Cross-border water management as an instrument for stability: Federal Councillor Burkhalter opens conference in Astana

Press release, 15.06.2017

Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter is scheduled to launch a Swiss initiative that sets a new course for cross-border water cooperation in central Asia. This will take place at a conference in the Kazakh capital Astana on 19 June 2017. In his opening speech, Mr Burkhalter will emphasise that structured water management is a factor for stability. The conference in Astana builds on Switzerland’s long-standing engagement for sustainable water use in the region.

In addition to Switzerland, the Blue Peace Central Asia conference will be attended by five central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan – and international observers in order to share knowledge on water and security and sustainable growth for all. The conference is part of the Blue Peace Central Asia initiative, under which the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) fosters political dialogue between the countries concerned and promotes the development of sustainable practices in transboundary catchment areas. This dialogue will be advanced on 19 June 2017 on the margins of the World Expo in Astana. It was originally launched by Switzerland in November 2014, when representatives from politics, business and the water sector gathered in Basel and decided to take the first steps in developing future cross-border water management in central Asia.

The conference will be opened by Mr Burkhalter, who will emphasise the importance of mutually-agreed access to water as a factor for stability and trust. Because it is important for Switzerland that the initiative involves the next generation of water experts in the region, the Swiss pavilion at the Expo will host a discussion between these young people and Mr Burkhalter as they debate new approaches to water issues together. 

From 10 June to 10 September 2017, the World Expo in Astana will be devoted to the topic of future energy. Switzerland is showcasing itself as a country that takes innovative approaches to energy efficiency, renewable energies and global water management. The Swiss pavilion is housing an exhibition on the sustainable management of water, a vital resource. It has been designed by the SDC and Presence Switzerland and is intended to reflect on the issue of fair water distribution for development.

Switzerland’s active involvement in this area is based on its extensive expertise and experience in water diplomacy in connection with the transboundary Rhine and Rhone rivers. Water diplomacy is not only a way to foster dialogue and political solutions to water and security issues in key regions, it is also an opportunity to exchange technical knowledge and support practical projects in the water sector. In addition to its activities in central Asia, Switzerland is committed to ‘blue peace’ primarily in the Middle East. It also prioritises the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all in its implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In addition, in November 2015 Switzerland launched a global panel on water and peace as part of its water diplomacy efforts in Geneva. The panel has been tasked with drawing up proposals to create new instruments and a structure to prevent or mitigate global and regional water-related conflict. The panel’s report is expected to be published in September 2017.

Further information:

Swiss flower power at Expo 2017 Astana
The SDC in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan)
SDC web dossier: Water – A vital resource under threat
SDC factsheet: Water – A SDC Global Programme

Water Diplomacy(pdf, 90kb)

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