Case Study

Financing transboundary water: Our work with Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Conflicts over water have increased 400% in the past decade, and the degradation of river basins and rising demand for water are expected to drive a sharp increase in transboundary tensions, from the Mekong basin to the Middle East.

In these regions, investments in energy infrastructure or agriculture must recognise and promote the value of transboundary water cooperation. An active private sector that supports water cooperation is essential to a water-secure future. But where to start?

In 2016, Earth Security partnered with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to explore how business and the finance sector could be engaged to support efforts towards water diplomacy and transboundary water governance.

A pioneer in the water cooperation agenda, SDC’s Blue Peace initiative has positioned Switzerland as a nation supporting water diplomacy on a global level. Highlights of our strategic collaboration with SDC have included:

Business and transboundary aquifers.  

In 2016, an Earth Security report identifies opportunities for global companies to contribute to the sound management of groundwater resources. Our engagement of global businesses that have made water a top business priority, and a convening at the Stockholm World Water Forum, result in a world-first collaboration between a global brewing company and UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme. The company provides the UN with access to its groundwater data across its global operations, helping advance the quality of water governance. The partnership creates a template for UNESCO to scale up its collaboration with other organisations across the globe.

The private sector for Blue Peace.

In 2017, Earth Security participates in a series of high-level Blue Peace meetings to provide negotiating governments with a view of opportunities to work more closely with the private sector. These include a meeting of foreign ministers at the UN General Assembly in New York and a keynote speech at a closed meeting of Central Asian government leaders at the Blue Peace conference in Kazakhstan. Our participation provides a strategic angle on how the private sector and investment decision-makers can create incentives for diplomatic cooperation.

Enter ‘Blue Peace bonds’.

In 2018, Earth Security works with SDC and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) throughout a series of meetings in California, New York and London to formulate a new concept for municipal finance products in water basins. A new Earth Security report explores practical ways for the financial sector to align investment decisions with Blue Peace. It recommends industry-level programmes linking the likes of the International Hydropower Association, the creating of better investment risk policies for water and energy infrastructure projects, and, importantly, the development of new financial products such as Blue Peace Bonds – thus building principles of water cooperation and reporting requirements into the financing of transboundary water-related infrastructure.

The proposals are taken forward by the Blue Peace initiative, and inform a wider range of efforts to bridge the finance sector and water diplomacy taken by partners of the Blue Peace movement.