<< view all News

Water Security: Enhancing Multi-stakeholder Partnerships

A professional seminar “Water Security: Enhancing Multi-stakeholder Partnerships” was organised by GCSP 2-3 June 2016, in partnership with Green Cross International (GCI)Global Mutations Analysis & Perspective (GMAP), the Geneva Water Hub (GWH)Millennium Institute, and WaterLex. This Seminar aimed to offer interested partners the opportunity to utilize innovative analytical tools for improving their action for preventing or responding to water crises impacting security. Indeed, experience has shown that, in order to ensure proper decision-making and governance, adequate information is crucial for undertaking significant policy processes and enacting policies. However, getting the right information and trying to anticipate the future is made increasingly difficult because of the intricacies in today’s world between political, financial, commercial and environmental relations that make correct predictions more complicated to elaborate.

At a private dinner, the keynote speaker, Gérard Payen, former Advisor of the UN Secretary General on Water and Sanitation, considered that the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG6 on Water and Sanitation, was a real revolution: it will have a major impact on national public policies in stimulating progress on water management. For the first time, addressing water challenges is recognised as a top priority for humanity. Progress indicators will help monitor the implementation of quantified and time-bound targets to reach aspirational goals.

On 2 June 2016, Adam Koniuszewski, Chief Operating Officer of Green Cross International, introduced the day’s topic by explaining how water insecurity, introduced the day’s topic by explaining how water insecurity, as a result of the worst drought in the Middle East in 900 years and bad governance as well as the promotion of water-intensive agriculture that exacerbated water scarcity, contributed to the Syrian civil war. While warning signs were there, analysts failed to predict that Syria would become the battleground it is today. In the future, it will be interesting to see if Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to overcome this lack of human foresight.

Valérie Fert, president of GMAP, then explained that AI is a tool meant to mimic what humans do, only handling quintillion bytes of information at a time. An advanced AI analytical system such as Globe Expert, browsing big data, has the ability not only to see the full picture in a fraction of the lifetime a human would need to match such a capability but also to predict trends and scenarios.

This presentation was followed by psychologist and neuroscientist Olga Maria Klimecki who explained how humans make decisions. There is both a cognitive and emotional side to human decision making. The emotional side makes decisions very quickly, and can be influenced by both emotions stemming from the decision needing to be made, and by emotions stemming from completely unrelated sources. Furthermore, because humans are epithetic creatures, the mood of an individual can be influenced by the mood of a “group” that they perceive themselves a part of. The perception of a “group” can derive from any linking characteristic from legitimate — belonging to the same family – to trivial – liking the same football team. She concluded by saying diplomatic negotiations could be improved by building “group” ties between counterparts.

Urs Luterbacher, honorary professor of political science at the Institute of Graduate Studies of International and Development Studies, presented how AI could be used in crises like the Syrian civil war. He demonstrated that an AI system such as Globe Expert could predict in 2013 that the Assad regime would still be in place in 2016/2017, as it could detect information signals not visible by human means from thousands of sources on the internet.

This was followed by Matteo Pedercini, Director of Modelling and Capacity Development at Millennium Institute, who presented an alternative use for AI: policy simulation. The Integrated Sustainable Development Goals Planning Model (iSDG) proposed by Millennium Institute, by imputing different scenarios of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) policies, allow developing countries to check the implementation and implications of their various national SDG and target indicators. In particular regarding SDG6 (on water and sanitation), this permits to get the most out of limited resources.

Thierry Lorho, head of IT Research at GMAP, then presented the Quantum Probability Model, designed to predict human behaviour with more accuracy than the conventional probability theory. This new model is based on its capacity to take into consideration the fact that humans do not always make decisions rationally and with certainty.

The final presentation was made by Amanda Loeffen, General Manager of Waterlex. She believes the key conditions for successful multi-stakeholder initiatives are: national focus; national drive; neutral and legitimate convening institutions; balanced representation of the national population; law enforcement; support monitoring and solution design.  This presentation was commented by Mara Tignino, who explained that the Geneva Water Hub was precisely trying to work in such directions.

On 3 June 2016, the participants took part in three workshops on:

A)     Public-Private Partnerships in Cooperative Approaches to Water Security, facilitated by Amanda Loeffen: its recommendations consisted of creating incentives for encouraging investment to support water infrastructure, building coalitions targeting ethical profitability and promoting good governance (including transparency and accountability) with differentiated solutions adapted to local conditions. The challenge was to produce higher returns for investors considering higher risks.

B)      Water Management and Trans-border Cooperation, facilitated by Marie-Laure Vercambre from GCI: that group focused on incentives for inter-state cooperation, community involvement, and improved governance. Indeed out of 280 water basins or aquifers, which include 60% of all fresh water in the world, only 40% are regulated by trans-border cooperation agreements; and out of those, 80% are obsolete, incomplete or not inclusive. The entry into force of the UN Watercourses Convention and the UNECE Water Convention offers a great potential for filling this legal void.

C)      Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, and Food Security, facilitated by Urs Luterbacher and Farah Andalibi: it looked at the experience gained by the “Carbon for Water” project, consisting of installing water filters in rural areas in Kenya to replace boiling with firewood causing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. The group considered the links between water use, health, deforestation and resulting reduced rainfall, impact on education, demography, etc. It concluded that the level of human security can affect state security, and that global awareness on water footprint and water-related information is crucial.