Whirlpool Politics: Water as a Global Challenge

11–17 April 2010, Leiden • The Institute of Political Science at Leiden University (NL) will host an international conference in the field of political science. During the Academic Conference students will explore this year’s theme, Whirlpool Politics: Water as a Global Challenge.


Water has always been a key issue in the Netherlands and much of Dutch history is constituted by the fight against water. The country as mainly a low-lying area faces a threat coming both from the sea and from its rivers. Recently, ‘water’ has also become of striking academic and political relevance. Many scientists have already predicted that not oil, but water, will become the main source of political conflict in the future. This is especially due to the shortage of fresh water supplies in many parts of the world. As a result, the debate is fuelled regarding water as a basic human need and therefore as a human right. Water also caught much attention related to the impending problem of global warming. Nowadays, water is often seen as potentially a very dangerous climate danger since it carries with it multiple manifestations of climate change. This may have severe consequences on a global scale and generates specific concern in regard of low countries such as the Netherlands.

In order to capture all these interesting developments related to the topic of water the Academic Conference will be organized around three subtopics:

– Water as a Climate Danger
– Water as a Source of Conflict
– Water as a Human Right

During the first three days of the IAPSS Conference the Academic Programme will be focusing on future implications of water issues. On Monday the subtheme Water as a Climate Danger will be elaborated upon. Given the increased probability of water-related problems due to climate change, how are countries across the world to be best prepared for the rising sealevel and severe climate conditions?

On Tuesday the programme will be centered around questions of international security in cases where water will be likely to constitute a cause in regional conflict. Hence the premise Water as a Source of Conflict will be a starting point for debates concerning future water-related conflicts.

On Wednesday the newly emerging insight of Water as a Human Right will be explored. In what sense can water be regarded as a human right and can such a global approach help us tackle water problems more easily?

The content of the Academic Programme will be conveyed through daily opening lectures of a renowned expert in the field of the subtheme and workshops in which students are invited to discuss water’s global challenges on a more detailed level.


The Netherlands National Committee IHP-HWRP is a contributor to the programme. Speakers include Pieter van der Zaag, professor in Integrated Water Resources Management at the UNESCO-IHE Insitute for Water Education in Delft, Henk van Schaik, programme coordinator international at the Co-operative Programme on Water and Climate (CPWC) in The Hague, and Bart Parmet, director of the new Dutch Delta Programme.

This conference will be hosted under the umbrella of the International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS) which consists of over 50 study associations of political science departments across the globe. At the AC-GA  (Academic Conference and General Assembly), the cities of Leiden and The Hague will host more than 150 political science students from all over the world.


Update June 2010: the report is now available.