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GFI Board Chair and former President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr. Danilo Türk, argues in a new Huffington Post article that "There is no alternative to trans-boundary water cooperation anywhere in the world." Read the full article below or at Huffington Post.
The Only Alternative to Water Is Water: Blue Peace for the 21st Century
By Dr. Danilo Türk
Until a year ago, serious tensions were mounting in northeastern Africa. Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia were confronted over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. Ethiopia had started building the dam, claiming its rights to use waters of the Nile River within its territory. Egypt, “the gift of the Nile” objected, fearing that the dam would obstruct the flow of the river to its fields.
Suddenly, a miracle happened. Seizing the occasion of the World Water Day on 22 March 2015, the presidents of the three countries met in Khartoum and decided to coordinate the construction of the dam in a way that would cause no harm and would allow an equitable outcome. Implementing their agreement is not easy. But the hostile rhetoric has toned down and a spirit of cooperation is gradually surfacing in the region.
There is no alternative to trans-boundary water cooperation anywhere in the world. There are 263 shared river basins flowing through 148 countries. Unless the countries through which the rivers run collaborate for the sustainable management of water courses, wars and environmental disasters can occur. On the other hand, cooperation in water can lead to comprehensive peace.
The Water Cooperation Quotient constructed on the basis of the analysis of 219 shared river basins in 148 countries by Strategic Foresight Group, an international think tank, reaches a dramatic conclusion. Any two countries engaged in active water cooperation are not likely to go to war over water or any other reason.
It is often asked whether water would be the oil of the 21st century. It certainly is not. Oil has alternatives such as natural gas and renewable energy. The only alternative to water is water. Therefore, last September the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Water Goal as one of the Sustainable Development Goals. It has an ambitious objective of ensuring water security of the world’s population by 2030. Cooperation among countries is an important component of the UN Water Goal.
The Water Cooperation Quotient provides a scientific formula to measure trans-boundary cooperation using indicators of joint investments, collaborative management of environment, cooperative management of floods and drought, integration of water in regional economic programmes, and interaction between the heads of states to enable large exchanges.
When countries reach the optimum level of water cooperation, they are in the state of Blue Peace. At this stage, water transforms from a source of potential crisis into an instrument of peace. The Senegal River Basin Organisation established by Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal in West Africa is an example of Blue Peace. The four countries jointly own all water related infrastructure including dams and hydro-electric stations. The organisation also facilitates political dialogue to end ethnic or border conflicts.
The Middle East is conspicuous for its absence of joint river management bodies. This is one of the reasons why ISIS, the violent extremist group, has been able to spread so quickly. They take over vital dams and use them to incarcerate high value prisoners knowing well that such dams cannot be bombed for the fear of flooding the entire region. They also use their control over dams and pipelines to force people to obey their order. For years, Iraq, Syria and Turkey refused to heed calls for cooperation over the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The result is that all the three states have lost and a non-state organisation has as a space to create a base for its violent designs against the civilized world.
In order to usher in an era of Blue Peace in this century, it is necessary for the international community to join hands to achieve concrete results. First, it is essential to encourage all 263 shared river basins to establish collaborative institutions and joint investment plans, slowly climbing up on the Water Cooperation Quotient.
Second, it is necessary to introduce concessional and preferential financial possibilities for the neighboring countries that wish to cooperate in the management of water basins.
Third, water infrastructure must be protected from terrorist actions and violent conflicts.
Finally, the members of the UN Security Council need to come together for the future of the world’s water. It is in their interest to prevent ISIS from controlling dams and reservoirs. It is in their interest to boost economic growth in all shared river basins of the developing world. It is indeed essential to establish Blue Peace in every region and the World Water Day of 2016 is a good occasion to strengthen every effort in this direction.
Danilo Turk is former President of Slovenia and Chairman of the Global High Level Panel on Water and Peace convened by 15 countries from all parts of the world.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with World Water Day (WWD), which has taken place annually on March 22 since 1993. The awareness day is an opportunity to learn more about and take action on water-related issues. It has a different theme selected by U.N. Water each year; in 2016, WWD focuses on water in relation to jobs.
Distinguished former Latvian minister and diplomat joins international team of leaders on the GFI Board of Directors
Washington, DC – The Global Fairness Initiative (GFI), an International NGO working to create more equitable, sustainable livelihoods for the working poor, has announced that Aivis Ronis will join the GFI Board of Directors. Brining an extensive career in diplomatic service, Mr. Ronis joins a GFI Board comprised of leaders and luminaries representing government, civil society, labor, and private industry from throughout the globe.
"It is a distinct pleasure to welcome a fellow diplomat from my region to the Board of Directors.” said Former President of Slovenia and GFI Board Chair Danilo Türk. “Mr. Ronis brings both great experience and an essential collaborative spirit to this this excellent organization and he will be a great benefit to GFI’s important work.”
Ambassador Ronis is currently an independent business and NATO consultant. Previously he served as Latvia's Minister of Transportation, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, as Ambassador to the U.S., and Ambassador to Mexico. He was with the Latvian diplomatic service since its re-establishment in 1991, where he served as Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs as well as ambassador to Turkey. Prior to his diplomatic career he was a TV journalist and Latvian youth chess champion. He has also served as Latvia's Ambassador to NATO and has worked in the private sector in Latvia.
