The following article was originally published in the Maryknoll Lay Missioners Alumni Newsletter, Always a Missioner, April 2011. This connects directly with our most recent edition of Not So Far Afield and the theme of water.
On Wednesday, January 6, 2010, Jason Gehrig, presented the results of his book, Water and Conflict, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Mr. Ken Hackett, the President of Catholic Relief Services, introduced Jason to an overflow audience.
Commenting on Gehrig's work were Mr. Tjip Walker, Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, US Agency for International Development; Professor William E. Hall, from the Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University; and Dr. Geoff Dabelko, the Director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. The moderator of the panel was Mr. Dennis Warner of Catholic Relief Services.
Jason Gehrig's book, Water and Conflict, was written with Mark M. Rogers and explores water’s complex role in development and conflict. It finds that water scarcity, access to water supplies, pollution of water sources and transboundary water management increasingly play a role in disputes, political manipulation and, in worst cases, outright conflict. In the course of these disputes, traditional community practices and human rights often are ignored and the natural environment may become degraded. The report challenges the development community to ensure that peacebuilding principles of equity, justice and reconciliation are applied to water conflicts to prevent and, if necessary, mitigate these situations.
During the question and answer period the World Bank's policy of promoting the privatization of water in Bolivia was discussed. This privatization effort led to the outbreak of violence. Gehrig suggested that, from his experience in Bolivia, community cooperatives might prove more effective in mitigating violence and in providing water to the poor.
CRS published the book. While writing the book, Jason Gehrig was a student in Fordham's Graduate Program in International Political Economy and Development (IPED) and the holder of an Arrupe Fellowship.