The Second Global Network Forum “Women in Water Diplomacy” took place in Vienna, Austria, from March 4th to 7th, 2024, organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), headquartered in Vienna, and the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC).

The forum aimed to bring together network members from the growing global community comprising the “Women in Water Diplomacy” network, with a focus on engaging network members from Central Asia and Afghanistan, the Nile Basin, the basins of Southern Africa including the Zambezi and Okavango, as well as shared basins in North and South America, where participants from the Central Asian network actively participated in discussions.

The forum brought together over 80 experts and network members in water resource management from around the world, providing a platform for sharing best practices and experiences in addressing gender issues and strategic challenges related to water resource management and security among women water practitioners worldwide.

Helga Maria Schmid, Secretary General of the OSCE, noted in her opening remarks that despite the effectiveness of women’s participation in the water sector, gender gaps still persist. She emphasized the need to raise awareness in the water sector about gender issues and to provide women with the necessary skills and tools for successful career advancement.

Key points discussed at the forum included:

  • Opportunities for interaction, networking, and collaboration for water management professionals considering peacebuilding and security.
  • Addressing issues of inclusive water resource management.
  • Anticipating problems, adopting a systemic perspective, and investing in the next generation of water diplomats.

Ambassador Bakyt Dzhusupov, Coordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities at the OSCE, expressed pride in the progress of the “Women in Water Resource Management” Network in Central Asia and Afghanistan. He emphasized that this has become a leading practice, providing a unique opportunity for sharing experiences and information on current issues in the water sector.

SIWI also highlights the significant role of women in peace processes through the work of the “Women in Water Diplomacy” Network. The new illustration “You Lift Me Up” is dedicated to women active in the water sector. Radhika Gupta from SIWI shares her inspiration and creative process. She is inspired by every woman in the network, viewed as a collective.

The image of a woman carrying a mountain on her shoulders symbolizes the strength required to overcome challenges in international water diplomacy. The true aim of the network is collective burden-sharing and experience exchange.

Expanding beyond its regional coverage, the network emphasizes the collective power of women, likening their energy to that of a volcano. The illustration depicts the network’s early participants, symbolizing its inception and contribution to advancing gender equality. “You Lift Me Up” demonstrates the collective energy of the network, adding depth through shades that accentuate the three-dimensionality of the mountains.

Female diplomats and water experts representing the Nile, Orange-Senqu, Aral Sea, Colorado River basins, and others shared their experiences and expertise in transboundary water resource management, as well as women’s involvement in water resource management and diplomacy issues.

Noteworthy was the participation of Dr. Erica Weinthal (Professor of Environmental Policy and Public Policy at Duke University) in the session “Tools at the Intersection of Women, Water, Peace, and Security,” representing an expert direction focused on developing strategies to address water resource-related conflicts. This is an important step towards creating innovative solutions and strategies to support sustainable water resource management and increase women’s participation in this field.

Another session dedicated to jointly creating a proposed e-course for women participants in the Water Diplomacy Network offers a unique opportunity to discuss practical aspects of training and network member development. Dr. Aaron Wolf and Zoe Rosenblum from Oregon State University served as key specialists in this area. Their experience and knowledge made a significant contribution to adapting the educational program to meet the needs and goals of network participants.

The Global Network Forum “Women in Water Diplomacy” aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including Goals 5 (gender equality) and 6 (clean water and sanitation). Building on the experience and collaboration of women in the water sector, the event can have a significant impact on inclusive water resource management and contribute to achieving the goals of the Water Resources Action Program adopted at the UN Conference on Water Resources in 2023.



Depicting the collective energy of water women

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