IHE Delft 💧 Interview with Professor Aaron Wolf, water diplomacy and peace expert


I started teaching in 1993. I think the path to getting there was a bit a mediterranean path. Were I started my undergraduate degree in geography were I get hooked on the idea that water and difficult politics were embedded with each other and that you could have conversations around politics through water I went back for a Masters I thought the key was a technical understanding. My masters is focusses on hydro geology. I became a scientist for the US geological survey. I found that the science was critical and not enough. That sent me back for a PhD focusing on conflict resolution and policy analyses. It is the combination to really understand that science and policy needs to be bridged in the same process in order to resolve these really difficult issues I think water diplomacy is the bridge between science and policy in any watershed, regardless of the scale. When you are managing water, you are managing conflict. In order to understand what is there, we start with the science. We start with the ecology, the hydrology and the water resources that are there and understanding that is critical, but it is not enough In order to to address any of the issues that we face we need people involvement and people require a process a carefully designed process were people’s interest were brought to the table. Contacts for dialogue is constructed in a way that allows people to bring their interest to the table and find the shared values that allow them to develop a solution I have been coming to IHE to do an annual Short Course probable for about 10 years. I’ve been fortunate to be here as the dialogue and interest in Water Diplomacy has grown. In the last couple of years with the Dutch Government IHE and a number of other partners all very interested in this idea of Water Diplomacy in turned out that there was an option to be here for six months to be connected to the Water Diplomacy initiative and to help out, however I could. Both in speaking and in teaching and in advising. It has been a wonderful experience I always loved coming to IHE I like Delft, I like the Institute It has been a joy to be here for 6 months My day job as a Professor of Geography of the college of Earth, Ocean and Atmosphere sciences at Oregon State University Oregon State is a wonderful institution but massive Water is just, a small drop, if you will of what goes on there The water community is tight and good but we need to keep reminding the administration of the centrality and the importance of water to everything that goes on. In an economy, in society and culture and that is not the case at IHE IHE is about water. The wonderful thing about water people nobody gets into it for the wrong reasons your are not getting rich or build a big empire around water. People generally get into water because they want to make the world a better place. When you have a whole institution dedicated precisely to making the world a better place It is a wonderful place to be I always default to the truism that water management is conflict management. If you are going to manage water at what ever level, you are going to experience conflict The more water people who are trained in these skills at whatever level It can be within the workplace there can be conflict between stakeholders there is going to be conflict between sectors, between states and finally between countries. There is always conflict anytime we want to allocate a scarce resource. Knowing the skills, knowing how to listen for the things that are shares across apparent devides. Knowing how to craft a setting that is conducive to dialogue conducive to resolving disputes I think is useful for anybody in water and probably most people in society. The more people that are trained in these skills I think the better it is for water and society as a whole.




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