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Peace and conflict

Water-Peace Nexus // The Water, Peace and Security Initiative (WPSI)

The Water, Peace and Security Initiative (WPSI) is pioneering the development of innovative information tools and practical approaches that can support evidence-based actions to reduce water-related security risks.

Water insecurity is increasing worldwide. Currently, 36% of the world population lives in water-scarce regions and these numbers are expected to rise to unprecedented levels due to population growth, rapid urbanisation, and growing economic demands for water. At the same time, floods affect over 100 million people annually, causing USD 31 billion in damages a year.

These threats are exacerbated by ecosystem losses and climate change impacts. The United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and international intelligence agencies have raised concerns over the last years that this growing water crisis increasingly poses a threat to livelihoods, economies and even global stability. The High-Level Panel on Water consisting of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government on 22 March 2018 recognized the nexus of water, peace and security, and forced displacement. Responding to these concerns, the Water, Peace and Security Initiative (WPSI) is designing innovative information tools and practical approaches that can support evidence-based actions to reduce water-related security risks.

Rapid advances in global modelling, big data, and satellite imagery, combined with local knowledge and increasing transparency, make early warning and analysis of water-related societal impacts possible. These, in turn, can help politicians, communities, and investors take immediate action to ensure potential conflicts or displacements are minimized, if not avoided. It can also help the international community decide on when, where, and how to act.

The Water, Peace and Security Initiative (WPSI) is pioneering the development of innovative information tools and practical approaches that can support evidence-based actions to reduce water-related security risks.

The initiative takes up the challenge to turn global data sets and local knowledge into meaningful information that can support preventive action. These tools will provide early warning signals showing where and when risks may be on the rise. Next, decision-support tools and approaches will be used to facilitate evidence-based responses that will increase resilience and reduce water-related risks.

Insights from these information tools will be used to effect timely, evidence-based, and negotiated actions. To do this, we will engage with key stakeholders at global, regional and local levels, such as governments, investors, international organisations, CSOs and the private sector. Training programmes will be designed to meet the needs of those willing to act.


Further details of The Water Peace & Security Initiative were provided by Charlie Iceland of the World Resources Institute and Ruben Dahm on behalf of Deltares. IHE Delft is a co-creator of the Initiative, which is a response to the urgent threat the reduction in water security globally causes to human security and social stability. The two-year pilot program aims to contribute to increasing human security through four areas of work: 

  1. Understand. Develop an online global early warning system for potential water-related threats to human security (will be hosted on WRI’s new Resource Watch platform). Implement on-the-ground rapid assessments to verify and further research the threats, and identify possible interventions.
  2. Mobilize. Conduct outreach to global “3D” audiences (diplomats, defense and development experts), as well as to national governments and stakeholders in affected countries where we identify threats.
  3. Learn. Provide training and capacity development to help affected countries cope with current and future crises and avert potential destabilizing conflict and migration.
  4. Negotiate. Convene water dialogues among key stakeholders at both international and sub-national levels, to try to diffuse tensions and pave the way for solutions.

This is a collaboration among an expanding group of organisations supported by The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Current partners include: IHE Delft (lead), World Resources Institute, Deltares, the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, Wetlands International, International Alert, Oregon State University, and Pacific Institute. An initial pilot study will be carried out in Mali during 2018. A second pilot is expected to be selected shortly.

Consortium partners

  • IHE Delft Institute for Water Education is the largest international graduate water education facility in the world and is based in Delft, the Netherlands. The Institute has a solid track record of managing capacity development, research and advisory projects, ranging from small tailor-made trainings to large multi-year, multi-million-euro capacity development projects.
  • The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States. We are a non-profit organization headquartered in Washington, DC. Our more than 700 experts and staff turn big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being.
  • Deltares is a leading (not-for-profit) and internationally operating specialist consultancy and applied research institute in the field of water and subsurface. We apply our top-level knowledge in order to provide innovative and sustainable solutions for global issues relating to water and the subsurface. We focus on the use of these essential resources and the associated risks. Throughout the world, we work on innovative solutions and applications for people, environment and society. Our main focus is on deltas, coastal regions and river basins.
  • The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS) was established in 2007 as an independent think tank. Our products are diverse: full-fledged reports, issue briefs, quick topic reports, and commentaries in the media. We create models and monitors for public and private organizations to improve their situational awareness and provide them with a better understanding of their strategic environment. We also compile, collate and generate new datasets, design tailor-made analytical frameworks and build fully interactive web interfaces.

The consortium is open for further collaboration and has already extended its collaboration to include Wetlands International, Oregon State University and the Pacific Institute.

More information

For more information: contact one of the consortium partners or the overall coordinator IHE Delft: Rozemarijn ter Horst,

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