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The dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the emergence of new states in Central Asia and the Caucasus created new political and security dynamics in these sub-regions. While the Caucasus was affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the threat of conflict over shared water resources continued to exist in Central Asia. More than twenty years later, the protracted conflict in the Caucasus over Nagorno-Karabakh remains unresolved and effectively overshadows water-related problems; yet water is both a very important factor in the conflict, as well as potentially one of the keys for its resolution. In Central Asia the pessimistic scenarios did not unfold; however, the region remains a ‘classic example’ of water-related conflicts in most literature.

This paper aims at understanding the root causes of water conflict in Central Asia, and the role of water in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Caucasus. It attempts to shed light at the complex nature of water security, and its importance in the states’ security and sustainable development.

The paper suggests that given a cross-cutting nature of water resources, there should be a more holistic approach to understanding the drivers of water conflict in both sub-regions, and to finding the ways for its resolution. A number of recommendations have been provided that may be utilized for addressing the complexity of water conflicts and to help in establishing a mutually beneficial cooperation between states.

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