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Statement from the Bled Strategic Forum and Interpeace on the importance of addressing the nexus of Water and Peace

September 19, 2022
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The Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) and partners, having convened from 29-30 August 2022, urge the 2023 UN Water Conference co-hosts and organizers to reinforce the linkages between water and peace, and thereby enable a more habitable, peaceful planet for future generations.

Gathering five years after the launch of the 2017 Report of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace, A Matter of Survival, we remain concerned that the Report’s powerful call for water to be recognized as a “fundamental condition of human survival and dignity”, and “the basis for the resilience of society and of the natural environment” – has gone largely unheeded. This presents a grave threat to the stability of societies and of our planet, which face increasingly precarious and unpredictable water-related events.

In recent decades, climate change, drought conditions, and governance failures have exacerbated challenges to water access and affordability, leading to an alarming rise in water-related conflicts. Today, none of the world’s conflict-affected nations are on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including on clean water and sanitation. At least 48 water-related conflicts rage globally[1], causing immense human suffering and further undermining social and economic progress for communities.

This year, the devastating droughts in southern Europe and parts of China, record-breaking heatwaves on the Indian subcontinent, and disastrous floods in Pakistan are simply the latest reminders of the fragility of our water systems and societies’ interdependence on them and on one other.

We therefore call upon the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Republic of Tajikistan, and the United Nations as co-hosts of the UN Water Conference in particular to:

  • Acknowledge the interconnections and inter-dependencies of the global water system, and the fact that actions in one place will have consequences in another;
  • Acknowledge the potential of water cooperation as a catalyst for peace, and of peacebuilding actions in advancing SDG 6 on access to safe, clean water;
  • Reflect the convergence of water and peace as a thematic priority at the 2023 UN Water Conference;
  • Involve stakeholders in interdisciplinary discussions about the interlinkages between peace and water in the lead up to the Conference.

One unquestionable truth from the 2017 report prevails - there is no substitute for water. New forms of governance, partnership, and decision-making are required to adapt and respond to these threats and changing realities. Just as inclusive and participatory water resource management can yield peace dividends, diplomatic efforts to broker peace can enhance access to safe and clean water in conflict-affected societies. With global freshwater supplies acutely under threat, we can no longer afford to tackle issues of water and of peace in siloes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia endorses this statement.

[1] Climate Diplomacy Initiative's Conflict Factbook: www.climatediplomacy.org