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G8 Initiative on Conflict and Development

June 13, 2002

Promoting Cooperative and Sustainable Management of Shared Water Resources

The G8 has repeatedly stressed the conflict potential of environmental and resource issues. Meeting in March 1999, G8 Environment Ministers noted that "environmental degradation of resources, resource scarcity and subsequent sociopolitical impact are a potential threat to security as they may give rise to or exacerbate civil conflicts and conflicts between states". Similarly, as part of its Miyazaki initiative for conflict prevention on "Conflict and Development", the G8 "considers ways to use economic and development assistance to address causes of conflict stemming from competition for natural resources, such as water, and to encourage regional approaches to their management".

Water is a basic human need and a key component of development - it is a fundamental resource for food production as well as for enhancing social well-being and providing for economic growth. It is also the lifeblood of the environment. Already today, it is a scarce resource in large parts of the world. It is estimated that about one-sixth of the world population lacks access to safe drinking water and one third lacks sanitation. If present trends continue, two out of every three people on Earth will live in countries considered to be "water stressed" (Kofi Annan, Millenium Report, para 274). According to World Bank projections, by 2050 40% of the global population are likely to face some form of water shortage, with one in five suffering severe shortages. Global climate change could further exacerbate the problem. Against this backdrop, the G8 wishes to contribute to and promote a sustainable management of shared water resources. Acknowledging significant efforts by the international community to promote cooperation in the sphere of shared water resources, the G8 offers to share its experience and expertise with interested states and organizations of regional cooperation aimed at supporting shared water resources management.

The G8's approach to this issue is based on the following principles:

Sound water management can mean more for all and reduce the potential for water-related conflicts. Nations must be committed to integrated water resources management at the basin level that provides for a sufficient and equitable supply of water for their citizens through sound and sustainable water policies.

Respect for Sovereignty:
Successful conflict prevention in this area can only be achieved on the basis of respect of sovereignty of states directly involved, and of their specific historical, cultural and economic conditions.

Preventing conflicts over water as well as resolving them peacefully can only be achieved through mutually beneficial cooperation. The issue of joint management of shared waters thus not only poses a challenge but also serves as a catalyst for cooperation and offers an opportunity to build confidence and foster development.

Good Governance must ensure both transparent and participatory decision making in all water management related affairs, and just pricing that integrates social considerations, in order to provide water to the poor at affordable prices. Governments bear a major responsibility to ensure an efficient, sustainable and equitable supply of water for their citizens.

The G8

Source: Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

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