Why water is relevant to the future state of peace

The number of violent incidents related to water have dramatically increased.

Water-related violent incidents increased by 270 per cent globally over the last decade, from 20 per year in 2010 to 74 per year in 2018.

This includes incidents that result in injuries or deaths, or there are threats of violence such as military manoeuvres and show of force.

­Water-related violent incidents increased after 2011, peaking in 2017 at 93 incidents.

As scarcity intensifies, water will become more relevant as a stressor of social unrest and cause of disputes and violence.

Countries with the highest number of water-related violent incidents since 2000 include Yemen, Iraq and India.

All three countries suffer from high or extreme water stress and are among the least peaceful countries in 2020, as measured by the Global Peace Index.

Yemen recorded 134 incidents, the most of any country since 2000. This is followed by Iraq at 64 incidents.

The water incidents range in their levels of severity. Some incidents have been a show of force that did not end in violence, such as protests over water shortages or water prices. Some incidents do, however, result in extreme levels of violence.

As examples, a series of massacres in Mali throughout 2019 were exacerbated by feuds over water that displaced 50,000 people. The revoking of a water-sharing agreement between Malawian villagers and Fulani herders from Burkina Faso led to an outbreak of violence that resulted in the death of at least 30 people.

Find out more about the nexus between peace and resource scarcity threats in the Ecological Threat Register 2020.

Vision of Humanity

Editorial Staff

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague, Harare and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.

Close