2018 Annual Report

The EastWest Institute is pleased to release its 2018 Annual Report, chronicling the programmatic activities, achievements and new initiatives in the past year and reflecting key geopolitical trends around the world.

The institute remains focused on tackling these evolving issues, as well as on forecasting challenges in other topics and regions.

To access the complete report, please click below:

Environment, Security and Migration in the Middle East & Africa: Looking to the Future

On April 19, the EastWest Institute (EWI), together with the Multinational Development Policy Dialogue of Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Brussels office, convened a workshop concerning the nexus between migration, environment and security in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The dialogue brought together experts, policy makers, journalists, and academics from the individual countries across the MENA region to discuss a range of interrelated issues pertaining to the region’s future energy, water and food security, and how the outlooks of these respective domains may affect future migratory flows.

The Dialogue was split into three sections with each panel consisting of three or more participants representing their respective countries according to geographical proximity. The first panel consisted of Iraq, Syria and Turkey; the second focused more on the Levantine countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, and finally the third panel concentrated on North Africa and the Maghreb, specifically, Libya, Morocco and Algeria.


In 2016, between 10 and 24 million people had to flee their land of origin because of environmentally related issues. In contrast, 6.9 million fled their country for violent conflict in the same year. The expected future increase of the former begs the question of how these people will be integrated into other countries. Underlying the justification for the dialogue, therefore, was a need to address how governments, institutions and the international community can assist states to identify possible avenues for cooperation to offset the negative effects of climate change and possibly mitigate against the potential for irregular migratory flows in the future.

Furthermore, the reasons and consequences of Europe’s so called “migration crisis” are well documented, and with migratory pressure projected to increase in the forthcoming decades as a result of climate change, both EWI and KAS considered it necessary to establish a platform to analyze the relatively new conception of “environmental refugees” given they are set to reach into the hundreds of millions, according to some estimates, in the not too distant future.


With these issues in mind, the dialogue started by drawing attention to the term “environmental refugee,” its recent entry into the academic vernacular, its inherent ambiguity and the lack of consensus regarding its exact meaning. Particularly, the absence of a concrete definition was noted to be one of the root problems in attempting to discuss the issue of environmental refugees and the inability of governments to shape a viable policy around them. Good, efficient policy requires that it be grounded in strong analytical data. To generate this data, requires terms to be fully operational and explicit.

Iraq, Syria and Turkey

Human interest stories dominated the first panel and were used as a reference point to advocate the need for political agreements to combat the effects of climate change, predominantly with regards to water. Two of the panelists during this panel situated their arguments, for better water management and increased multilateral cooperation, within personal stories of how the particular region of their country had changed for the worse over the course of the past twenty years. One participant spoke of a need to overcome a culture of finger-pointing in achieving this aim, given change is already occurring, and blaming only creates further problems rather than solutions. In the same vein, another participant highlighted the fact that there are agreements and memorandums of understanding between the various states of the region but that the reluctance of governments to exchange information was a major obstacle to their implantation. The same participant therefore stressed the need for trust building exercises to foster a culture of cooperation.

The Levant

During the second panel, the motif of water arose once again, as hydro-diplomacy dominated the discussion. The concept was shown to possess several facets within the context of the MENA region, including food security and stability. Emphasis was placed on how large number of refugees in the region could lead to the unsustainable management of the region’s few water resources. They also warned the region risked replicating the man-made disaster of what was once the Aral Sea in Central Asia, if it does not reform its management of the Jordan River. In terms of policy, the panel stressed the need to reform current irrigation and agricultural practices in the region, in order to securitize and meet future food demands. Of course, participants also admitted local conflicts in the region seriously impede the feasibility of implementing such structural changes to current agricultural methods. Yet, it was pointed out that states have little choice but to cooperate at some point if they are to avoid deepening current conflicts or create the conditions for the onset of new ones.

