Global Observatory for Water and Peace


Brief about the Global Observatory for Water and Peace


Although international water cooperation is imperative,  the current level of international water cooperation leaves much to be desired. Water problems are becoming ever more central in the armed conflicts of our era, a tendency which serves as a dramatic reminder of the fundamental nexus between water, security, and peace.

Some two billion people do not have access to safe drinking water. In addition, 40% of the world's population lives in basins where rivers and aquifers are shared by different countries and could become areas of potential conflict. In contemporary armed conflicts, resources and hydraulic installations are increasingly under attack and used as weapons of war. Water scarcity is exacerbated in a world where an growing population is facing climate change caused by human activity. These numbers will probably grow as the effects of climate change become more pronounced, leading to lower yields, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events. The effects will be felt around the world, but their greater impact on food security and the displacement of vulnerable populations will affect developing countries first. Migration and the resulting uncontrolled urbanization will exacerbate the pressure on already limited water resources even more.

These considerations led fifteen UN Member States to initiate the creation of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace (the Panel) to examine water and peace linkages. In 2017, the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace concluded its mandate by emphasizing that the world is facing many water-related problems. The Panel concluded that the global water challenge is not only about the development sector and human rights, but also about peace and security. Therefore, there is an urgent need to pay special attention to the link between water, peace, and security, and to address it in an integrated and comprehensive way at all levels. This challenge needs a response in terms of new thinking, new practices and new institutions in diplomacy, international law, data management, finance, security management, technology, migration, climate change, pollution control among other spheres (see our Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace platform page)

One of the Panel’s main recommendations was to set up the Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP) that would function as an inclusive network that ensures that linked partners working on water cooperation fill in the critical gaps of the global water architecture.

The rational behind the Global Observatory for Water and Peace

Many international institutions deal with water issues, from river basin organizations or transboundary water management systems to research institutes, as well as regional intergovernmental organizations and UN organs, agencies, funds, and programs. While these organizations and mechanisms are doing valuable work in furthering joint water management as a means of advancing peace,  it is necessary to recognize the political importance and nature of many water issues that need to be addressed diplomatically, therefore requiring attention beyond this technical dimension of water cooperation.

In order to understand the different role that the GOWP plays, it is important to trace back the discussions on international water cooperation, and to relate them to the growing urgency to adopt new mechanisms of water diplomacy, capable of answering the challenges of the 21st century.

In 2014, Adelphi’s report The Rise of Hydro-Diplomacy called for more "agency" or capacity to act effectively through an institutional setting which connects pivotal actors and reinforces and complements existing frameworks, initiatives, and expertise to coordinate and execute political action.

In February 2017, the Geneva Water Hub organized a two-day think tank workshop on “Hydro-Diplomacy and Financial Incentives for Water, Peace and Security” to discuss possible approaches for fostering water cooperation for broader peacebuilding and to develop recommendations of action for the Panel. The Panel’s answer to this quest for a global home for hydro-diplomacy and the lack of agency at the international level was the establishment of the Global Observatory on Water and. It would function as a new mechanism in facilitating agency, collecting, and disseminating existing knowledge and acting as a neutral arbitrator.

The role of the Global Observatory for Water and Peace

As a global platform, the GOWP assists interested stakeholders to use water as an instrument of cooperation, to avoid tension and conflicts, and to promote peace.  The GOWP has adopted the knowledge management approach and facilitates discreetly  rather than through  traditional dispute settlement, peacemaking, or peacebuilding approaches. It is a mechanism that engages all relevant  actors, whether global or local, or from the water, peace, security, diplomacy, and related sectors, to facilitate political cooperation around water for peace.

By bridging and promoting existing skills, the GOWP will improve the limited capacity of international actors to act collectively and effectively at the political and diplomatic levels. It will unite and align regional and local partners, credible and neutral institutions committed to the agenda of water, peace, and security. The GOWP functions by strengthening the nexus from global to local levels through its network and partners.

