The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to present the 2019 Next Generation Delegates blog series. This year’s Delegation was comprised of 20 outstanding students from universities across the United States and around the world studying agriculture, food, and related disciplines. We were thrilled to feature these emerging leaders at the Global Food Security Symposium 2019, and look forward to sharing the exciting work of this extraordinary group.
By Jill Baggerman
Security is never a steady state, and perhaps no security is more challenging to preserve than water security. The complexities of water availability and the diverse needs of water users mean an interdisciplinary approach is needed to achieve lasting water security. Those same complexities, however, mean that individuals working towards water security must themselves have deep issue-specific knowledge, the antithesis of interdisciplinary study. So how do we bridge that divide?
This phenomenon is what made the Chicago Council’s Food Security Symposium, From Scarcity to Security, so valuable. The diversity of speakers, Next Generation Delegates, and participants was indicative of how complicated—and multidisciplinary—food and water security is. The caliber of the speakers, delegates, and participants gave me hope that we can achieve global water security in our future.
The symposium was a convening of silos, an event to show the depth of water security across sectors. When we Next Generation Delegates first gathered and introduced ourselves, the common theme among us was an introduction starting with: “what I do does connect to water security, but different than the ways mentioned so far, because I approach it from the angle of…” with each Delegate sharing their research, focus, their passion and potential.
My own connection to water security is in the arena of straightforward security, informed by my background in post-conflict peacebuilding. I am passionate about water security for the ways directly relates to conflict drivers in fragile, conflict-afflicted contexts.
While water does not cause conflict, water resource allocation frequently reflects the wider power relations of a society; water resources often become a proxy for the social, economic, and political power dynamics that undergird tensions within and between societies. (Think of the contaminated water provided to the people of Flint, Michigan and what tensions could potentially be addressed through equitable access to safe drinking water.) Along these lines, I believe that fostering sustainable, equitable water policies can encourage peace via inclusive decision-making processes.
I study this potential in two different contexts. In one, in South Sudan, I study the sub-national impacts that foreign aid and investment have on that country’s conflict. Water access and other indicators which relate to water resources, such as malnutrition and food security, are important variables in my research. And second, in Iraq, I study how water access correlates with historic trends of ethno-religious discrimination and violence. It is my hope for these projects and my vocation to understand how water policy can be a tool to achieve a more durable and inclusive peace.
Attending the Council’s Global Food Security Symposium broadened my understanding of water policy as it relates to the agricultural sector. In particular, the panels on Water Stewardship in the Agrifood System and on Connecting the Dots: Agriculture, Climate Resilience and the Private Sector opened my eyes to how public institutions can more effectively link with the private, academic, and nongovernmental sectors. Water systems are inherently interconnected, but if we steward these linkages well—with governmental accountability and robust stakeholder involvement in decision-making processes—then our water system will be more resilient to respond to water stress.