Access to water as an instrument to promote peace: Switzerland adopts lines of action

Bern, Press release, 14.09.2015

Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter has called on the countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to “engage to transform water from a source of crisis into an instrument for peace”. Speaking in Prague before the OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum, the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) said that global demand for water would grow by 55% by 2030 and that access to water was a serious problem in many countries and regions.

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"The issue of water and security figures highly on the Swiss foreign policy agenda",  Mr Burkhalter added, announcing that Switzerland has adopted a set of ‘water and security’ lines of action that will guide the FDFA's water-related activities in future. The lines of action present the various tools Switzerland is using to transform water into an instrument for cooperation, as well as upcoming initiatives in this field.

Switzerland has been practising ‘blue diplomacy’ for many years on several continents. This includes offering developing countries assistance to enable them to better manage and utilise their water resources and reduce the conflicts and tensions created by their shared use. Mr Burkhalter mentioned Central Asia in this regard. Use of water resources is a challenge for development, peacebuilding and security in the region. Switzerland is leading a hydro-diplomacy initiative at the request of five Central Asian countries and has appointed a special envoy to facilitate dialogue between the different states and help create a mechanism for the efficient management of water in the region.

Backed by a number of other countries Switzerland will launch a panel of experts in Geneva in November which will be responsible for making proposals to prevent conflicts over access to water and to further efforts to promote peace through the resolution of water-related disputes.

Mr Burkhalter finally called on the OSCE – which has made water the focus of the Economic and Environmental Forum of this year – to continue on this path. The organisation, which brings together 57 countries, could act as a facilitator and as a political platform in this field, he said. The OSCE has the advantage that it is in close contact with people and very much present in the field, for example in Ukraine where the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has allowed destroyed water supply facilities to be repaired by facilitating dialogue and arranging local ceasefires. The SMM has also provided support to Swiss Humanitarian Aid, which delivered water treatment chemicals to populations on both sides of the contact line.


Further information:

Statement by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter
Videos Water


Lines of action of the FDFA: water and security(pdf, 85kb)


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Publisher:

Federal Department of Foreign Affairs