'Water: A Catalyst for Peace' Zaragoza Conference
6-8 October 2004
Interactive role-play and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Techniques
From 6-8 October 2004, UNESCO's PCCP project hosted an innovative international role-play conference gathering more than 150 water professionals, decision-makers and diplomats, representatives of civil society, educators at different levels and post-graduate students in water studies from 41 countries for 3 days of intensive debate.
The goal was to find new ways of enhancing basin knowledge and conflict resolution skills using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques [PDF format – 996 KB], increasingly needed as competition over water resources grows faster, diverging interests become more pronounced and potential or even real conflicts can appear in the management of transboundary water basins. In the changing and uncertain contexts of today's world, technical competences will not be sufficient to end potential conflict, prevent its escalation into a dispute and find ways back to a constructive cooperative relationship around water sharing.
:: See the chapter on sharing water of the 2nd United Nations World Water Development Report [PDF format - 626 KB]
:: See the PCCP publication on Alternative Dispute Resolution Approaches and their Application [PDF format - 626 KB]
The conference was structured around 4 major basin sessions, each of about 10 hours and consisting of 3 parts.
:: See an introduction to basin sessions
The biggest constraint was one of time. The game developers did not have much time to create their role-play simulations, which resulted in limited data availability in some cases. The role-play sessions could also have been longer, to allow more time for participants and trainers to get used to their roles and for more extensive evaluations of each session.
Nonetheless, the overall tone of the conference - one of engagement, curiosity and active participation - is a testimony to its success; despite the fact that the interaction processes were quite different from those in real life, observers and players acknowledged that role-play exercises proved to be an extremely beneficial and empowering training method for water professionals.