly to address this timely issue. Their first results will be presented during Stockholm World Water Week this August, with the explicit aim of receiving early feedback from end users.

If you’d like to learn more, have questions, or would like to participate in this partnership please contact Charles Iceland: ciceland@wri.org

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