The Water and Peace seminar is organized to invest in a global network of people working on transboundary waters and facilitates an exchange between disciplines and practices while providing a safe space to share, learn, brainstorm and test ideas. In 2021, the 3rd Water and Peace Seminar took place on 8,12, and 14 April. Contributors and participants globally discussed the roles of data and models in transboundary water governance.
About the seminar
The 3rd Water & Peace Seminar aimed to better understand the role of data in science-policy interactions over transboundary water, based on different case studies from around the world. It focused on how policy-processes influence data collection and information development, and in turn how this influences policy-making over shared waters.
In 2021, the Water and Peace Seminar has gone online. In three sessions, practitioners, scientists and policy makers reflected on science and technology processes in the context of water cooperation and conflict, while investing in the strong international and interdisciplinary networks that have been built on water cooperation over the years.
The starting point of the seminar is that decisions about how to share water across borders -in terms of quantity, timing, and quality- are intrinsically political in nature. Moreover, data and models are not neutral, but embody values, ethics, norms, and ideas on how something should function and for whom. This brings up questions of what this means for how we practice, fund, and research data creation, data sharing, and modelling in the context of transboundary water conflict and cooperation.
Based on the presentations, participants were invited to share their insights in break-out groups. Important messages shared during the seminar include:
- The discussions reminded us that knowledge and information needs are asymmetric, and that effort is needed to level the playing field. Related processes need to take into account the information needs, and resources available to collect, process and use data and models differ for the various parties involved.
- Data and models come with assumptions and uncertainties. The introduction of new models and technologies therefore requires time and safe space for joint learning, and importantly, require trust in each other, the methodology, and the experts.
- Strong institutional frameworks are needed to foster trust between parties that allow for parties to explore, agree and accept these assumptions and uncertainties in models.
- Participants stressed the importance of reciprocity in terms of data sharing, but also stated this reciprocity can come in many forms.
- The possibility of a data revolution is hampered by the resources required to understand remote sensing data and models (as well as other complex tools) and by the limited access to information. These findings raise questions on transparency, accountability, and participation that are difficult to tackle in the context of water conflict.
- Is cooperation a means or an end? For sure, it is both.
We would like to especially thank all presenters and discussants, as well as the DUPC2: IHE Delft Partnership Programme for Water and Development and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for supporting the Water & Peace Seminar. A Special Issue that further explores the questions raised in the seminar is expected in 2022.