Yet another world leader is predicting impending water wars. Today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Our experiences tell us that environmental stress due to lack of water may lead to conflict, and it will be greater in poor nations.” Agreed. Water stress may
lead to conflict, but a historical analysis shows that it is actually more likely lead to a cooperative outcome than a conflictive one. (For a quick summary of water conflict and cooperation and how water can be a force for peace rather than war, see ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko’s co-authored piece on the subject, “Water Can Be a Pathway to Peace, Not War
While Ban’s call to prepare for water conflict may be a tad alarmist, he did accurately lay out the problem and the need to develop better management practices as part of the solution to increased water stress: “Population growth will make the problem worse. So will climate change. As the global economy grows, so will its thirst…There is still enough water for all of us, but only so long as we keep it clean, use it more wisely, and share it fairly.” As Ban was speaking in Davos, he made a plug for the role that business can play in addressing the problem, saying that business has for a long time been the “culprit” in water problems, but that now “business is becoming part of the solution, not the problem.”
You can watch today’s entire plenary meeting, “Time is Running out for Water,” on the World Economic Forum’s website.