The Maghreb

The final panel concerning the Maghreb in North Africa differed from the previous two panels in its breadth of subject matter and the diversity by which the confluence of climate change, security and migration is viewed in the three represented countries. In Morocco, it was said that climate change is affecting the country in two major ways: Rural populations migrating to the larger cities in search of economic opportunities and the influx of large numbers of Sub-Saharan Africans en route to Europe. Both these phenomena have pushed the government to outline a water strategy to cope with the pressures these entail. In contrast, in Libya it was noted that migration is primarily seen through a security lens. Despite initiatives which have arguably led to the decrease in the number of migrants using Libya as a transit country to Europe, the pull factors which draw people to the country are still in place; ultimately, economic disparity and severe climate change. Finally, in Algeria, participants considered how climate change, as a process, was changing the country’s status from an emigration country to an immigration country. As a result, this metamorphosis was forcing the state to consider existential questions regarding its crisis, migration and integration policies.


It appears to be a cruel twist of fate that a region beset by a multitude of complexities and defined by its conflicts must also now juggle the serious challenge of climate change. Nevertheless, given the magnitude the challenge of climate change poses, it is ironic that it simultaneously offers the most potential for nurturing the kind of relations necessary to locate avenues of cooperation in the region. There is no doubt that the road ahead is immense. But, this road will seem a little less daunting if countries continue to engage with each other and tackle the issue as a collective. The issue cannot and will not be solved by a single state but will require an appropriate international response.

Image: "Arid soils in Mauritania" (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Oxfam International

Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on the Risks of Climate Change and Ecological Deterioration

BY: Wael Abdul-Shafi and Jan Hanrath

The repercussions of climate change and environmental challenges pose enormous risks to Iran and Saudi Arabia alike. While there are differences in geography and climate in  both countries, they also have many environmental challenges in common. Problems such as sand and dust storms or diminishing water resources are border-crossing phenomena that no country can deal with alone; therefore, cooperation is key. At this point in time, however, willingness to cooperate is utterly lacking in a region marked by geo-strategic rivalries, ongoing military conflicts and deep-rooted mutual distrust between regional rivals, and between Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular.

CARPO and the EastWest Institute initiated a meeting of experts from Saudi Arabia and Iran as part of their "Iran-Saudi Track 2 Initiative." The participants discussed environmental challenges to reach a better understanding of the political context and to identify opportunities and limits for Iranian-Saudi cooperation in the field of regional environmental policy. Participants agreed that climate change and ecological deterioration pose a major challenge to their countries and the region. 

Fully aware that the current political situation makes cooperation very difficult, participants discussed potential avenues of exchange below the level of national governments and proposed initiatives for cooperation on a regional and international level.

The "Iran-Saudi Dialogue" project is funded by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) with resources provided by the German Federal Foreign Office. This latest brief follows three previous ones: Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on the Refugee CrisisKnow Your Enemy — Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on ISIL, and Envisioning the Future: Iranian and Saudi Perspectives on the Post-Oil Economy.

Please click here for the full report.

Photo credit: "Climate Change Pffft." (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Un-Alien-able

Joint Working Group on International and EU Water Diplomacy - In Focus: Central Asia

Second Iteration of the Exclusive Joint Working Group (JWG) Series

On January 27, 2021 the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the EastWest Institute (EWI) held the second iteration of their exclusive Joint Working Group (JWG) series—launched last year—on EU’s water diplomacy with respect to the three most water-stressed regions in the world: the Himalayas, Central Asia and the Euphrates-Tigris. The second convening of the JWG was devoted to Central Asia, a region known for its broad and capacious transboundary river systems shared by the upstream countries, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and the downstream countries, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

The session brought together water experts from Central Asia along with representatives of the EU, GIZ, academia and international think tanks to jointly assess the current challenges which impede effective implementation of equitable allocation of water resources in Central Asia. The discussion commenced with an overview of the transboundary river networks in Central Asia—spotlight on the Aral Sea basin that is fed by two rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. In the 1960s, the Soviet government decided to divert the river waters to meet the irrigation demands for agriculture. The experts noted that this contributed to what came to be known as the “Aral Sea Catastrophe”—a crisis driven by the multifold effects of rising population, rapid irrigation and deteriorating water infrastructures which ultimately led to the desiccation of the Aral Sea.

Within the overview, the experts drew attention to the point that even though Central Asia’s water challenges started under Soviet rule, the water crisis further intensified in the post-Soviet set up as independent countries in the region were left overwhelmed with technical, managerial and cross-border issues on water governance. In this context, the experts emphasized that most water issues in the region are not rooted in the resource itself but often in the political situations surrounding them. Hence, a lot of shared water challenges are in fact a result of an overall lack of good governance in the region.

