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Water and Conflict

Incorporating peacebuilding into water development

Water is a simple but absolute necessity of life. Yet much of the world’s population lacks adequate clean water, either because of physical scarcity or because they are denied equitable access to water resources. Such conditions inevitably breed conflict. Water-related violence is common in many parts of the world and is generally expected to increase in the years ahead.

This document is intended to assist water development practitioners, civil society peacebuilders, and human rights advocates seeking to integrate water and peacebuilding in their work. The purpose is twofold: to furnish a conceptual framework for understanding problems of scarcity and equity, and to provide practical guidance and tools for action.

The text distills an extensive literature on water, conflict, and cooperation produced in recent years by researchers and development practitioners. Case studies and reflections are included to keep theory grounded in the reality. The topics covered include:

  • The current global water situation
  • Concepts of conflict, violence, conflict transformation, and cooperation, as these relate to water
  • Historical perspectives on water-related conflict and trends at the international and intranational levels
  • Underlying causes of water-related conflict, broken down into socioeconomic, institutional/political, and environmental factors
  • Peacebuilding principles for program design, rooted in Catholic social teaching, current views on the human right to water, and international humanitarian law
  • Ethical considerations related to water and peace
  • Water development strategies, water-related conflict transformation tools, and recommended steps for dealing with specific water-related conflict scenarios

Jason Gehrig with Mark M. Rogers

Download the PDF (3.5 MB)
Download the e-book for most e-readers (EPUB, 3.7 MB)
Download the Kindle edition (MOBI, 4.8 MB)
Read online

Download the PDF in Spanish (3.9 MB)
Download the PDF in Arabic (2.2 MB)


Boxes, Figures, and Tables

Part I  Water, Conflict, and Cooperation: Background
1  Water and Conflict
2  Principles for Water and Cooperation

Part II  Putting Peacebuilding Principles into Water Practice
3  Framing Water Development Within a Peacebuilding Paradigm
4  Applying Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation to Water and Sanitation Programming

Appendix A  Summary of Lines of Inquiry for Evaluating the Risk of Water-Related Conflict
Appendix B  Additional Resources Available Online
Appendix C  References

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