In our world, countries have always fought and continue to fight for the right to control and use natural resources. Recently, oil with its unexplored reserves joined the competition. Most people are convinced that oil is the most valuable resource on our earth. The curious thing is that they forget that since ancient times the struggle has been openly over water. Today this confrontation is discreet, it is at the diplomatic level. Far-sighted politicians already know that by 2030 millions of people will have no access to clean water services. Water as a resource is being depleted by population growth.
By Jorge Sanchez.
The seriousness of the problem is best understood when some countries see water scarcity as a direct threat to their national security. For example, at the beginning of June 2022, US Vice President Kamala Harris declared that most of the US national interests are directly linked to sufficient water. This is about fresh and surface water among others.
In her speech, Harris presented the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security, according to which Washington must play a leading role in solving the problem of a global threat to its national security.
Illustration 1. Washington must play a leading role in solving the problem of the global threat to its national security.
In another government document (U.S. Goverment Global Water Strategy 2022-2027), concrete ambitions to lead the process of water resource allocation and total control are laid out. Globally, Washington aims to improve health, prosperity, stability and ensure access to clean water services for all. In peculiarity, among all the stated objectives, strengthening the governance of the water and sanitation sector is envisaged. In addition, anticipate and reduce conflict and fragility related to water (Starategic Objective 4: Anticipate and Reduce Conflict and Fragility Related to Water).
To fulfil these global tasks, US participation in all monitoring and governance processes is foreseen, even if they take place in foreign countries. What is even more interesting is the selection of the country that could receive assistance from the White House. According to the document, the US government should focus its investments and activities in geographic areas where US involvement best corresponds to its national interests.
Among other ambitious issues, the US offers to develop sub-national bodies that will work together on water governance. It is noted that local bodies and their policy are weak in the management framework. In addition, resource depletion is increasing the number of conflicts between countries over the management of common waters. According to Washington, such confrontations can be avoided through common governance agreements. If we leave diplomatic language aside, this is the first stage of discreet intervention by the United States.
Illustration 2. Local bodies and their policies are weak in the command framework.
The main US objective, then, is to minimise water-related conflicts. One of the solutions offered unofficially is to turn a sovereign state’s water resources into a commons accessible to all. Context-specific institutional reforms are needed for the public administration of water bodies that recognise them in the related infrastructures as common goods.
Different entities and bodies are carrying out their activity to achieve the above-mentioned objectives. The Ministry of Defence is also in these ranks. Recently, the Global Water Security Centre of the University of Alabama reported that it directs a close cooperation between the Centre and the Pentagon in the frameworks of forecasting threats to national security.
The no end point of such US activity is the fulfilment of its national objectives. But how can it conduct its policy in the international arena?
John Kerry, the US president’s special envoy for the environment, has provided the exact response. The politician announced that the White House has diplomatic and repressive measures in place to make other countries follow the policy against climate change. Within the framework of climate and water protection, the United States can intervene in the its interior policy of foreign countries and even correct it for ecological reasons.
As early as March 2022, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged countries to act to strengthen water security for all. US officials and the US media began to popularise the idea that a country does not own its water resources, they are only common property.
By way of example: If there were no freshwater left in the US, the White House has the right to use and remove it from Brazilian or Mexican resources. Instead of buying them, it could use them as common goods. A logical question appears: why should Brazil or Mexico go against their own interests and give way to the Americans? Each country has its own rivers, lakes and in some cases seas. Each state has an obligation to keep its resources and not cede them to other countries.
Currently, the US government is trying to take partial control of the water resources of the poorest countries in Latin America. All world statistics show that this region has poor quality water. In some cases, the population has no access to fresh or drinking water. These are perfect conditions for the US to set itself up as a big brother to Latin America. Although the price of that brotherhood could be costly and leave you without control and sovereignty over your own water resources.