August 12, 2019 | By Jellie Molino

Next Generation 2019 – The Role of Lawyers in Water Security Negotiations

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.

When I learned about the Global Food Security Symposium 2019 by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, I knew I had to be there. I needed to share my stories and the stories of my people on our struggles to protect our rights to equitable share of our natural resources; and, I am happy that I was one of the 20 New Generation Delegates for the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium. The opportunity to share the platform with other Next Generation Delegates during the mainstage fireside chat was unforgettable, especially when I remembered my grandfather, a farmer in my country who died without owning the land that he had tilled all his life. Like my grandfather, most small-scale farmers and fishermen in my country—the Philippines—are still living within the vicious cycle of poverty which leaves them vulnerable to violations of their rights to an equitable share in our natural resources, and, lawyers, like me, have a role to play not only in preventing these violations but also in promoting a more sustainable use and consumption of these resources, which includes addressing the  issues on water security.

While I already know about the water crisis—in fact I have been representing my communities on numerous administrative and environmental cases on the protection of our water reservoir against irresponsible open-pit mining—attending the symposium and listening from the experts about the extent of the crisis and its impact on the lives and health of the people, e.g. every two minutes a child dies from a water-related diseasehas empowered me to continue my practice on environmental law. 

The world is running out of clean, fresh water to feed—and nourish—a growing global population, ensure sustainable human development, and maintain the health of our planet.  In fact, there is already a world water crisis. 844 million people are still living without access to safe water. 

Governments have been addressing this crisis on numerous ways. In my country, for example, the government just inked a foreign loan with China for the construction of Kaliwa Dam Project, a priority project in the 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan, which involved the financing, design, and construction of the 600 million liters per day Kaliwa Dam intake facilities and other appurtenant facilities; and Water Conveyance Tunnel with a capacity of 2,400 MLD (in anticipation of future construction of the Laiban Dam).  Several issues, however, have been raised in trying to address the water crisis in my country through the construction of this dam: propriety of the loan agreement, threats on the rights of the indigenous communities who will be displaced because of the construction of the dam, and the proportionality of responsibility, e.g., payments of loans through taxes instead of pay-for-use principles.  Interestingly, some of the issues that my country is facing are the same issues that countries with high-income economies like the United States have also faced, such as the Flint water crisis.

The water crisis, including its surrounding political, economic and social issues, are global issues that must be addressed with global solutions. The recommendations of the Council on Global Affairs, more particularly on the need for the United States to leverage its expertise and influence the improvement of water resource governance and sustainability is a must. While I have nothing personal against China, the numerous oppositions that my communities have been raising about the loans that will finance a project that is supposed to address, among others, the water crisis, in my country, could already be a “red flag,” not only for my country and the many other countries that are currently negotiating with China on foreign loans for similar projects, but also for countries who want to maintain its global leadership on sustainable water management and development like the United States.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet.