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Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Hope is on the Horizon

By Ferdinand Eimler

“Where does the water in your tap come from?” Around thought-provoking questions like this one, an intensive discussion on the issue of water insecurity unfolded when GDL Members Kathryn Bryk Friedman and Elsa Marie D’Silva together with water expert Prof Irena Creed presented their vision on Water Diplomacy 4.0 at the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Conference hosted by the Germany-based think tank adelphi.

 

Human Activity disrupts Global Water Cycle

In the eyes of transboundary water expert Kathryn, water insecurity is “one of a handful of global grand challenges society in the 21st century is facing.” In support of that analysis, Irena presented a case on “Geopolitics of Forest Water – Unchartered Territory”, talking about the role of forests in the global water cycle. She highlighted the urgency of the issue by stating that “water systems across the globe are under severe stress, threatening the lives and livelihood of billions of people who live in […] transboundary water systems”. In her presentation, Irena referred to many interconnections of the global water cycle and gave the solemn warning that “climate change combined with human activity is disrupting the global water cycle” - disruptions that are “being manifested both at local and global scales.” According to her analysis, “humans are effectively replumbing the global water cycle”, a process that will result in “an increased risk of water insecurity”.

GDL Member Elsa elegantly summed up the issue of mismanagement of water supplies in transboundary water systems by proclaiming that “business as usual just doesn’t work. And it doesn’t work because we are trying to solve 21st century problems with 19th century theories and 20th century institutions." Kathryn not only agrees, but believes it is finally time “to reimagine a new vision for transboundary water systems” and together with GDL Members and experts of transboundary water systems “co-create new ways to get there”.

 

Scenario Analysis and Water Toolkit to tackle Water Insecurity

Answering her call, in June 2022 a diverse group of diplomats and experts came together to discuss five case studies that represent examples of transboundary water conflict and cooperation during the Incubator Lab “Water Diplomacy 4.0 – Process Matters” in Berlin. One of many promising and innovative approaches to tackle the issue of water insecurity is scenario analysis. For scenario analysis, certain drivers of change must be identified and based on these a pathway towards an envisioned future is mapped out.

To achieve a desired scenario in a certain transboundary water system, the right diplomatic tools must be developed and then applied. Therefore, the goal for the upcoming Impact Lab in Slovenia in August is to create an innovative and inclusive ‘Water Diplomacy 4.0 Process Toolkit’ that will be presented for review to experts of water governance and diplomats from around the world.

 

Co-Creating the Future: Panel Discussion at Youth Bled Strategic Forum

Even more exciting, the Lab team was able to secure a panel at the Young Bled Strategic Forum, also taking place in Slovenia in August. In Kathryn’s words, they will bring the fruits of the participants’ labour “to the people who are going to be co-creating that future with us – […] young people who have to deal with [the consequences of] all the challenges that we are facing in all of our societies today”. She hopes to get feedback on the vision of Water Diplomacy 4.0 from “the people who really matter”.

Irena brilliantly summarised her first GDL experience by stating that in her 25 years of being an academic, she would count the Incubator Lab in Berlin “in the top three of all meetings” she has been to “in terms of leaving there with a sense of hope, with a sense of purpose, with a sense of colleagues that are all aligned in the same direction to really affect the change that we urgently need.” So, there is hope on the horizon. Hope to the billions of people affected by water insecurity.

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Kathryn Bryk Friedman

Kathryn Bryk Friedman, PhD, Esq., is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Research Faculty at SUNY Buffalo.

She is a recognised foreign policy expert in border security, water governance, migration and human rights, as well as trade and innovation, and has provided strategic advice to government officials in regions including Central Europe, the EU, Africa, Latin America, and most recently North America, with a focus on Canada. She has experience leading Track 1.5-2 diplomacy. 

Kathryn has also served as a Fulbright Fellow (Germany) and an Abshire Inamori Leadership Fellow at CSIS in Washington, DC. Kathryn frequently provides guest commentaries in various media, including The Hill and NPR. She clerked for two appellate judges and is admitted to practice before the US Supreme Court. She is a Leadership Circle member of Foreign Policy for America.

Kathryn has a PhD in international relations and JD, magna cum laude, with a concentration in international law.

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, a fellow with Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices and Vital Voices, and a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader. She is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. Moreover, she has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award launched by Dušan Stojanović (European Angel Investor of the Year 2013) and the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact.

Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

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Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

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Ferdinand is doing a six-month internship at the Global Diplomacy Lab Secretariat as part of his Political Science and Public Administration programme at the University of Konstanz.

He is an adventurous person who practices intercultural exchange by surfing the couches of strangers all around the globe. Ferdinand’s passion for intercultural exchange developed during a High School Year in Texas under the CBYX program. To this very day, he cherishes this special connection with the United States.

After his high school graduation, Ferdinand decided to travel the world, a journey that took him from Berlin to Singapore, only by bus and train. While travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, he quickly fell in love with the culture and mentality of Russian and Chinese people and soon developed a keen interest in the politics and history of both countries.

Several seminars about the Chinese political system at the University of Zurich and an exchange semester in Moscow deepened that interest further, leading to an academic path primarily focused on the foreign policy of the two states.

In his free time, Ferdinand enjoys the outdoors by hiking, cycling and swimming in the south-east of Berlin.

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