Water, Peace, and Security

28 November 2017

Ottawa, Canada

Chaired by Jean Chrétien and Thomas S. Axworthy

“There are 286 shared river basins in the world. Over two billion people live in shared river basins of the developing world. Substantial improvements in transboundary water relations can lead to better utilisation of this vital natural resource, reduce the risk of conflict, and generate a peace dividend of several billion dollars.”[1]

The Final Communiqué of the 30th Meeting of the InterAction Council held in China in 2012 stated that, as a result of humanity’s over-exploitation and pollution of water resources, there is now a growing global water crisis. If left unaddressed, the Council noted, water scarcity and the deteriorating water environment will undermine human health, hinder economic development and, in some places, affect national and regional stability in ways that could threaten peace.

At its 34th Annual Plenary Meeting held this year in Dublin, Ireland, the InterAction Council affirmed its commitment to helping the world form a clearer view of the water scarcity problem so as to reduce the potential for tension between states over water supply and quality issues. Members of the Council put forward that there is a role for Canada to help address global issues related to water and peace.  

Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), a think tank based in India, has been a leader in water diplomacy since 2002. They developed the “Blue Peace” approach “to transform transboundary water as an instrument of cooperation with collaborative and sustainable strategies shared by riparian countries.”[2]

“Research by Strategic Foresight Group demonstrates a strong correlation between transboundary water cooperation and comprehensive peace. Any two countries engaged in active water cooperation are less likely to go to war for any reasons related or unrelated to water than those not embracing active water cooperation. Therefore, water cooperation is critical not only for development but also peace.”[3]

Over the past 25 years, each successive UN Secretary-General has called for greater emphasis of water in relation to peace. As a result of SFG’s work with the Government of Senegal and for the first time in the United Nations’ history, the UN Security Council convened an open session on Water, Peace, and Security in November 2016. “This meeting represented a turning point in the changing discourse on water – from being recognized solely as a human rights and development issue, to being increasingly perceived as an important tenet of peace and security.”[4]

As Canada celebrates the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the InterAction Council will convene a high-level expert group meeting in the nation’s capital to reflect on the factors contributing to Canada’s success in co-management and dispute resolution with respect to waters shared with the United States and waters shared within Canada between provinces and territories with the aim of identifying factors that may be helpful in contributing to peace and security elsewhere in the world.

The objective of this meeting will be to create a Chairman’s report and also a declaration to be presented to and endorsed by the members of the InterAction Council at its next plenary meeting in the spring of 2018, and subsequently presented to the UN Security Council.

The meeting will also involve the joint launch of the Water Cooperation Quotient by the InterAction Council and the Strategic Foresight Group. The report is the only document of its kind with an analysis on the risk of conflict and potential for cooperation in the 148 countries that have shared or transboundary rivers. It is a decision-making tool for water cooperation and a barometer to assess risks of war.

The InterAction Council, in partnership with Strategic Foresight Group, will convene an experts’ meeting to:

  • Launch the “Water Cooperation Quotient,” an analysis on the risk of conflict and potential for cooperation in the 148 countries that have shared or transboundary rivers;
  • Propose a “Declaration on Water, Peace, and Security” to be endorsed by the members of the InterAction Council in spring 2018 and subsequently presented to the UNSC;
  • Articulate a framework by which the government of Canada can assume a leadership role in implementing the United Nations Security Council Charter on Water, Peace & Planetary Health through foreign aid and international trade.
  • Outline of a strategy for promoting and celebrating Canada's leadership role in advancing global peace and planetary health through cooperation on the management of transboundary waters.
  • Create a Chairman’s Report to be tabled at the IAC’s 35th Annual Plenary Meeting in spring 2018.


InterAction Council Members

  1. The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien (former Prime Minister), Canada


  1. Dr. Thomas S. Axworthy, Chair of Public Policy, Massey College, University of Toronto (Canada)

Special Guests

  1. Dr. Zafar Adeel, Director, Pacific Water Research Institute, Simon Fraser University
  2. Prof. Clarissa Brocklehurst, Adjunct Professor, Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Water Institute at the University of North Carolina
  3. Dr. Murray Clamen, Affiliate Professor, McGill University
  4. Mr. Matt DeCourcey, Member of Parliament for Fredericton; Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
  5. Mr. Mark Fisher, President and CEO, Council of the Great Lakes Region
  6. Ms. Ilmas Futehally, Co-founder, Executive Director and Vice President, Strategic Foresight Group (India)
  7. Mr. Don Guy, Managing Director, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Canada
  8. Mr. Grant Kippen, Principal and Co-founder, Hillbrooke Group
  9. Mr. Tony Maas, Director, Forum for Leadership on Water
  10. Mr. Ralph Pentland, Member, Forum for Leadership on Water; former Director, Water Planning and Management in the federal government
  11. Prof. John Pomeroy, Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change
  12. Dr. Bharat Punjabi, Research Fellow, Global Cities Institute, University of Toronto
  13. Mr. Robert Sandford, Senior Advisor on Water Issues, InterAction Council; EPCOR Chair for Water and Climate Security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health
  14. Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia, Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis
  15. Dr. Vladimir Smakhtin, Director, United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health
  16. Mr. Scott Vaughan, President and CEO, International Institute for Sustainable Development
  17. Mr. Sundeep Waslekar, President, Strategic Foresight Group (India)


[1] Strategic Foresight Group, “The Blue Impact”

[2] Strategic Foresight Group, background documents, “International Roundtable on Water Cooperation for Peace and Security”

[3] Strategic Foresight Group, “Water Cooperation Quotient”

[4] Ibid.