World Water Day: Collaborate on water, build peace

No global security without water security, no water security without investing in water.

IWRM: A framework for peace and cooperation | GWP Highlights on WWD | Transboundary water cooperation | World Water Development Report | Call to action

The theme of World Water Day 2024 is ‘Water for Peace’. Water and peace are inextricably bound to each other, so this theme is always relevant, not least now, in these difficult times in many places around the world. 

I usually try to remind people that water is sometimes one of the first things people start fighting about, but it’s always the last thing they can keep collaborating on. That’s why water and peace go together”, says GWP’s Executive Secretary and CEO Alan AtKisson in his message on World Water Day.  

And it’s a question of security: “We at Global Water Partnership are dedicated to the vision of water securitya water secure world. I would like to note that that word security now has global implications, and achieving a globally secure world is completely dependent on achieving global water security”, says AtKisson.  

That’s why water needs to be prioritised, both at the national and the transboundary levels, using established frameworks, such as those employed by GWP 

IWRM: A framework for peace and cooperation 

Water resources may trigger conflicts among diverse stakeholders, spanning agriculture, industry, and urban sectors. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) establishes a structured approach for conflict resolution, engaging stakeholders through participatory processes, negotiations, and consensus-building. By accommodating conflicting demands and interests, it cultivates cooperation among water users. 

Given that many water resources go across political borders, fostering collaboration among neighboring nations is imperative for sustainable governance. Good implementation of IWRM between riparian states offers a blueprint for transboundary cooperation, facilitating collaborative management, equitable benefit-sharing, and resolution of disputes concerning shared water resources. 

GWP Highlights on World Water Day 2024 

collaboration for joint management of shared water resources

Transboundary water cooperation is critical to GWP’s mission to advance the governance and management of water resources for sustainable and equitable developmentYet only 58% of the world’s transboundary basin areas currently has an operational arrangement for water cooperation, according to SDG 6.5.2 monitoring 

While having such arrangements in place doesn’t
on its own guarantee effective cooperation between riparian states, their presence often facilitates clear sharing of the economic and other benefits that shared water courses can bring, leading to greater regional prosperity. On the other hand, the absence of such formal arrangements increases the chances of decisions made in upstream states negatively affecting their downstream neighbours, which may hinder the conditions of regional security. 

As a multi-stakeholder partnership that exists around the globe, GWP is in a unique position to foster cooperation over water, across sectors. Our interventions spans from basin, region, continent to global, supporting action on the ground, developing capacity, and fostering knowledge sharing.

BASIN LEVEL: For example, the Drin basin, shared by five riparians, a mosaic of diversity with a history of political conflict, has become the focus of extensive transboundary cooperation, following a 10-year long process assisted by GWP Mediterranean. The Drin Strategic Action Programme (SAP), in 2020, embodied high-level political commitments on behalf of all riparians for the joint sustainable management of the basin. The SAP was developed following a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) which identified key environmental challenges in the basin. Read more See also Fostering Peace and Transboundary Cooperation around Europe’s oldest lake

REGIONAL LEVEL: Regional Multi-Stakeholder dialogues fostered in for example South-East Europe, South Asia, Southern Africa and Central America, advancing cooperation in transboundary basins and aquifer systems, resulting in the development of concrete collaboration in specific basins. Read more in Multi-stakeholder regional dialogues – Pathways for advancing transboundary cooperation 

CONTINENTAL LEVEL: Running at the pan-African level since 2015, GWP’s Water Governance and International Water Law (IWL) Training is providing tools for enhancing understanding of shared benefits and establishing collaborative governance mechanisms for the efficient management of transboundary water resources. In the Pan African context, our training resulted in 90% of alumni utilising their skills to influence concrete transboundary water cooperation. 

GLOBAL LEVEL: GWP’s MOOC on Governance of Transboundary Freshwater Security has benefited 4000 learners from 164 countries,  available in 6 languages (English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese).  


KNOWLEDGE: GWP’s IWRM Action Hub hosts a series of tools, cases and examples available to support practitioners in implementing transboundary water management. 

COMMUNITY LEVEL: The IWRM Action Hub also hosts the global transboundary water community as a place to exchange and learn from each other. You are all invited to join this global community!  

Women in Water Diplomacy: Women play an essential role in peacebuilding, conflict management and sustaining security. In 2020, GWP Mediterranean and Geneva Water Hub initiated a collaboration on strengthening the role of Women in Water Diplomacy with emphasis on the Middle East and North Africa region, and published a comparative study. Read more 

Learn more: 
GWP’s Transboundary water work  

World Water Development Report 

On each World Water Day (WWD), UN-Water brings out its World Water Development Report (WWDR), as the main annual flagship report on water and sanitation, focused on the theme of WWD. This year the WWDR is titled Water for Prosperity and Peace’. GWP contributes to the WWDR every year, and this year was no exception, with GWP reference material quoted throughout, thought leadership provided in chapter 7 on transboundary cooperation, and practical success stories supported by GWP highlighted in chapter 8 on regional perspectives. 

Call to action

GWP’s input underlines how our approach to transboundary cooperation is key to the achievement of prosperity and peace, and can be scaled and replicated in basins around the world. However, as the report points out, “leveraging water for prosperity and peace requires governance capacity and political will”.  

Echoing th
at call to action, AtKisson concludes with one of his own: On this World Water Day, I urge everyone to be thinking about how we can increase our commitment to water, to climate adaptation, to mainstreaming gender in water issues, so that we can celebrate a World Water Day where Water for Peace means we have peace thanks to our work on water”.