Central Asia’s water diplomacy and Institutional Achievements

Albeit the existing concerns, there have been notable positive developments in the region over the past decades. In fact, in 1992 the ministers of the five dominant Central Asian countries established the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination in Central Asia (ICWC) with various executive bodies. The ICWC facilitated the introduction of integrated water resources management for the benefit of the entire region—a step in the right direction.

Moreover, one discussant pointed out that the ability of Central Asian countries to come together in times of crisis should not be underestimated. There are strong informal foundations in form of “brotherhoods” and technical expert networks among riparian countries which could be further strengthened. Such initiatives might contribute to an enhanced cooperation on shared waters without compromising or weakening existing formal institutions like the ICWC and IFAS.

Challenges and the way forward

Nevertheless, a range of challenges remain in Central Asia’s water diplomacy. For example, research gaps and lack of efficient coordination still prevent the region’s water commissions from reaching their full potential. Also, there is an increasing risk of bilateralism in the region’s water diplomacy vis-à-vis the use of new bilateral institutions for forum shopping, especially among upstream states circumventing stricter rules.

On Afghanistan, the experts emphasized the need for integrating the country into the formal conversations on transboundary water governance in Central Asia, particularly against the backdrop of the aforementioned trend of bilateralism. So far Afghanistan, a key upstream country, where vast parts of the population depend on water-intensive agriculture, is unfortunately yet to be a part of the formal Central Asian water platforms. It was highlighted that the countries must find a balance between promoting cooperation at basin and sub-basin level while maintaining formal standards and protocols.

Finally, reflecting on the EU’s role in the region, the experts identified various initiatives that the EU has taken in the past, some of which are ongoing, that have played an important role in broadening the conversation on transboundary water issues (e.g. the EU–CA Platform on Environment and Water and Germany’s Green Central Asia Initiative). However, there is still scope for greater involvement by the EU which can be achieved via promotion of advanced research and innovation on water management needs; improved coordination among donors to synchronize project planning; and stronger consistency of the EU’s engagement, in particular from the vantage of Afghanistan where the Union has regressed its capacity-development support for transboundary water management. Participants agreed that the EU has the required potential to further its position as an important third-party solicitor and empower integrative approaches towards water research and governance on various scales.





Set against the backdrop of transboundary water resource politics, the EastWest Institute (EWI) and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s (KAS) upcoming Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting - second iteration in a series - aims to incorporate diverse perspectives and maximize opportunities for greater understanding of the past, present and future of hydrodiplomacy in Central Asia. The JWG will assess the successes and failures of transboundary cooperation initiatives and existing institutional mechanisms, reflect upon the position of Afghanistan in regional hydrodiplomacy, and address how growing water scarcity and power asymmetries may compromise future water cooperation ambitions in the region. The discussion will also invite a strategic reflection of EU water diplomacy and its engagement in Central Asia. The JWG participants will together engender an insight into key areas where the EU can play a pivotal role in enabling an effective and cohesive system of transboundary water resource governance in the region.

PROGRAMME AGENDA - January 27, 2021 @ 2 PM CET

14:00 - 14:05       Introductions and Opening Remarks

Louis Mourier, Programme Manager, Multinational Development Policy Dialogue, KAS  
Farwa Aamer, Director, South Asia Program, EWI

14:05 - 14:15       An Overview of the Transboundary Rivers and Institutions in Centra Asia

Remarks by:

Dr. Jenniver Sehring, Senior Lecturer in Water Governance and Diplomacy, IHE Delft  
Dr. Dinara Ziganshina, Deputy Director, Scientific Information Center of Interstate Сommission for Water Coordination in Сentral Asia

14:15 - 14:25       Reactions by Participants

14:25 - 15:20       Open Discussion

15:20 - 15:30      Conclusions and Closing Remarks


● Dr. Jenniver Sehring, Senior Lecturer in Water Governance and Diplomacy, IHE Delft  

● Dr. Dinara Ziganshina, Deputy Director, Scientific Information Center of Interstate Сommission for Water Coordination in Сentral Asia

● Ms. Carmen Marques-Ruiz, Policy Coordinator for Water/Environment, European External Action Service

● Mr. Arnaud de Vanssay, Team Leader Water, european Commission

● Ms. Tanja Miskova, Water Diplomacy Policy Officer, Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

