Photo by UN-OCHA

United Nations Humanitarian Trends Report Includes Water and Conflict for the First Time

New report section driven by Vector Center analysis and partner data, concludes water conflict has a significant humanitarian cost

“Water is increasingly a trigger, weapon and casualty of conflict—with significant humanitarian consequences,” concludes the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report Wold Humanitarian Trends and Data 2018. In analysis contributed by Vector Center, the new report explores the links between water and conflict as both a challenge and an opportunity in humanitarian crisis.

Water has not traditionally been considered a primary driver of global conflict; instead, it has been viewed as a compounding variable that exacerbates existing social, economic, and political tensions. However, old understandings and norms of cooperation around water issues are being tested by climate change and population growth.

Dramatic swings in seasonal water supplies threaten regional, local and global stability. In 2017, water played a major role in conflict in at least 45 countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Yemen had the most water-related conflicts with at least 28 individual events reported.

Countries and regions typically settle water management disputes peacefully. Long-standing best practices exist for international cooperation, such as the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, which divides the Indus River tributaries between India and Pakistan. By understanding the links between water and conflict, policymakers and practitioners can better predict, understand and react to water-related conflicts across the globe, thereby preventing humanitarian crises.


Water conflict hotspots for 2017, in trends, challenges and opportunities to prevent and end conflicts. For full analysis download the report here. Download the PDF version the Water Conflict page here.

Vector Center contributed the above analysis as well as data analysis with partners Circle of Blue and the Pacific Institute. The Pacific Institute provided the underlying data for the trends in water conflict sections with Vector Center contributing analysis. Data from the Pacific Institute and Vector Center was used to create the HotSpots 2017 map. Lead photo by UNOCHA.