Forum in Prague calls for organized approach to water security

June 4, 2002
The Tenth OSCE Economic Forum ended with a call for the 55 participating states to devote more energy to ensuring disputes over secure water supplies do not undermine security.

PRAGUE, June 4, 2002 -- The Tenth OSCE Economic Forum ended in Prague on Friday with a call for the 55 participating states to devote more energy to ensuring that disputes over secure water supplies do not undermine security in parts of the OSCE area.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is a regional security organization with 55 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America. It is active in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

Decision-makers from the participating states and representatives of international organizations, experts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) heard that scarcity of water supply and limited access to water were sensitive political issue in some regions, at times even putting regional stability at risk.

"The concept of environmental security is closely linked with water quality and access to water," delegates at one of two working groups concluded at the end of the four-day meeting. "The OSCE should keep promoting political solutions in water-related dialogues."

The meeting, which demonstrated the crucial importance of economic and environmental activities as part of the OSCE's comprehensive approach to security, included sessions on the Aral Sea Basin, the water situation in the Kura Araks Basin in the Caucasus and the Sava River in south-eastern Europe.

"Developing effective means of co-operation in securing proper use of water resources would make a major contribution to reinforcing security in the OSCE area," said Rui Lopes Aleixo, Chairperson of the Economic Forum and Deputy Coordinator of the Portuguese OSCE Chairmanship.

The second working group reaffirmed the significant responsibility of local communities in promoting regional co-operation and raising awareness of the legal aspects of water protection. NGOs also had an important role in raising public awareness of the importance of secure water supplies.

Marcin Swiecicki, Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities, said economic and environmental threats to security could not be overlooked. "Early-warning signs regarding the economic causes of conflict are increasingly clear," he said. "There is a need for a more pragmatic and action-oriented focus in order to address these challenges."

Reflecting the OSCE's commitment to the international fight against terrorism, the Forum concluded on Friday with a special session on issues related to "Suppressing the Financing of Terrorism".

The Economic Forum was organized by the Portuguese OSCE Chairmanship with the support of the Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities.

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