UNITAR Online Catalogue

Introduction to Water Diplomacy

4 Weeks
Peace Security and Diplomacy, Multilateral Diplomacy
+41 (0)22 917 87 16


Water is every living organism’s common denominator. Societies depend on it for their own subsistence and growth, and go great lengths to ensure water secure futures. But freshwater is not, in essence and in practice, an egalitarian resource and its accessibility to some often means inaccessibility to others. With unprecedented population growth, new emerging economies and the effects of climate change, pressures on our finite freshwater resources are increasing. Meanwhile, the ability of some nations to secure their aqueous requirements is being severely challenged, causing great and legitimate concern that tensions around water hotspots will intensify among water users. Yet, water holds an immense potential for cooperation which has still to be understood and empowered. Water is and will remain at the heart of international peace and security, the defense of human rights and the imperative for sustainable development paths. An increasingly strong and coordinated response is therefore expected from the international community in order to raise awareness, mitigate conflict, and build cooperation from the growing challenges posed by water between sovereign states.


The purpose of this course will first be to raise awareness on the current state of freshwater resources worldwide and the need for adequate diplomatic solutions to stimulate cooperation around the way the resource is managed. It will provide knowledge resources, circumstantial experiences, and a cadre of tools to water-relevant stakeholders so as to enhance their ability to assess, prevent, and respond to the tensions arising from situations of water scarcity and mismanagement worldwide. This approach will be relevant to the great water stressors of our time and will serve to promote both short and longer term cooperation through shared benefits, inclusive multi-stakeholder agreements, and sustainable transboundary institution building.


At the end of the course, participants should be able to:

  • Describe major contemporary stressors influencing freshwater availability and their impact on achieving national security goals;
  • Identify water's potential for conflict and identify some of the world’s main water "hotspots";
  • Recognize water’s cooperation potential and the benefits to be drawn from collaborative transboundary water management between state actors;
  • Analyze how diplomatic methods based on dialogue may be used to encourage mutually-beneficial problem-to-solution processes;
  • Define the importance and structure of transnational water management institutions in their role to consolidate and sustain the benefits of cooperation around water.


The course will be divided into 3 modules as follows:

1. Water Resources: Conflicts and Cooperation
2. Instruments and Tools for Water Cooperation and Conflict Management
3. Practical Skills for Sustainable Cooperation and Conflict Resolution



e-Learning: The course is internet-based, moderated by senior international experts, asynchronous, and places emphasis on online discussions and self-paced learning. The participants will be primarily responsible for their own learning over the four-week span of the course. The course will consist of the following components:

  • Compulsory and optional reading material, intended to teach the basic concepts and principles of the lesson's subject-matter;
  • External links to additional books, articles, documents, and websites related to the lessons;
  • Quizzes and case studies at the end of each module. To be eligible for the course certificate, a passing grade of 80% on both quizzes and case studies is required;
  • A Community Discussion Board will be available for participants to post questions or comments visible to the instructor and other participants. This discussion board will be moderated by the course director and UNITAR;
  • Estimated learning time: minimum of 30 hours;  

Participants will be eligible to receive a certificate after the successful completion of the course.


The course primarily targets government officers and diplomats seeking to enhance their knowledge of contemporary water-related geopolitical issues and strengthen their ability to promote and support cooperation and benefit-sharing around water in transboundary settings through use of negotiation, mediation and other diplomatic mechanisms and tools. International civil servants, including non-governmental organization representatives and private sector professionals who work in the world of water in a multilateral setting are also highly welcome. Scholars and graduate-level students in the field of international relations with a specialisation in water-related issues are also encouraged to join.


Course fee: 600 USD. You will receive an invoice by email after registration.

Participants from Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are eligible to apply for a fellowship. Please click here for more details. Registration will be closed as soon as the course is full and your place will be secured once your payment is confirmed.

This course was developed in collaboration with the University of East Anglia (Water Security Research Centre) and the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme. Associated partners include UNESCO's "Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential" Programme, UN Water, the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) and Oregon State University.

General Requirements

  • Have a good command of the English language
  • Be computer literate

Technical Requirements

UNITAR recommends the following as a minimum in hardware and software to take our e-Learning courses. Please consult your Network Administrator or Systems person to ensure that you have the following:

  • Platform: Windows 95, 98, 2000, NT, ME, XP or superior; MacOS 9 or MacOS X; Linux
  • Hardware: 64 MB of RAM, 1 GB of free disk space
  • Software:
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader (click here to download for free)
    • Adobe Flash Player (click here to download for free)
    • Microsoft Office (Windows or Mac) or Open Office (click here to download for free)
  • Browser: Internet Explorer 7 or higher (click here to download for free); it works better with Firefox 3.6 or higher (click here to download for free)
  • Note that JavaScript, Cookies and Pop-ups must be enabled