“It has been my privilege to know and work with Ambassador Ronis from many years and it is with great enthusiasm that I welcome him to the GFI Board.” said Karen Tramontano, founder of the Global Fairness Initiative. “Aivis joins a Board of distinguished leaders from around the globe representing the multiple sectors central to GFI’s work, and we are lucky to have him.”
The Global Fairness Initiative is an International NGO that works to create a more equitable, sustainable approach to economic development, and to make our global economy work for those who need it most, the world’s working poor. For over a decade GFI has steadily built a track record of success through innovative programs to reduce poverty, enfranchise informal communities, and advance human rights and livelihoods in all parts of the world.
GUATEMALA, NOVEMBER 6 – On November 6th, Sololá’s central park was transformed into a hive of activity as vendors from as far away as Huehuetenango and Baja Verapaz lined the streets with booths offering a wide variety of seeds, plants, organic fertilizers, medicines, traditional foods, cakes, jams, shampoos, and textiles. A live marimba band kept the mood festive as buyers interacted with the women selling products created through GFI’s Sololá Agro-Industry Initiative.
SAII’s expo marked the debut of the “Braided Women of Sololá” logo, a collaborative effort in which GFI, CEIBA, and SAII producers had the opportunity to create and select a logo symbolizing interconnectedness and unity. At the expo, SAII producers labeled all products and stamped brown paper bags with the newly created image. Some women labeled bell pepper starter plants and natural fertilizer in recycled Pepsi bottles. Traditional sweets were packaged in clear plastic bags with a corn husk bow. Overall, the product presentation showed a newfound pride and professionalism, with one group even printing customized business cards.
The expo was a culmination of the market access training implemented by GFI over the past several months. Upon witnessing the women’s confident interpersonal interactions with buyers, Jessica Yarrow commented:
The women practiced some of the sales techniques we discussed in trainings, like offering samples to customers and talking about the benefits of their products. They also educated consumers about how to use their products; for instance, the women selling organic fertilizer educated consumers about how to apply it to plants.
SAII beneficiaries were pleased with sales from the expo, and recognized that the opportunity to present their products to the public was an important initial step towards gaining more clients. One potential buyer inquired about sourcing gallons of natural fertilizers for the farming communities in which he works. Additionally, the women of Sololá sold nearly 40 jars of pickled hot peppers, vegetables, and 25 bottles of shampoo. SAII producers were happy with the sales of the day.
The event garnered positive local attention, even attracting the local TV Station and national Guatevision, along with coverage in two daily newspapers. Most importantly, the fair was an opportunity to build the women producers’ confidence and increase local awareness and engagement. In the end, both buyers and producers seemed satisfied with the course of the day’s events.
by Twila Tschan
INDIA, NOVEMBER- Youth from remote villages in the rural areas surrounding Ahmedabad, Gujarat were among the first successful graduates of the Retail Opportunity Training Initiative, a collaborative effort by Global Fairness Initiative, the Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA), and the Walmart Foundation to provide essential confidence-building and practical skills training related to India’s rapidly expanding retail sector.
The trainings, which typically combine a period of classroom instruction followed by on-the-job training, focus on personal aspects such as communication skills, professional appearance, and confidence building while also covering essential retail and customer service topics such as product presentation, cross-selling, and marketing. For students with primarily agricultural or domestic backgrounds, the trainings provide a unique opportunity to become familiar with speaking in public, interacting with strangers, and even using computers for the first time. Said one participant of the experience:
"I was very quiet at the beginning of the training. But after three days I started to talk and contribute. For this I would like to extend my gratitude towards the Master Trainer as she put a lot of effort into helping us open up. A lot of role-playing practice during the session really helped me build up my confidence. I have never used a computer in my life, so appearing for the online test was a huge achievement for me."
For many participants, ROTI training marks the first time they have visited a city or entered a mall. One young woman commented:
"My parents are farmers. I used to spend most days doing household chores and helping out my parents in the field. One fateful day, SEWA’s coordinator introduced me to Retail Management Training and encouraged me to join. Typically a girl leaving the village is not entertained in our rural community and I had to face many challenges. However, I never gave up as I had already set a goal for myself and would not stop unless I achieved it. After ROTI training, I have become confident and am ready to face interviews. My decision to work has been acknowledged by my family and they support me wholeheartedly."
Despite the relatively short duration of the training, participants come away with long-term goals, plans, and excitement for the future:
"[ROTI] gave me insight into how I could do things differently in my career and even led me to start thinking of being an entrepreneur. My internship at Central Mall was a completely new and difference experience—the culture, people and environment were all new to me. I learnt so many things. I wish to open a garment shop in the future, thanks to ROTI training for providing me with the required knowledge of retail."
As ROTI heads into its second year, GFI looks forward to expanding program participation by incorporating feedback and lessons learned from these graduates, improving community outreach, and leveraging partner networks. By providing the skills and training needed to obtain jobs in India’s growing retail sector, GFI, SEWA and the Walmart Foundation will continue the work of empowering youth from low-income areas through full employment and sustainable livelihoods.
by Twila Tschan