About the Episode: Solving Water-related Conflicts
Across the developing world, water crises are leading to instability, fragility and outright war. Water quality problems led to social and political protests in southern Iraq. The African Sahel saw outbreaks of violence over water and productive land. In Yemen, water was used as a weapon of war, with water systems targeted and people deprived of water for drinking and farming, affecting their health and livelihoods.
In this third episode of our relaunched series of WRI “Big Ideas Into Action” podcasts, we’re looking at how we can solve water-related conflicts. This podcast episode looks at the role water plays in conflict, and how it contributed to the fragile situation in Lebanon. It also highlights WRI’s work within the Water, Peace and Security partnership, including the development of an AI-based tool that uses machine learning to forecast conflict up to a year in advance.
The authors of the WRI report Ending Conflicts Over Water: Solutions to Water and Security Challenges will explore how this understanding can help us identify ways to reduce the risk of or resolve such conflicts. Director of Global and National Water Initiatives Charlie Iceland explains the insights that contributed to the report and the work of the WPS partnership. Then, Research Analyst for Gender and Social Equity Ayushi Trivedi introduces the importance of women in dealing with water-related conflict.
Kitty van der Heijden, the head of international cooperation at the Dutch Foreign Ministry, adds her voice in explaining why the Netherlands is the main supporter of the WPS partnership. Finally, we hear from Alberto Pallecchi, the main link between WRI and the WPS partnership and one of the project’s critical drivers. In the closing “People of WRI” feature, he links his work now to the love of water that he gained from his childhood in Rome.
You can find links to various aspects of the projects in the Useful links section below.
Highlights from the Episode
We’re not just looking at violent conflict. We’re looking at all forms of human insecurity and destabilization of societies. So other things we look at are destabilizing migration. That’s been happening in the hinterlands in Central America. It’s been happening in southern Iraq. People are having to leave their homes in search of livelihoods elsewhere. We also look at problems of public health. So we’re not just looking at violent conflict; we’re looking at the stability of societies
Charles Iceland , co-author of Ending Conflicts Over Water: Solutions to Water and Security Challenges
“When women are involved in more decision-making roles, communities get measurably better outcomes. That might be in terms of how water is distributed or the payment for water. And that is true for conflict management. So when women are involved in making decisions for peace-keeping, those decisions tend to last longer”
Ayushi Trivedi , co-author of Ending Conflicts Over Water: Solutions to Water and Security Challenges
“In Water, Peace and Security you have political data, around where uprisings are happening. You’ll have socio-economic data, you’ll have environment data, for example on global warming but also on water availability, on evapotranspiration trends. And so if you combine multi-disciplinary data, you get a much richer picture of what’s happening on the ground, and this gives us the blinking red light on the dashboard to start to act — whether it’s humanitarian, whether it’s diplomacy or with development programs — so we can help to address some of the root causes of these problems.”
Kitty van der Heijden, head of international cooperation at Netherlands Foreign Ministry
“I know water insecurity is a bigger problem that can only be solved if we enable local communities to develop responses that improve water management, cooperation and exchange. That’s why I believe the mission of the Water, Peace and Security partnership is critical"
Alberto Pallecchi, Manager of institutional relations between WRI and the WPS partnership
“Water is something that needs managing. And whether it’s a local community who are managing the water, or a local government or a national government, the perception of people is that if they’re not receiving services, be they for water supply or sanitation, or for irrigation, or access to a wetland, then they feel aggrieved by that. And it plays into and compounds other grievances that they have”
Dominick de Waal, Senior Economist at the World Bank, WPS Global Early Warning Tool - June 2020 Quarterly Update
The sounds from the war in Yemen that you can hear at the start of the podcast are from "Yemen's forgotten war", part of the BBC World Service's highly recommended Assignment series of radio documentaries. You can listen to it in full here.