GCI was one of the nine recipients of the inaugural “Save the World Awards” as a recognition of its Water for Peace programme. The International Water Programme Director David Alix was among the speakers at the World Sustainable Congress on 24 July in Austria. Addressing the session on politics and human rights, Mr. Alix’s expanded on the theme of “Peace-building the future: Is water the answer or the missing piece?” He drew on lessons from the green cross water projects in the Middle East.
At the outset, Mr. Alix pointed out two categories of disputes: one that relates to conflicts of interest, and unwillingness to cooperate, communicate, and compromise between basin states and another pertaining to conflicts between local users, communities and authorities.
He observed that “competition over water is definitely a source of tension. However, these tensions never generate a war or are never the only root cause of conflicts. In fact, cooperation mechanisms are far more numerous than tensions and conflicts over shared water resources.”
Mr. Alix explored the potential of water to assist in the peace building process by looking specifically at the current situation in the Middle East, highlighting GCI’s work in the region. Specifically, he referred to the recently completed Water Needs Assessment that mapped the total supply and demand for freshwater in the region, as well as the installation of rainwater harvesting units in schools. In order to utilize water as a positive and powerful peace-building tool, finding shared benefits and common ground was key. Projects that focus on youth also prove successful by educating future generations on cooperation and sharing of resources.
He concluded by saying that “Water has a different value to different communities, and therefore it must be addressed locally. It is a starting point for dialogue and cooperation, and can even be a pathway to peace building, but it must be driven by a political will to overcome the distrust that has complicated cooperation in the past.”
Other panellists included Esther Mujawayo-Keiner, Founding Member, AVEGA and Women’s World Award Winner 2009 on Rwanda: How the Genocide happened, Peter Weish, Board Member, Forum Science & Environment on Environmental Rights and Intergenerational Justice: A Chance for Change and Wolfgang Pekny, Director, Platform Footprint on Fighting Climate Change: The Role of Civil Society.