The International Centre for Water Cooperation (ICWC) generates and shares knowledge on water cooperation. The Centre contributes to context-specific solutions for cooperation over shared freshwater resources. ICWC is hosted by SIWI under the auspices of UNESCO, and through its work, contributes to the implementation of the UNESCO IHP IX Strategic Plan for 2022- 2029.
The ICWC was established in 2014 as an independent research institution, hosted by SIWI, to advance knowledge on water cooperation within and between countries. It is the only UNESCO Category II Centre located in Sweden and the first in focusing on transboundary water management in connection with peace, conflict, and regional development.
Linking science and practice
ICWC is focused on:
- Research and knowledge generation
- Capacity development
- Dialogues and multistakeholder platforms
The aim is to contribute to research as well as strengthen capacity across all sectors involved in water governance and management of shared water resources. The centre offers advisory services and policy support to technical and political actors in river basins, regions, and countries.
The world’s water resources are under ever-increasing pressure. Demand is growing as a result of rising populations and new consumption patterns, not least in emerging economies. More water resources are needed for different sectors – food, energy, industrial manufacturing, human health, and household purposes – but also for ecosystems.
At the same time, climate change causes greater water variability which could endanger food and energy production, human health and security, economic development, and poverty reduction, making it difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In many places, this requires cooperation between countries depending on the same river or aquifer. More than half the global population lives in one of the world’s hundreds of international river basins. But most basins lack any form of cooperative management framework. There is a need for more coordinated water governance and cross-border governance institutions.
Though the challenge is unprecedented, it should be remembered that we have never before had so much knowledge about water resources as we do today. A growing body of research makes it possible to assess and understand the dynamics of rivers, lakes, and aquifers. We also have a good understanding of what constitutes an effective governance system for the use and management of water. But we do need more research on how to apply this knowledge in a transboundary setting and it is crucial that the research gets to influence policy. This is the role of the International Centre for Water Cooperation.
The ICWC responds to the need to find effective, innovative, inclusive, and context-specific solutions for cooperation over shared freshwater resources. The Centre provides a platform to explore opportunities for building shared knowledge on water and climate-related challenges across boundaries and sectors. This includes generating knowledge to understand different actors’ diverging perspectives on water realities and related decision-making processes.
ICWC operates at various scales, from the international arena to the lowest administrative units, and with different levels of engagement along the entire cooperation continuum. The Centre draws on trend analysis of water cooperation processes based on domestic/local knowledge from basins/areas where shared water-related challenges can be an opportunity for cooperation or a source of political tensions or armed violence. This extensive cooperation with local networks is important to generate more sustainable results. Identifying opportunities for contextual solutions on sustainable management of shared waters creates joint benefits across scales, sectors, and stakeholders.
Two global conventions provide legal guidance on the management of shared water resources: the UN Convention on the law on non-navigational uses of international watercourses and the UNECE Convention on the protection and use of transboundary watercourses and international lakes. It is however important to understand that cooperation over shared water resources must be strengthened at all scales, also within countries.
The ICWC seeks to contribute to cooperative action becoming the norm. On a transboundary level, there is a need for formalized frameworks and joint institutions to manage any shared water resource. Both between and within countries much more can be done to facilitate collaboration and information sharing.
Since the ICWC is hosted by SIWI, it benefits from other SIWI-led activities and programmes. Another important partner is Department of Peace and Conflict at Uppsala University, where the ICWC Research School for International Water Cooperation is located. The research school conducts research on the linkage between water scarcity and international conflict and cooperation. It aims to move the research front and improve our understanding of the mechanisms behind water-induced peace.
ICWC works closely with regional and national partners. By combining local knowledge and situation analyses with more regional and international experience and perspectives, ICWC can reach further in its strive to advance knowledge and identify gaps for capacity building. Examples of regional collaborating partners are the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), the Blue Peace Middle East Initiative and The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC). ICWC also liaises closely with governments, academia and civil society organizations for the implementation of its activities.
On a strategic level, ICWC collaborates with other UNESCO Category II Centres and other like-minded institutions to jointly organize training events, workshops, and public awareness-raising activities. Examples include:
Working paper: Water Cooperation for Accelerated Agenda 2030 Implementation
This working paper highlights some initial water cooperation trends as assessed in the upcoming Water Cooperation Global Outlook Report, due to be launched later this year, with a special focus on transboundary water cooperation in Africa.Learn more