Delft, The Netherlands, 09 Mar 2022

Baghdad Water Conference: Water as a source of peace instead of source of tension

In the region surrounding Iraq, water-related challenges such as scarcity are a source of tension that spark migrations and conflicts – but water could also be seen as a potential source for peace.

That was a message delivered by Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs for the Netherlands, and other speakers in a session highlighting the Water Peace and Security Partnership (WPS) and Blue Peace initiatives at the Second Baghdad International Water Conference, held 5-7 March 2022.

The conference, organized by the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources, brought together Iraqi government officials, international organization representatives and international experts and diplomats. WPS Project Leader Susanne Schmeier, IHE Associate Professor in Water Law and Diplomacy, moderated the session, titled ‘Water-related Security and Peace: Moving from Understanding to Action.’

“Addressing water-related challenges at the local, national and transboundary level is crucial not only for sustainable water management, but also for fostering peace in Iraq and the entire region,” she said.

Laura Birkman, WPS Iraq Engagement Lead and Senior Strategic Analyst at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the bigger goal behind WPS is to “to turn vicious cycles of water and conflict into virtuous cycles of water-based peace and cooperation. We want to generate opportunities for cooperation and exchange, which ultimately contribute to stability, peace, and sustainable development.”

Ilyas Masih IHE Delft Associate Professor of Water Resources Planning, told session participants that “enhancing water sector capacity is essential to address multiple and complex challenges faced by Iraq.”

IHE Delft and Iraq’s Ministry of Water Resources cooperate as outlined in a 2017 Memorandum of Understanding. The cooperation includes a four-year capacity development programme, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that aims to enhance the water sector capacity through education and research. Three tailor-made training courses were delivered in 2021, and so far this year, six Iraqi-led research projects have been initiated.

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