“We can work towards a better future – we just have to envision it today.”
With those words, hydrologist Irena Creed summarized the overall spirit of the GDL’s Water Diplomacy Lab.
From June 14th to June 16th 2022, the Global Diplomacy Lab hosted the Incubator Lab for “Water Diplomacy 4.0: Process Matters” in Berlin. Organized by Kathryn Bryk Friedman, the Lab concerned itself with questions of modern diplomacy and issues of providing adequate freshwater resources for people and ecosystems in the 21st century.
GDL Members and experts from different fields of diplomacy and science met to discuss the issue of transboundary waters, their fair, sustainable usage and the problems and conflicts they can incite between states. Through discussions, site visits and group work, members had the opportunity to exchange ideas, learn diplomatic tools and engage in an innovative problem-solving process. The perfect balance between scientific background information and diplomatic experience helped facilitate an engaging exchange which led to a new perspective on the topic of transboundary water.
“If we build trust among actors, water security concerns can be resolved. Diplomacy gives up the toolkit to do so in a peaceful manner.” (GDL Member participating in the Lab)
Through the reflection upon various case studies, the importance of context and relationship between actors became apparent. Members agreed that effective water diplomacy relies on empathy and trust built between the people involved. This is particularly challenging in contexts where states already face political tensions. However, members agreed that through mediation, respectful treatment of each other and empathetic understanding for every perspective’s concerns, sustainable and equally beneficial ways of water distribution can be found.
“We can work towards a better future – we just have to envision it today.” (Hydrologist Irena Creed)
Moreover, Lab participants came to one startlingly simple realization: The world is changing.
Assumptions made about water security today might not hold true tomorrow. On the other hand, conflicts that exist today can also be resolved in the future. This offers as much hope for the future as it causes uncertainty of what is to come. By using scientific tools like scenario analysis, predictions about future developments gain another dimension of certainty. This dimension can then be incorporated into water diplomatic efforts. By relying on facts and truths, diplomacy can effectively serve as a mediator in conflicts surrounding transboundary waters.
“We need to aim high and see where we end up along the way.” (GDL Member participating in the Lab)
Problems surrounding accessible freshwater and sustainable water distribution will remain a challenge for years to come. Driven by the ambitions of the other participants, GDL members and scientist were confident that this challenge can be met with effective solutions. Hopefulness and confidence in a better tomorrow made participants look forward to the upcoming Impact Lab in Slovenia this August. Inspired by each other’s ideas and drive for change, members agreed that this issue is too important to wait until then. Until August, three more meetings will be taking place to take stock of progress and discuss how to efficiently move forward towards achieving a future with sustainable, fair water resources in regions with transboundary waters.
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.
Marie-Theres Cieslik is a student intern at the GDL. She is committed to gathering experience in the field of international diplomacy, as well as helping the GDL in its mission to establish a new, inclusive form of Diplomacy 4.0.
In 2022, Marie-Theres will finish her master’s degree in international relations and international organisation at the University of Groningen. She has already obtained a BA in modern Japanese studies and media and communication sciences. Due to her time spent studying abroad in Japan and the USA, as well as her enrolment at German and Dutch universities, Marie-Theres is familiar with working in a diverse, multicultural environment. Finding solutions to international issues by sharing experiences and learning from one another are significant motivators in her work for a better tomorrow.
Since her teenage years, Marie-Theres has enjoyed traveling, meeting new people and getting to know different cultures. She enjoys reading, writing and good cuisine.