The GOWP, as a flexible platform of partners, is focused on a specific niche- to advance the use of water as an instrument for peace. Its objectives include:

  1. Capturing of innovative regional/societal perspectives on water and peace; through the bringing together of multidisciplinary professionals across boundaries and co-creation of ideas on how to empower the use of water as a vehicle for peace.
  2. Diplomacy; through the facilitation of “safe space” discussions, that would assist in initiatives that can eventually feed into political processes, and to make the experiences and knowledge on how water has been used as a tool for peace more accessible for diplomatic peace process practitioners
  3. Dissemination of perspectives using the most suitable tools to deliver an impact, be it a report, policy brief, or an activity.

The GOWP is a network platform of partners of different natures which carry out a strategic and in depth- analysis on the use of water as a vehicle for peace in their regions and communities of practice; this is carried out in a dynamic of creative exchange and contributes to creating a “discreet” or safe space, to progress on key themes  of more generic scope, or of global scope.

The GOWP was launched during the Arab Water Week at the Dead Sea Jordan in March 2019, as an open, lean  platform for all entities concerned by the challenges of the water, peace, and security nexus, which brings into evidence and practice the untapped potential of water in peacebuilding. It currently includes 11 regional and societal partners.

American University of Beirut

Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI)

Climate Change and Environment

Inaugurated in 2006, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) is an independent, research-based, policy-oriented institute. It aims to initiate and develop policy-relevant research in and about the Arab world. The Institute aims at bridging the gap between academia and policymaking by conducting high quality research on the complex issues and challenges faced by Lebanese and Arab societies within shifting international and global contexts, by generating evidence-based policy recommendations and solutions for Lebanon and the Arab world, and by creating an intellectual space for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas among researchers, scholars, civil society actors, media, and policy makers.

The Climate Change and Environment program was launched in 2008 as part of IFI’s strategy of utilizing the AUB’s significant research and analytical capabilities to inform and guide public policymaking of Lebanon and the Arab world. The program’s strategic objective is to generate, and influence policy related to climate change and environmental issues.

Corvinus University of Budapest

Center for Central Asia Research (CAR)

The Center for Central Asia Research of Corvinus University Budapest was established in 2016 to conduct applied research in support of the development of political and economic relations between Hungary and Central Asian countries, as well as on strategic issues of the region. CUB - CAR research programmes include studies on the adaptation of the experience of Visegrad4 (V4) cooperation to the political and economic conditions of Central Asia, market analysis for leading Hungarian companies, the development of a Central - South Asia trade and energy corridor through Afghanistan, coordination and leadership of the two year programme “Water as a driver of sustainable recovery: economic, institutional and strategic aspects of water resources management in Central Asia”, as well as studies on the institutional heritage of  Central Asian countries.

Initiative on Empowering Women in Water Diplomacy in the MENA

The Initiative on Empowering Women in Water Diplomacy in the MENA region grew out of the 2020 collaboration between the Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med) and the Geneva Water Hub concerning the elaboration of a Comparative Study across five Arab countries (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Palestine) on identifying a) the similarities and differences in the challenges female water experts face and, b) the capacity building needs in terms of the various skills of a 21st century water diplomat. The Study, prepared by six leading water experts, built upon previous mapping exercise conducted in 2017 in three Levant countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine) and adopted the same methodology of surveying and interviewing targeted women in water-related institutions. Importantly, the analytical work of the two mapping exercises, involving almost 100 women, gave rise to a diverse, dynamic and promising informal network of female water experts across the five MENA countries.

Geneva Water Hub

The Geneva Water Hub is a centre of excellence specialised in hydropolitics and hydro-diplomacy. Its
objective is to better understand and contribute to the prevention of tensions related to water by taking into account conflicts of uses between public sectors and private sectors, between political entities, and betwen states. The Geneva Water Hub is the Secretariat of the Global High Level Panel on Water and Peace and engages in the promotion and the implementation of the Panel’s recommendations published in September 2017 report “A Matter if Survival”. The Geneva Water Hub aims at developing the hydropolitics agenda to help prevent water-related conflicts at an early stage at intersectoral and transboundary levels, and to promote water as an instrument of peace and cooperation with the support of the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and the University of Geneva.

Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med)

Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med) was established in 2002 as the Mediterranean branch of the inter-governmental organisation, Global Water Partnership (GWP). Aiming for a water-secure Mediterranean, GWP-Med works at the regional, transboundary, national, basin and local level. GWP-Med promotes action and facilitates dialogue on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM); provides technical support to policy making; implements demonstration activities; and contributes to skills and knowledge development. Strategic priorities include leveraging the SDG target 6.5 on IWRM, adaptation to climate vulnerability and change, and river basin/transboundary water management. Gender and youth issues, as well as private sector participation in water financing, are also key, cross-cutting issues for GWP-Med. GWP-Med facilitates a multi-stakeholder platform that brings together almost 100 water institutions and organisations, including 10 major regional networks of different water disciplines. GWP-Med extends its human resources in 7 Mediterranean countries, with the Secretariat based in Athens.

Organization for American States (OAS)

The Organization for American States (OAS) is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to 1948. It was established to promote among its member states “an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration and defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and their independence”. Today the OAS brings together 35 independent states of the Anericas and constitutes the main political, juridical and social government forum in the Western Hemisphere. The OAS, through its General, Secretariat, provides technical assistance to its member states in the area of sustainable development, including water resources.”

Citizen’s Observatory on Governance and Security (OCGS)

The Citizen’s Observatory on Governance and Security (OCGS) is a non-political, non-profit organization which was set up in Bamako on 3 February 2020 pursuant to law N° 04 - 038 of 5 August 2004. It is part of the impulse triggered by a new generation of ‘Think Tanks’ working on research, analysis, and action. The OCGS aims to promote good governance and strengthen human safety in Mali and the Sahel. As a national coordination mechanism, the purpose of which is to develop knowledge, monitoring, and advocacy in the field of governance and human safety, it provides local, national, and international actors with analyses on major trends and dynamics.

International Secretariat for Water (ISW)

The International Secretariat for Water (ISW) is a non-governmental organization based in Montreal, Canada. The ISW envisions a world in which water is equitably accessible to all, fostering the empowerment of local actors as well as cooperation between borders, generations, and institutions. ISW’s mission is to initiate and facilitate actions that contribute to positive systemic changes in the framework of water governance from the local to the global level and to the empowerment of actors involved in the water sector. One of the three main pillars of the ISW strategy is to empower the #WaterGeneration. ISW’s Youth Strategy’s vision is inspired by the idea of the youth movement for water; a movement that involves the largescale, dynamic and connected mobilization of young people worldwide.

Pôle Eau de Dakar (PED)

The Pôle Eau Dakar (PED) is an initiative currently being set up within the Ministry of Water and Sanitation of Senegal. It aims to promote hydro-diplomacy and peace in the West African sub-region and beyond; and to make water resources a factor of peace and security in the sub-region. Its vision is to build a reference framework in Africa to catalyze cooperation, inclusive dialogue, governance and the development of knowledge and innovative solutions on water. With the ambition of having a regional anchorage with an international scope, the PED will thus constitute a link between the multiple actors involved in the field of water and peace; this to consolidate the efforts already recognized in terms of cooperation and governance of shared water resources. In addition to being a flagship entity for highlighting the Senegalese and sub-regional experience during the World Water Forum in Dakar 2022, the PED is emerging as an entity for the follow up of the recommendations of the World Water Forum.

The Water Diplomat

The Water Diplomat is a free monthly news and intelligence resource produced by OOSKAnews and Geneva Water Hub. The publication, distributed monthly by email, is part of a media platform developed to engage our world in understanding the intersects among water, peace, conflict and diplomacy. OOSKAnews is the world’s leading publisher of current international water, and water-related news and intelligence. “The Water Diplomat” media platform builds upon the work of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace that produced in 2017 the milestone report “A Matter of Survival”. The media provides news and intelligence pertaining to various themes of the Panel’s report, contributing to global awareness on hydropolitical challenges worldwide.


News and Events



First Annual Report of the Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP)

The following document presents the perspectives of the actors brought together through the Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP). As the introduction to this collection details, the GOWP initiates and facilitates dialogue, marshals supporting research and creates momentum towards the use of water as a catalyst for peace. Through this report, the Observatory is also a global stage upon which different actors can demonstrate how they do exactly that.

"A Global Home for Water and Peace"
by Mrs Natasha Carmi, Lead Water Specialist