Diplomacy an approach to solving water problems

20 March 2019

Ashok Swain in front of the Fyris river in Uppsala.

Ashok Swain, professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University.

World Water Day, or International Water Day, is a thematic day created by the UN that is observed on 22 March every year. This year’s focus will be on why so many people still lack access to clean water. Ashok Swain, professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, researches international cooperation and diplomacy with respect to water resources.

In addition to his role as professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Resolution, Swain is also a UNESCO Chair on International Water Cooperation and Director of the Research School on International Water Cooperation at Uppsala University.

What is your research about?

“Part of my research focuses on how to improve negotiations regarding water issues, so-called hydro-diplomacy. Most large countries in the world often have access to the biggest water resources, while smaller countries are neglected. My research looks at how these smaller countries can become better at negotiating and cooperating with international organisations to secure their water access.”

How can we improve access to water among poor countries?

“Among other things, this involves educating diplomats to improve their understanding of water issues, but also getting experts in water issues involved in the diplomatic process so that they can meet the countries’ needs. Another aspect is how to get political leaders to understand the value of sharing water resources to create good relationships that benefit them in the long term.”

Your research group was strengthened in August by the addition of Professor Laura B. Fowler from Penn State University, who will work at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research as a Fulbright scholar for a year. How will she contribute to your work?

“She will be part of the group that works with cross-border water issues and water rights. She brings expertise on the legal aspects of water sharing issues and how to carry out negotiations on water resources.”


World Water Day and the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goals; goal six covers clean water and sanitation.