February 22, 2011

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report Warns Water Security In Central And South Asia May Jeopardize Long-term Regional Stability

Washington, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released a report today written by the Committee’s majority staff that draws attention to the growing problem of water scarcity in Central and South Asia and how it has the potential to exacerbate existing regional conflicts and lead to new ones.  The report, “Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s Growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” sheds light on the drivers of water scarcity in Central and South Asia and provides recommendations for how the United States should strategically approach water-related issues, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.    

“This report highlights how water security is vital in achieving our foreign policy and national security goals by recognizing the duality of water—as a tool for development or a means to exacerbate conflict. It provides recommendations to the administration to foster regional cooperation and long-term stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Chairman Kerry.  “It is critical that our approach is carefully considered and coordinated across the interagency.”

This report is based on travel in the region by the Committee’s staff and the work of experts in government, academia, and other international institutions.  It offers the following recommendations: 

1. Provide Benchmark Data to Improve Water Management.  Providing basic technical information to all countries is a constructive way for the United States to help create a foundation for bona fide discussion and debate over water management. 

2. Focus on Water Demand Management. The United States can help create space for regional and bilateral negotiations on water by reducing pressure on shared water resources. 

3. Recognize International Dimensions of Water Issues and Deliver Holistic Solutions.  The impact of the United States approach to address water in Afghanistan and Pakistan can extend far beyond each country’s border, as water ignores political boundaries. U.S. assistance should encompass comprehensive activities that encourage conflict management through regional water management.

4. Safeguard Institutions Against Shocks to Water Supply and Demand. Long-term stability requires strong institutions capable of responding to sudden shocks to critical natural resources, such as water. 

The report can be found here.


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