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Mad Kura

UNDP-GEF Kura II Project

Story by IW:LEARN December 19th, 2017

Kura – the river in South Caucasus, situated between the Greater Caucasus and Small Caucasus mountains. It takes its source from eastern part of Anatolia and enters the Caspian Sea, coming across 1500 km in three different countries: Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. While each country is unique, all three had to go through many socio – political, economic and geopolitical challenges throughout history.

If water could store information the way hard discs or external memory devices do nowadays, this river would provide us with plenty of fascinating stories about the people living there or even nations built in this basin.

Bridge of Peace in Tbilisi, Georgia. Credit: Oleg Dubyna

There is a famous novel of an Azerbaijani writer of the XXth century called “Mad Kura” which describes the tragedy that occurred in the territory of the basin. Kura is presented in this masterpiece of Azerbaijani literature as a witness of all major and overwhelming processes that occurred in the basin.

The river now faces challenges related to the direct damage inflicted by the people of its basin, struggling to keep up with the natural resources needs of the three countries and to reach to its destination, the Caspian Sea.

Hajar is a young diplomat. She is dedicated and enthusiastic on how to contribute to the development of her region and how to play a role in building peace and prosperity using the knowledge and skills she developed at ADA University, getting a MA in Diplomacy and International Affairs, and through her work experience in environmental policy making.

Ten years ago, most young people who obtained their degree in International Relations or Diplomacy did not foresee a career in the environment as an option. While they may study International Environmental Law or become familiar with Conventions related to Climate Change and other environmental issues, they would not go the extra mile to extend their technical knowledge.

Hajar’s case is different. She started to work as a Junior Water Diplomacy Expert for the UNDP-GEF Kura II Project.

Hajar Huseynova speaking at the UNDP event on Sustainable Development Goals
Someone can ask, “Water and Diplomacy? What is the relation?” and even “Where is water and where is diplomacy?”

Diplomacy is the only way today to save our water resources and to prevent rivers from receiving negative impacts. There are plenty of outstanding specialists in this region, from Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan specialized in water resources, with years of experience in hydrology, chemistry, biology, engineering, law etc. But this is not enough. While their contributions are crucial, if we are to save this river together, there is a need for a new type of diplomats – Water diplomacy experts.

Kura river. Credit: Kamyshnikov Konstantin

“Kura II – Advancing Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) across the Kura river basin operates through the implementation of transboundary agreed actions and a national plan”. It is indeed a UNDP GEF project which will implement the Strategic Action Program for the Kura River Basin in partnership with the Governments of Georgia and Azerbaijan, with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection and the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, respectively.

One of its main components lies in capacity building for institutions working in water issues in both countries. In this regard, along with technical staff, supporting water diplomacy experts constitutes a long-term investment for building common grounds on shared waters.

The project also involves other stakeholders in both countries who have interest in using the water resources of the Kura river: Ministries, large state companies, public institutions managing water related infrastructures; but alsouniversities providing valuable human capital in this field, and academic institutions involved in scientific research. All these are target groups of the UNDP-GEF Kura II Project which will be contributing in strengthening capacity for the next three years of the project duration. In particular, Hajar’s water diplomacy approaches will help all parties to recognize the benefits of cooperation in water management, both between the countries and within the countries too and within the countries too.

In the future, instead of wars, and sadness, and conflict which have plagued the river and made it “mad”, sharing common concerns and interests in protecting the river may be the next sequel entitled “The Glad Kura”.

Footnote: Header photo by Maria Savenko