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Editor’s pick: 7 case studies on environmental cooperation

Turkey-Armenia: Water Cooperation Despite Tensions

Armenia and Turkey have been sharing the water of the Arpacay River – which forms the border between them – equitably, despite their lack of bilateral diplomatic relations. Before Armenia became independent in 1991, the former USSR had signed a number of treaties with Turkey over the Arpacay (or Akhourian) River. Although relations between Turkey and Armenia have been at an impasse since the 1990s, both countries have continued to implement the old treaties brokered before the collapse of the USSR and share the Arpacay River equitably to this day. 


Jordan and Israel: Tensions and Water Cooperation in the Middle-East

The rivers of the Jordan system all have a transboundary nature, a configuration which requires cooperation amongst all co-riparians to achieve sustainable water management. Yet the tensions which have prevailed between Israel and its Arab neighbours since 1948 have limited cooperation until today and at times escalated to war. However, one country, Jordan, distanced itself from the other Arab countries in the region and signed a peace agreement with Israel in which cooperation over water played an important role.


Transnational Conflict and Cooperation in the Lake Chad Basin

Since the beginning of the 2000s, growing claims of an urgent need to protect and restore Lake Chad have led the riparian states and the Lake Chad Basin Commission to engage in a number of joint water management initiatives with the support of a number of international organisations. These include a major project to transfer the waters of the Congo Basin (Oubangui) to Lake Chad in order to replenish the lake – the “Transaqua” project and a sustainable development programme for Lake Chad, which was launched in 2009. The Lake Chad Water Charter adopted in 2012 seeks to define water management and wetland management objectives based on shared concerns.


EU Influence on the Euphrates-Tigris Conflict

From the 1960s to the 1990s, tensions among the co-riparian states of the Euphrates-Tigris Basin hampered cooperation over the rivers. Since 1999, when Turkey was granted the status of candidate country for membership to the EU, the country started transposing and implementing the EU body of legislation, including the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The renewed cooperation which was observed among the three co-riparians in the 2000s reflects the influence of the WFD.


Lower Mekong Basin: Challenges and opportunities for early cooperation

To promote peace, regional cooperation, and development in the Lower Mekong Basin, the United Nations (UN) encouraged the creation of an intergovernmental agency for joint water management. In 1957, the Mekong Committee was created. After an initial period of enthusiasm, momentum began to subside during the 1970s. Nevertheless, the Mekong’s early institutional architecture provided a forum for dialogue that was sustained even in times of regional hostilities. It also laid the groundwork for contemporary Mekong governance in times of rapid development.


Transboundary Water Disagreements between South Africa and Namibia

Following the independence of Namibia in 1990, a number of water-related disagreements have emerged between the Orange River riparians South Africa and Namibia. These revolve around the demarcation of a common border, water allocation and water pricing, and the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP). Existing water scarcity in the lower Orange River Basin is likely to be further aggravated by the impacts of climate change. Despite the conflict potential harboured by existing disagreements, the basin’s high level of institutionalised cooperation and the possibilities for intra- and inter-basin water transfers could help alleviate water stress and resolve bilateral disagreement over shared water resources.


Iraq-Iran: from Water Dispute to War

The Shatt al-Arab River forms the boundaries between Iran and Iraq before flowing into the Persian Gulf. Due to its strategic importance for both Iraq and Iran, for centuries both countries have defended their sovereignty rights over the river. The Shatt al-Arab dispute was an important cause which led to the outbreak of the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran. In recent years – and particularly since the beginning of the war in Syria –, relations between Iraq and Iran have majorly improved. This has been reflected on the Shatt-al Arab issue. In 2014, Iraq and Iran’s Prime Minister met to discuss how to delimit the river in a mutually acceptable way and to put an end to the status quo. Water-protection aspects took also a major space in the talks. Today both countries have restored bilateral diplomatic relations and reached agreements on a mutually satisfying delimitation of the river. They are also jointly working towards the protection of the river. 


130+ case studies on environment, conflict and cooperation

The Factbook is a knowledge platform that provides an overview of environmental conflict and cooperation from around the world. It does so by offering a select number of case studies that reflect instances of conflict, resolution and peacebuilding processes that are related to environmental change.

The Factbook seeks to help policy-makers, experts, researchers and any interested members of the public to better understand and compare the drivers behind environmental conflict and cooperation. The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute to the prevention and sustainable transformation of such conflicts using lessons learned from earlier (non-) interventions.

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