In March 2011, high-level experts from around the world were invited to Toronto, Canada, to meet with members of the InterAction Council about the status of the world’s freshwater supply as it relates to global security issues. These experts reported that that the global water crisis is real and that there is urgency in addressing the growing number of security risks associated with threatened water supply and quality. They also, however, expressed hope and identified opportunities that can be realized by the timely triggering of change in policies, institutions, and the way society thinks about water.
Water policy experts maintain that we must respond simultaneously to a number of issues if we are to avoid a crisis of scarcity in many places in the world. Many places, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa or West Asia and North Africa, are already facing critical water shortages. As some of these nations are already politically unstable, such crises may have regional repercussions that extend well beyond their political boundaries. But even in politically stable regions, the status quo may very well be disturbed first and most dramatically by the loss of stability in hydrological patterns.
It is the slowness of institutional adjustments to water scarcity that has made the global water crisis one of governance more so than a crisis of absolute water availability. We are not facing water scarcity so much as we are facing water governance issues. What we have learned from what is happening widely in the world is that the failure of governance with respect to water management is often a failure to integrate water management at different levels and to take local and regional approaches into consideration. We also have yet to arrive at a mechanism for evolving our governance structures fast enough to keep up with the rapid pace of change that is occurring and with the challenges that are being created by population growth, destruction of biodiversity-based planetary life support functions, and climate change.
About the InterAction Council Established in 1983, the InterAction Council of Former Heads of State and Government is an international organization whose objective is to address long-term, global issues facing humankind. Co-Chaired by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien (Prime Minister of Canada, 1993-2003) and Dr. Franz Vranitzky (Chancellor of Austria, 1986-1997), the Council’s membership is comprised of more than 30 former heads of state who volunteer their time to develop proposals for action and submit them directly to national and international decision-makers.
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