Transboundary water cooperation discussed at the Astana Economic Forum

Publication date: 22 May 2018
Transboundary water cooperation discussed at the Astana Economic Forum

ASTANA. The Astana Economic Forum is an international and regional platform for dialogue. Over the past decade, over 300 agreements with total value 20 billion US dollars were signed during the forum. In 2018, taking into account the needs of the states, the Global Challenges Summit was held on the basis of the AEF.

This year, the Astana Economic Forum was held from May 17 to 19. More than 5000 people from 92 states participated in the forum. The discussion was focused on 11 global challenges: the world of longevity, digital world, the world future money, the world of global security, the world of new humanity, the world of cities, the world of singularity, the world of single economy, the world of global strategy, the world of resources and the world of clean energy.

A separate high-level panel session was devoted to challenges related to water resources "Water and peace. How to promote transboundary water cooperation?". During the panel session, the issues of stimulating transboundary water cooperation, new forms of application of the international water law for the rational management of water resources were discussed. Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan; the Blue Peace initiative, which is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; as well as the International Water Assessment Centre were the organizers of the session. Among the participants are representatives of state bodies; scientific organizations; Embassies; international organizations and NGOs. The moderator of the session was Mr Michel Mordasini, the representative of Switzerland, the Special Envoy for Water of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The session began with the speech of the Vice-Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan Mr Erlan Nysanbaev. In his speech, Mr Nysanbaev stressed that in order to overcome the challenges related to water resources management, countries first of all need to take a course on economic integration.

"Water is life, and therefore it should serve as an instrument of peace. Water is a common resource; therefore, it should be an object of international cooperation, " Danilo Türk, Chair of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace and Former President of Slovenia addressed the forum participants in the video message.

During the session, the report of the global high-level panel on water and peace, which was prepared within the Blue Peace initiative, was also presented. The report contains a detailed analysis of global challenges in the field of water resources.

The peculiarity of the document is that each chapter devoted to a particular problem contains specific recommendations. In particular, to address the water deficit, the global group recommends that the UN General Assembly convene a Global Conference on International Cooperation on Water Resources with a view to developing a strategic framework for global water cooperation and a program of action with the definition of specific priorities for a five-year period after the Global Conference.

The key objectives of the recommendations are also identified in the document: preventing water-related conflicts and leveraging water as an instrument of peace. To achieve these two goals, four groups of instruments at the international level are needed: the legal framework, institutions, finance and political support.

In addition, during the meeting, CAREC Executive Director Dr Iskandar Abdullaev presented the results of the report "Rethinking Water in Central Asia: the costs of inaction and benefits of water cooperation". The report was prepared within the framework of the Swiss Peace Peace Initiative (Blue Peace).

Dr Abdullayev noted that limited cooperation in the field of transboundary water management leads to considerable damage for all countries of the basin. Even today, significant costs can be observed due to insufficient cooperation, which will only grow in the future. If transboundary cooperation on water resources management is maintained at the current level, infrastructure wear, ecosystem degradation, demographic and economic factors will inevitably lead to increased costs.

According to the research, even if only a limited part of the total costs is taken into account, the costs of insufficient cooperation add up to more than 4.5 billion US$ per annum:

·       Reduced agricultural productivity - 1.75 billion US$;

·       Higher energy prices and energy insecurity -  1.36 billion US$;

·       Limited access to international finance - 1.48 billion US$.

After the session, Dr Abdullaev noted that the countries of Central Asia are gradually coming to more concrete, pragmatic and economically oriented solutions. This indicates that the political level of trust has grown. This is precisely what distinguishes the meeting that took place within the framework of the Astana Economic Form 2018, the Global Challenges Summit.

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