Water as a tool for peace: bridges between the human right to water and the prevention of conflicts

Policy Briefing

Thematic Track: Addressing climate change through just transitions

Water as a tool for peace: bridges between the human right to water and the prevention of conflicts

Geneva Water Hub, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, Secretariat of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention)
  • 31/10/2023 @ 11:00 - 12:30
  • GCSP- Conference Room 4th floor (pétale 4) and Online

The human right to water is a prerequisite for the realization of all human rights. It is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. Ensuring access to water and sanitation for all is necessary to support livelihoods and facilitate post-conflict recovery and peace. In the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ‘‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.’’ Thus, the importance of water for human survival, socio-economic development, and environmental sustainability cannot be overemphasized.  Nevertheless, over 2 billion people worldwide lack safe access to drinking water and sanitation services. More than sixty per cent of water resources are shared by two or more countries, most of which is already unsustainably used. Coordinating development and use of transboundary waters are indispensable to face the impacts of climate change including droughts and floods and the risks of competitions, tensions and conflicts, both within and between States.

The policy briefing will highlight the crucial linkages between water management, effective and equitable cooperation, and peacebuilding. The main objective is to exchange on the existing practices underlining the positive role that equitable and sustainable water management and cooperation can have for peace. Equitable and sustainable cooperative water management, when understood as aligning with the principles of international water law, has broader social, economic, and political benefits, including regional economic and diplomatic integration and the maintenance of peace and security. Based on the forthcoming report of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation (HRWS) on the topic of “Water and Peace” the event will address the relevance of the human rights to drinking water and sanitation (HRWS) as a tool for peace, conflict prevention and cooperation.

The objectives of this policy briefing encompass various dimensions of peacebuilding, such as preventing disputes arising from competition and inequality, enhancing conflict sensitivity, and resolving or transforming existing conflicts. It directly addresses the need to build trust among stakeholders involved in decision-making processes on water resources by highlighting the positive impacts of transboundary water cooperation for peacebuilding.

The speakers of this event will discuss how and to what extent the forthcoming report on “Water and Peace” can be a bridge between the human rights mechanisms in Geneva and the broader political agenda discussed in New York. The HRWS may also play a role in the prevention of transboundary water conflicts. In this context, the experiences of two countries, Slovenia and Iraq (TBC) will be presented together with the broader legal framework offered by the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes and the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.




  • Mr Yves Lador, Representative of Earthjustice to the United Nations in Geneva, Earthjustice 



  • Professor Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, United Nations Human Rights Special Procedures  
  • Ms. Francesca Bernardini, Chief, Transboundary Cooperation Section, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
  • Mr Mark Zeitoun, Professor and General Director, Geneva Water Hub.
  • Ms Dina Ionesco, Senior Advisor on migration to the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) and Vulnerable 20 Group (V20); Co-Director Master in Migration, Climate Change and Environment, Webster University Geneva.