EU foreign ministers underscored on Monday (22 July) that tensions over access to water are likely to rise in the next decade and could endanger stability in many parts of the world. They also highlighted the potential of “water diplomacy” and the need to promote cooperation based on EU experience.
Water security was brought to the table by a decision taken earlier that the ministers should periodically look into long-term issues of high importance. No specific water-related conflict was discussed at the Brussels meeting.
As the ministerial agenda was packed with issues that included putting Hezbollah on the EU terrorist list and the Middle East peace process, no discussion took place on water diplomacy.
A diplomatic source told EurActiv that the ministers endorsed Council Conclusions prepared ahead of the meeting.
Ministers acknowledge that water-related conflicts could endanger the stability in many parts of the world, affecting the EU interests and international peace and security. Climate change and demographic developments are seen as aggravating the situation.
Some 783 million people, or 11% of the world's population, lack access to improved sources of drinking water, UN figures show.
Ministers stress that water and sanitation should be taken into account in designing the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015. They also highlight the need to empower women, as well as civil society and local communities – giving them a stronger voice in water diplomacy.
Ministers also welcomed the result of the EU Water Security Mapping Initiative, which they said has provided a picture of the individual member countries’ engagement on transboundary water security challenges across the world.
The Nile basin, the Middle East, the Sahel region, the Mekong River and Central Asia are among the areas of concern. The ministers called on EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to continue to work with the countries concerned to broker solutions.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization says the current interstate conflicts over water resources occur mainly in the Middle East (disputes stemming from the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers among Turkey, Syria, and Iraq; and the Jordan River conflict among Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinians), in Africa (Nile River-related disagreements among Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan), as well as in Central Asia (the Aral Sea disputes among Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan).
Ministers also emphasised that EU policy promoting water cooperation across the world could be built based on the long experience and knowledge of the management of transboundary waters in Europe.
The UN General Assembly recognised the right to water as a fundamental human right in 2010.
Improving water and sanitation access formed one of the UN Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, which end in 2015. Despite steady improvements in water availability since 2000, the results so far present a mixed picture.
- Council of the European Union: Council Conclusions on water diplomacy
- Council of the European Union: Council Conclusions on local authorities in development
- UNESCO: Atlas of transboundary aquifers
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