Water diplomacy aims to ensure regional cooperation, using water resources management as entry point to create solution spaces for broader cooperation. The technical and diplomatic mechanisms used to unpack complex water issues are indeed great means to improve peace and regional stability. This Tool defines water diplomacy, explains the several tracks that can be used in water diplomacy (Track 1, Track 1.5, Track 2 and Track 3) and introduces regional and basin dialogue pathways for water diplomacy.
Diplomacy is represented by the skills of managing international relations and conducting negotiations between or among States and their agencies (SIWI, 2017). Diplomatic processes play a crucial role in the formalisation of transboundary cooperation over water. Water diplomacy recognises the existence of numerous different actors, which have the ability to create solution spaces for water conflicts as well as water cooperation opportunities. Besides the official diplomatic efforts, civil society and academia play a great role in building trust and resolving conflicts among parties. By combining technical and diplomatic tools, water diplomacy enables the stakeholders to unpack the complex water issues in the region and respond to broader political frictions.
The concept of water diplomacy involves five key aspects: political (manifesting in geopolitics and foreign policy), preventive (conflict prevention and mediation), integrative (applying IWRM and bridging institutional levels), cooperative (good governance and benefit-sharing) and technical (data sharing and hydrological models) (Keskinen et al., 2021) (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The five water diplomacy aspects and their main relations (Adapted from Keskinen et al., 2021)
Water diplomacy includes all measures by state and non-state actors that can be undertaken to prevent or peacefully resolve (emerging) conflicts and facilitate cooperation related to water availability, allocation or use between and within states and public and private stakeholders (Huntjens et. al., 2016). Such measures can include, for instance, regional and basin level dialogues, agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) signed among government actors, formal mediation, arbitration, to legal fact-findings, trainings and capacity building, benefit sharing, information and knowledge exchange, data exchange, as well as establishing formal and informal institutions and mechanisms of cooperation.
Term water diplomacy and transboundary water cooperation are often used in a similar context. While transboundary water cooperation primarily aims to foster the cooperation over shared water, water diplomacy often has a broader aim of fostering cooperation beyond water, including regional peace and stability (Molnar et al., 2017). In this context, water diplomacy recognises importance of understanding linkages between shared water resources conflicts and its geopolitical and socio- economic contexts (Keskinen et al., 2021). Water diplomacy complements water cooperation with the use of diplomatic instruments, engaging a wider range of stakeholders through multiple tracks of engaging different stakeholders.