Water as an essential resource – water as a foreign policy issue. There are over 260 transnational river basins worldwide, many of which are experiencing rivalry over increasingly scarce water supplies. This can lead to conflicts, but can also provide the impetus for regional cooperation. The Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe (n-ost) presented the journal “Water Stories – People, Countries, Rivers in Central Asia” yesterday (18 November). Written during a further training course for journalists organised by n-ost as part of the Federal Foreign Office’s Central Asia Water Initiative, the journal shows how important, conflict-ridden and wide-ranging the issue of water is for Central Asia from the perspective of local journalists. Using reports, interviews and commentaries, journalists and photographers from the entire region explore the role of water from a transnational perspective.
“It is important to change perspective,” says Hinrich Thölken, Head of the International Climate and Environmental Policy, Sustainable Economy Division at the Federal Foreign Office. “Shared water resources do not have to be the object of competing interests, but can act as a source of understanding and cooperation and strengthen regional stability and socio-economic development.” One aim of the journalist project, which was funded by the Federal Foreign Office, was to create understanding for the problems faced by neighbouring countries. The journalists thus left their usual national perspective behind to work on the magazine and undertook joint research on the varying importance of the approximately 2,200 kilometre-long Syr Darya river for the countries it flows through. The 20 participants came from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Russia and Germany.
Research across borders
Central Asia is particularly affected by the scarcity of global water resources. Solutions to the problem often only focus on regional or national interests. The Federal Foreign Office thus launched the Central Asia Water Initiative in 2008 with the aim of fostering cooperation in the region. As part of the initiative, n-ost ran the 18-month media project, which included research and training modules in the region, as well as discussions with international experts in Berlin.
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