A high level conference in Dushanbe, planned for June, continues Tajikistan’s long-term policy to address water use on the international stage
One of the most pressing global issues that neither the world’s population nor its governments can ignore is water. Scarcity of supply, energy, natural disasters, access to drinking water, sanitation and the health implications of contaminated water are all issues that can only be solved through coordinated international solutions. Additionally, the increasingly evident phenomenon of climate change has further exacerbated the situation regarding water policy for many countries, as changing weather patterns continue to cause drought and floods.
Fresh water also has a geopolitical and security aspect that has repeatedly affected relations between countries, due to the fact that more than 170 rivers are shared between two or more countries. Historically and until the present time, management of trans-national water boundaries has been a cause of dispute, and even conflict, as upstream and downstream governments debate access. Today more than 40 countries face the challenge of building consensus with their neighbors over fair use of shared rivers. This affects Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia in particular.
The Republic of Tajikistan has placed water issues at the forefront of its foreign policy since independence. As a mountainous country and the source of approximately 60% of Central Asia’s water supplies, the future of Tajikistan is intrinsically bound in solving global water crises. Through regional and international forums, including working through the United Nations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan has lobbied for a global approach to solving water issues.
One early initiative to attract a global approach to the issue, led by Tajikistan through the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), was the nomination of 2003 as the International Year of Fresh Water. This was the precursor to the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life” 2005-2015, proclaimed by the UNGA in December of the same year.
This initiative, introduced by the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Tajikistan to the UN, was created to encourage a sustainable, global approach to solving water issues. It officially commenced on the first ever World Water Day on March 22, 2005, and served as an international forum to discuss the global water agenda. Building on this, the nomination of 2013 as the International Year for Water Cooperation was another successfully adopted proposal put forward by Tajikistan to the UNGA in 2010.
The Group of Friends of Water, also established by Tajikistan in 2010, is a voluntary association of more than 75 countries, which includes the U.S. Chaired by Tajikistan, it has been a medium for discourse on issues including human intervention on water, efficient use of the resource, water and the green economy, and integrating water resource management.
This weekend the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life” 2005-2015, is drawing to a close. Immediately following this year’s World Water Day on Sunday, sustainable development goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda, including water issues, will be discussed at the UNGA in New York.
To review the decade of action, boost dialogue, and discuss global approaches to the world’s water issues, the Government of Tajikistan in cooperation with UN institutions is hosting an international conference this June in its capital, Dushanbe. This event, the High Level International Conference on the implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Life”, 2005-2015 is scheduled to take place in the capital of Tajikistan from June 9-11, 2015. A number of parallel events are also planned in the lead up to the event, touching on issues including geography, gender and youth.
Approximately 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the conference, including representatives from UN member states, international organizations, non-government organizations, the private sector, and gender and youth organizations.