Today more than ever, cooperation is needed to meet the water-related needs of a growing population for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses. Whether and how users cooperate in the protection and use of these water resources has a profound impact on society, the economy, the environment and on the water resources themselves. While achieving water security for all demands cooperation from every sector of society, water cooperation demands changes of attitude —a transformation in the way we use water and view our interests, and an evolution in the way we govern the management of this essential resource. This can only be nurtured through dialogue and mutual understanding, in order to create a solid basis of trust.
Examples of cooperation abound throughout the world, some spanning generations and even centuries, while others emerged in recent decades, when increasing demands and pressure from rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change could have exacerbated tensions.
Water cooperation in action
In the Lake Titicaca basin shared by Peru and Bolivia, the Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) project contributes to foster dialogue between the two countries through agreements on knowledge and information, thus facilitating the protection of biodiversity and stability in the region.
The participation of the civil society to the water management decision-making is also of crucial importance. In 2006, the first regional forum of Niger basin resources users allowed for the first time the congregation of civil society organizations to discuss issues of common interest with the states and partners.
In Australia, where the transboundary water issues are domestic, the National Water Initiative (NWI) has contributed to an increased recognition of the cultural values of water resources. Last year, an Indigenous Water Advisory Council was formed to provide a vehicle for Aboriginal voices and to ensure that their water aspirations are heard.
These are a few of the many concrete examples used to present the multifaceted aspects of cooperation in a new publication, Free Flow: Reaching Water Security through Cooperation. Over 100 authors from more than 50 international institutions share their work in water management and cooperation at international, regional, national, municipal and local levels of activity in this publication. Their articles draw upon experiences from around the world and reflect how people are cooperating and changing their interaction with water to improve the sustainability of their development.
Conceived on the occasion of the International Year of Water Cooperation, coordinated by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water, this joint publication by UNESCO and Tudor Rose was launched officially during the Budapest Water Summit on 9 October 2013.
‘Water cooperation is about ﬁghting poverty and hunger, and protecting the environment’ said Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO. ‘It is about saving children from disease. It is about allowing girls to go to school instead of walking kilometres to fetch water. It is about providing women and men with access to sanitation, wherever they live. Fundamentally, it is about peace, on the basis of dialogue between States and across regions. When we talk about water security, we are really talking about human rights and human dignity, about the sustainable development of all societies.’
The publication, and the real life experiences presented in its pages, bear testimony to our collective commitment to foster a lasting culture of cooperation among water practitioners, scientists and policymakers.