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Water Management in Post Conflict Countries Critical to Peacebuilding, Economic Recovery

Washington, D.C. – In times of war, water resources and infrastructure are often destroyed or become inaccessible to large segments of people living in conflict areas. Restoring these critical services can avert humanitarian crises and rebuild state authority, according to a new study launched on March 21 by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the University of Tokyo, McGill University, and Duke University.

According to the study, entitled “Water and Post-Conflict Peace Building”, effective water management is vital for mitigating new tensions over water resources, with some 1.8 billion people expected to face absolute water scarcity in the next decade.

Water Management. © Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID

Cooperation over water management, the study says, can serve to restore trust among divided communities as well as between neighboring countries. Early intervention in the water sector can also help societies set the foundation for more equitable and sustainable water use and in turn support better economic recovery.

Today, countries are beginning to recognize water management is critical for peace and development: of the 55 countries affected by major conflict between 1990 and 2013, the study shows that 30 of those addressed water management in their post-conflict constitutions.

“The sound governance of water resources is vital for promoting peace and stability and is among the highest priorities during post-conflict recovery and peace building. Water, sanitation, and the related infrastructure are also critical to economic development and the recovery of livelihoods in the aftermath of war,” said UNEP Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner.

“The added challenge of how climate change impacts water resources underscores the urgency to promote adaptive water institutions and sound governance approaches throughout all stages of post-conflict peace building,” he added.

The study further demonstrates the steps that post-conflict countries can undertake to provide reliable sources of water for the restoration of agricultural livelihoods and food security, including data collection, repairing damaged irrigation networks, and improving governance systems. It emphasizes the need for cross-sectoral coordination in order to manage competing interests and mitigate new conflicts.

“If water resources, which underpin all aspects of society – energy, health, economic growth, food security – are not addressed during the peace building phase, new conflict may ensue at the local level,” stated John Cruden, President of the Environmental Law Institute. Indeed, in many post-conflict countries like Afghanistan, water is the second most contentious issue at the local level after land.

“The study examines how decisions governing water resources in post-conflict settings can promote or undermine peace building. Understanding these lessons – what went right, what went wrong, and why – has value for policymakers, students, and anyone involved in humanitarian, peace building, and development efforts,” says Erika Weinthal, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.

Water and Post-Conflict Peace Building is the fourth book in a six-volume series addressing the challenges and opportunities of managing natural resources for post-conflict peace building around the world.


Check the following link to access the Full Publication:


Source: UNEP.



  • More information on the broader initiative on environmental peace building initiative is available at www.environmentalpeacebuilding.org
  • Produced by the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the University of Tokyo, and McGill University and in partnership with the Nicholas School of the Environment, the publication includes 19 cases studies on water management in 28 conflict-affected countries and territories in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas and the Middle East, and draws on the expertise of 35 researchers and practitioners.
  • This work was made possible through the generous support of the Government of Finland, the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union, the EU-UN Partnership on Land, Natural Resources and Conflict Prevention, and other partners.
  • The Environmental Law Institute (www.eli.org) is an independent, non-profit research and educational organization based in Washington, D.C.