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Connecting wetlands with peace and conflict at World Water Week

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The importance of water in relation to human security is now widely accepted. But wetlands are still missing from this equation. In our session ‘Connecting water, peace and security through ecosystems’ at Stockholm World Water Week, we explored how wetlands and other ecosystems are connected to peace and security, how the scarcity of natural resources can exacerbate existing tensions and how we can address and solve these issues.

The session started with a video message by Ibrahim Thiaw, Special Adviser for the Sahel, United Nations Secretary-General, elaborating the relation between wetlands and human security. The audience reached a more concrete understanding of the topic during the interview of the experts. In this segment, Eiman Karar, Senior Adviser, United Nations Environmental Programme, explained how further exploitation of scarce resources in Darfur due to incoming refugees sparred local tensions on top of existing farmer-herder conflicts. Karounga Keita, Coordinator, Wetlands International Sahel Office, explained how water scarcity in the Inner Niger Delta led to loss of ecosystem services and contributed to conflicts between communities. This conflict resulted in over 100 casualties only in the Konna community in Mali this year.

Natasha Westheimer from Jerusalem shared a case in which protection of wetlands ecosystem contributed to peace keeping. She elucidated it through the case of Battir, a Palestinian community in the West Bank. With the support of civil society organisations and neighbouring Israeli communities, this community successfully prevented the construction of West Bank Barrier so that they could keep using and sharing the natural resources. Lindsey Aldaco-Manner, President, World Youth Parliament for Water, stressed on involving and educating the youth.

Danilo Türk, Chairman of the Global High Level-Panel on Water and Peace, Geneva Water Hub, concluded the session. Drawing examples from his experience with Darfur and Sudan while working in United Nations, he underlined the need of bringing the knowledge on ecosystems into the security process.