● Ms. Ana Novak, Development Policy Officer, Permanent Representation of Slovenia to the EU

● Ms. Ales Bizjak, Water Policy Officer, Slovenian Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning

● Ms. Martina Schmidt, Political Advisor to the EU's Special Representative to Central Asia, European External Action Service

● Dr. Caroline Milow, Progamme Manager, Green Central Asia, GIZ

● Dr. Susanne Schmeier, Associate Professor in Water Law and Diplomacy, IHE Delft

● Mr. Denis Schrey, Director, Multinational Development Policy Dialogue, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

● Ms. Farwa Aamer, Director, South Asia Program, EastWest Institute

● Mr. Louis Mourier, Programme Manager, Multinational Development Policy Dialogue, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

● Mr. Brian Eyler, Program Director, Energy, Water, Sustainability Program, The Stimson Center

● Ms. Courtney Weatherby, Research Analyst, Energy, Water, & Sustainability Program, The Stimson Center


Click here to read the event report on the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung website.

Joint Working Group Series on EU’s Water Diplomacy: The Himalayan Region

On November 12, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the EastWest Institute (EWI) launched an exclusive Joint Working Group (JWG) series on EU’s water diplomacy with respect to three key water-stressed regions: the Himalayas, Central Asia and the Euphrates-Tigris. The aim of this series is to set the stage for KAS and EWI’s conference next year on “International Hydrodiplomacy—Building and Strengthening Regional Institutions for Water Conflict Prevention.”

The inaugural session on November 12 was devoted to the Himalayan region—home to 1.9 billion people and the “water tower of Asia,” from which flows the majority of the continent’s great rivers, including the Indus, Ganges and Tsangpo-Brahmaputra. The session brought together regional water experts along with representatives from the European External Action Service (EEAS), Slovenian Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, to jointly assess the current challenges to Himalayan transboundary water governance and reflect upon EU’s role as a potential synergistic force in advancing greater intra-and inter-regional cooperation on water issues.

Participants highlighted that water governance in the region has traditionally employed a reductionist approach—limiting the scope for greater multi-stakeholder engagement and inclusive decision-making. Following this approach, policymakers have failed to efficaciously address the needs of the region’s diverse ecosystem, navigate the manifold effects of climate change and contract the existing knowledge gaps, which, in turn, constrain prospects for regional water cooperation. To further exacerbate matters, frequent political tensions between neighboring countries result in water being transformed into a national security issue.

Reflecting on China’s role in the region’s hydrodiplomacy, participants agreed that China’s position as an upper riparian allows it extensive leverage over the Himalayan waters. In recent years, China’s dam-building and water-diversion projects, coupled with an apparent reservation in sharing hydrological data, have all been a major cause of concern for its downstream neighbors.

The participants further emphasized that conventional Track 1 mechanisms have failed to deliver on water cooperation ambitions in the region. Instead, the region’s shared waterscape requires a proactive deliberation towards adopting a more multi-disciplinary approach—one which binds together inclusive hydrodiplomacy initiatives, institutional frameworks, resource abutment and greater ecological integration in the region. The discussion also allowed for an intellectual discourse on how the EU could play a greater role in facilitating a more cooperative and coordinated enterprise towards shared water governance in the region. Participants agreed that the EU has the potential to act as an important third-party solicitor by bringing forward its constructive experience in transboundary water management and empowering integrative approaches towards water research and governance on various scales.

Hydrodiplomacy in the Himalayan region lacks the required impetus and cooperative incentives that are needed to ensure a better water future. There is an urgent need to periodically convene relevant regional and international stakeholders vis-à-vis a joint institutional platform, along the lines of River Basin Organizations (RBOs), in order to curate effective management methods and devise viable long-term solutions to tackle the looming threat of water scarcity and subsequent economic pressures in the region.

In the future, EWI and KAS will continue to mobilize and engage experts and stakeholders from key water-stressed regions, like the Himalayas, in an effort to address the global water challenges against the backdrop of a rapidly evolving security and environmental context.

Click here to view the JWG agenda.

Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia

On March 2-4, the EastWest Institute (EWI) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), in concert with the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) and Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT), convened a high-level dialogue entitled: “Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia” in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The dialogue, second in the project series, brought together experts from both the public and private sectors in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to jointly analyze threats to water security in Asia in the face of worsening hydro-meteorological disasters due to climate change. The two-day dialogue consisted of six panel discussions on varied topics related to the politicization of water security, including the economic vulnerabilities of the water crisis and stakeholder engagement, among others. 


