KEYNOTE SPEECH
by
H. E. Süleyman Demirel
Former President of the Republic of Turkey


It is a, great pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience. I would like to thank Professor Vaux, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Rosenberg Foundation, Professor Ali Doğramacı, Rector of the Bilkent University and Mr. Seyfi Taşhan Chairman of the Foreign Policy Institute for co-hosting the Fourth Biannual Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy and for affording me the opportunity to make one of the keynote speeches. I should also like to express my appreciation to Rosenberg Foundation for organizing their Forum on such an important issue in Ankara.

I have been asked to speak on the importance of transboundary water basin management. I should be pleased to share my views with you on this topic. But before doing so, I would like to make a brief introduction with respect to my personal interest for and commitment to water resources and water-related issues.

I have started my career as a young engineer and hydrologist and assumed the position of Director General of the State Hydraulic Works (DSİ), which was newly established in Ankara as part of the Ministry of Public Works to develop water resources in Turkey. I have great pride and honor in reinforcing the institution and in having been involved in the development of water resources of Turkey as the Prime Minister and President of the Republic.

Water has become one of the main agenda items of many international and regional organizations during the last two decades. Many organizations, think-tanks, universities and NGOs have focused on various aspects of water issues.

Why water has become so popular? Why have you arrived in Turkey from allover the world to discuss water management? The answer is quite simple: Water is essential for our survival. Hence the dictum "Water is life". It is very true that water is one of the engines of sustainable development We cannot fight poverty and hunger without utilizing our water resources. According to the World Water Development Report, prepared by a UN World Water Assessment Program (WWAP), by 2015, nearly 40 per cent of the world population is expected to live in water-stressed countries. It has also been reported that the demand on water resources will continue to increase during the decades to come. The Middle East, Africa, China, and Central Asia in particular will face serious water shortage.

The targets set by the Millennium Declaration of 2000 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development of 2002 reflect the willingness of the international community to address the matter at global level. In recognition of the importance of the matter, the UN General Assembly took an additional step by proclaiming the year 2003 as the international year of "fresh water”.     The UN General Assembly also proclaimed the period from 2005-2015 as the international decade for action "Water for Life”. These set targets and decisions attest to the importance of managing water resources properly.

Transboundary Waters

Another factor which necessitated action at global level is the presence of over 260 transboundary rivers on the globe with 40 per cent of the world population residing in their basins. There also exist many transboundary lakes, the waters of which are utilized and managed by more than one country. Hence the existence of transboundary water disputes and the importance of management of transboundary basins. Some transboundary basins have been identified as a source of tension among      riparian States. This in turn led to codification efforts at international and regional levels with a view to properly managing transboundary water resources and reaching settlements to such disputes by peaceful means.

However, International Law in the field of water resources has a short history. There exists no international convention since many countries-including Turkey- have been against general codification on the matter. Opponents to the UN Framework Convention have argued that each transboundary basin and dispute has its own peculiarities and characteristics and should therefore be treated separately. Eventually the UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Use of International Water Courses of 1997 has been ratified by only 12 countries and is yet to enter into force. The states which abstained or voted against the Convention drew attention to the lack of consensus on several of its key provisions mainly on those governing dispute settlement and further to the imbalance created between the rights of lower and upper riparian States. Furthermore, the Convention did not refer to the sovereignty of the watercourse States over the parts of transboundary watercourses located in their territory. A way out could be to develop a new convention which would constitute a framework in the real sense of the word and would take into consideration the interests and concerns of all riparian States in a balanced manner.

One of the general principles of international water law is the principle of reasonable and equitable utilization of water resources. The non-binding Helsinki Rules of 1966, prepared by the International Law Association (ILA), provided certain guidelines for the reasonable and equitable sharing of a transboundary watercourse. This principle has been repeated in several Conventions.

Reasonable and equitable use does not mean sharing of water on an equal basis among riparian States. According to the Helsinki Rules, reasonable and equitable use should be determined in the light of all relevant factors in each particular case. Factors include but not limited to geography and hydrology of the basin, the climate affecting the basin, the population dependent on the waters, the level of utilization and the economic and social needs of each basin State.

The principle of reasonable and equitable utilization is balanced by the obligation of a riparian State not to cause "significant harm" to other riparian States, while utilizing a transboundary river or lake for consumptive purposes. According to the ILA, "significant" means that the harm caused should not be substantial or serious.

It follows that there is a need to establish new mechanisms for cooperation and exchange of information with a view to ensuring efficient and optimal use of water resources. Cooperation should be based on sovereign equality, territorial integrity and mutual benefits of all riparian States.

The Situation in the Middle East

The Middle East is historically a water-stressed region. The Jordan River basin suffers serious water shortage in particular. The situation is expected to worsen in the near future. Yitzhak Rabin said, I quote, "If we solve every problem in the Middle East but not, satisfactorily resolve the water problem, our region will explode, peace will not be possible", end of quote.

I agree that the issue of water in our region is complex, emotional and political and therefore it will remain with us in the decades to come. However, I would like to challenge Mr. Rabin's statement, as I do believe that the countries of the region could use water as a tool for cooperation rather than a source of conflict. The States of the region will eventually come to understand that cooperation is imperative for the improvement of the quality of life of their people, socio-economic development and stability in the region. In short the cliché that the next war will be fought over water has, in my view become obsolete.

Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)

As I have highlighted             earlier, water issues are not only of technical nature but also has certain political and national aspects. Therefore, they cannot be resolved without building mutual trust and confidence among riparian States. Parties concerned should first and foremost free themselves from nationalist rhetoric, clichés, emotions and prejudices. Necessary steps should be taken in order to dispel mistrust and create the appropriate environment for meaningful cooperation.

Information and data should be shared at basin level. Riparian States should have the political will to engage in genuine cooperation. Such cooperation could lead to reaching a common understanding on the utilization of the water of transboundary basins in the interest of all.

Confidence building efforts could, in my view, be initiated through informal exchange of information and data at experts level. Such a dialog can be further developed by discussions on general principles to be applied in the utilization of the water resources of the basin.

Another form of CBMs could be developed in the form of sharing the benefits of water among riparian States through cross-border projects. The Southeastern Anatolian Project (GAP) is a, good case in point. The involvement of the private sector in the realization of cross-border water infrastructure could also be a means to enhance understanding and mutual trust among States.

Turkey's Transboundary Waters

At this point, let me touch upon Turkey's transboundary waters and the Tigris and the Euphrates basin which is the topic of the next session.

Transboundary rivers are of utmost importance for meeting the increasing water needs of Turkey. They form 40 per cent of Turkey's water potential. Some of you might not be aware of the fact that Turkey is an upstream as well as a downstream country with respect to transboundary waters. In the case of the Tigris, the Euphrates, Aras/Kura and Corukhi, Turkey is an upstream, while in the case of the Orontes, and Maritza rivers is a downstream country. Naturally Turkey has been closely following all aspects of transboundary water issues.

The Euphrates and the Tigris are two of the most famous transboundary rivers in the world. The combined water potential of the two rivers is almost equal to that of the Nile. Both rise in the high mountains of north-eastern Anatolia and flow down through Turkey, Syria and Iraq and eventually join to form the Shatt-al-Arab 200 km before they flow into the Gulf. They account for about one third of Turkey's water potential. Therefore, during 1960s and 1970 Turkey launched projects to utilize the rich water- potential of these two rivers.

In view of the realized and planned projects including the GAP, we should expect more water vrithdrawals in the Tigris-Euphrates basin. However, the combined water potential of the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers is in my view sufficient to meet the needs of the three riparian States in order to achieve sustainable development provided that water is used in an efficient manner. The countries of the basin should improve cooperation with a view to maximizing the benefits of water through new irrigation systems and technologies. Turkey has the necessary expertise, human resources and will to engage in such cooperation. Furthermore I do believe that the dams and reservoirs which have been built in the deep valleys of the South East have served not only Turkey but also other riparian States by regulating the flow of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

I had the opportunity and honor of turning the GAP into a multi-sectoral sustainable development project as a Prime Minister and then the President of the Republic. I should like to point out that this grand project has been acknowledged by the international water community as a good       example of a successful passage from simple water development to efficient management. It constitutes a good example with its great engineering achievements in hydropower and irrigation as well as in reaching the poor and women through its social programs.

In view of the new political situation in the region and the preliminary cooperative climate, the GAP project could be extended to cover some of the territorities of Syria and Iraq to the benefits of all As I stated earlier, such cooperation with the participation of private and public sectors as well as universities, NGOs and other stakeholders can constitute one of the best confidence building measures among the countries and the people of the basin, which in turn could pave the way for the resolution of a highly political transboundary water issue.

Given the limited time, I would like to conclude by underlying a few points:

  1. Turkish governments have always seen water as a catalyst of cooperation, rather than a source of conflict.
  1. Water demand will continue to increase at global level and in certain regions in particular. Climate change and environmental pollution is likely to negatively affect the availability of water.
  1. The large number of transboundary rivers on earth, the size of the population dependent on these rivers and the complex nature of various transboundary water disputes have a direct bearing on the quality of life of billions of people as well as on peace and stability at global level.
  1. I am personally pleased to see that the international community, the UN and other regional and international organizations rose to the challenge by focusing on water issues.
  1. International efforts should be further enhanced by new initiatives and mechanisms. However, we should refrain         from one-type solutions for different cases, as each transboundary basin has its own distinctive features and socio-political conditions.
  1. Facilitating and encouraging efforts should not turn into imposition of frameworks or mechanisms by third parties as such interventions might favor a specific recipe which may prove inappropriate for a settlement in a given basin.
  1. The international community should continue to develop the necessary norms and standards, which could be conducive to concluding agreements at basin level among States. Lasting solutions to transboundary water issues can be reached through confidence building measures and genuine cooperation among riparian States with facilitating efforts when it is deemed necessary by the countries of the basin.

Lastly, there is a need for enhancing public awareness with respect to the importance of efficient use of water resources. The press and media can play an important role in this regard. It is our obligation to quantity of water resources for the next generations.

To conclude, I should like to thank you all for the interest you have shown in Turkey's

water development projects and for your participation in this Forum