Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has opened the “Blue Peace Central Asia” conference in the Kazakhstan capital, Astana. With this initiative, Switzerland wants to help five central Asian states manage water supplies in a peaceful and sustainable manner.
“Water can be a source of tension and instability. Competition over water resources can cause or fuel conflicts, and water crises often add to the fragility of countries,” Burkhalter said on Mondayexternal link in Astana, where he is also visiting Switzerland’s pavilion at the 2017 World Expo.
“In some cases, such as the war in Syria, water is even used as a weapon of war, in stark violation of international humanitarian law.”
Switzerland started the common dialogue because it wanted to offer its own “broad experience on transboundary water management and cooperation”, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Water has been an enabler of development, in Central Asia as elsewhere,” Burkhalter added. “Today there is a risk, however, that this enabler could turn into a bottleneck for future development if we fail to commonly address the global water crisis.”
What can happen if water management is not approached in a sustainable way can be seen in the almost dried-up Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the foreign ministry said.
With the “Blue Peace Central Asia” initiative, Switzerland wants to spur Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan into political dialogue on water management and water security. Also foreseen is the exchange of technical data and the promotion of education of young people who are interested in water management.
“There is enormous potential for transforming water from a source of crises to a source of peace and stability,” Burkhalter said.
“The connections between water, peace and security are essential for the well-being of humankind.”