Vice Admiral KKVPH De Silva
Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy

Dr. Nilanjan Ghosh 
Observer Research Foundation-Kolkata

Mr. Dipak Gyawali
Former Minister of Water Resources of Nepal

Mr. Ikram Sehgal
Pathfinder Group Pakistan

Dr. Jayanta Bandyopadhyay
Observer Research Foundation

Dr. Khondaker Azharul Haq
Global Water Partnership South Asia

Mr. Ibrahim Zuhuree
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Maldives

Mr. Ahmad Rafay Alam
Punjab Environment Protection Council; Pakistan Climate Change Council

Dr. Damodar Pokharel
Nepal Centre for Disaster Management

Mr. Shafqat Munir
Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

Dr. Uttam Sinha
Nehru Memorial Museum and Library

Dr. Suba Chandran Durai
National Institute of Advanced Studies

Ms. Dharisha Mirando
China Water Risk

Ms. Ailiya Naqvi
Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research

Ms. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee
Observer Research Foundation – New Delhi

Ms. Ruwanthi Jayasekara
Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka

Mr. Nisar A. Memon
Water Environment Forum, Pakistan

Mr. Kumar Pandey
Independent Power Producers’ Association of Nepal

Ms. Mallika Joseph
Chanakya Chakra


Rear Admiral (RNR) D C Gunawardena
Sri Lankan Navy

Dr. Christian Hübner
Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung RECAP

Mr. Nishchal Pandey
Centre for South Asian Studies

Dr. Walter Ladwig
EastWest Institute


This roundtable dialogue on “Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia” was made possible through the partnership and generous support of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung|RECAP, Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) and Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT).

Experts Meet in Colombo to Discuss "Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia"

On March 2-4, the EastWest Institute (EWI) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS), in concert with the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) and Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT), convened a high-level dialogue entitled: “Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia” in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The dialogue, second in the project series, brought together experts from both the public and private sectors in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to jointly analyze the threats to water security in Asia in the face of worsening hydro-meteorological disasters due to climate change. The two-day dialogue consisted of six panel discussions on varied topics related to the politicization of water security including the economic vulnerabilities of the water crisis and stakeholder engagement, among others. Each panel featured experts from all participating countries who contributed valuable insights to the overall discussion. Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy Vice Admiral KKVPH De Silva served as the keynote speaker.

The experts unanimously agreed that water issues are inherently multifaceted and as a result, have become a necessary component of seemingly unrelated policy and political issues. They added that management of water resources is obscured by non-inclusive and bureaucratic decision-making.

Experts further emphasized the need for broader research on the new hydrology of the region in light of the evolving climate conditions. There was collective support towards establishing a multi-stakeholder advisory body that would oversee the collection of data and information to garner greater debate and policy recommendations on an effective and non-partisan basis. The experts called for China, Afghanistan and Myanmar to be invited as observer participants in all future Himalayan hydrodiplomacy-focused dialogues.

EWI, with the support of its partners, will continue to draw attention to the rapidly rising challenges of water security at both regional and international policymaking levels.

A detailed summary of outcomes from the discussion, featuring policy recommendations and key takeaways, will be available on the EWI website in the coming weeks.

South Asia

The EastWest Institute’s South Asia program aims to advance knowledge and understanding of the region’s underlying issues and challenges in order to generate sustained support towards greater interregional cooperation and integration. LEARN MORE

Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia


The EastWest Institute, the Regional Project Energy Security and Climate Change Asia-Pacific of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS RECAP), the Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka (INSSSL) and the Consortium of South Asian Think Tanks (COSATT), will host a high-level dialogue on "Water Security and Disaster Management in Asia" in Colombo, Sri Lanka on March 3 and 4, 2020.

This dialogue, the second in a series on burgeoning water challenges across Asia, will be led by diverse stakeholders in the realms of climate, water security and disaster management policy from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and China, as well as the broader international community.

The two-day Chatham House discussion will engage key decision-makers, leading influencers and field experts to jointly uncover issues and the means by which to foster greater cohesion on intra-regional climate, disaster management and water security affairs.


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