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This paper focuses on environmental issues as a human rights concern in the context of conflicts and tensions in the South Caucasus and Turkey. The main objective of the paper is to elaborate if environmental issues can become a tool for dialogue and conflict transformation. The authors of the paper believe it is key for conflict transformation to assess and seek solutions for environmental issues even in the absence of political resolutions to conflicts.

The paper starts off by surveying the international and regional legal frameworks within which the countries of the South Caucasus and Turkey operate when they (mis)manage environmental issues. It also reviews the projects implemented by different international agencies, institutions, and donors aimed at better cooperation on environmental protection in the region. The paper then discusses some cases of transboundary environmental issues in the context of human rights and conflicts in the region, concentrating on the Kura-Araks basin and the impact of hydropower plants, dams, and reservoirs on the basin and the environment at large with some cases of dire non-cooperation and some cases of relative success and collaboration. The paper also surveys the sources of water pollution in the region.

The paper finishes off with a set of recommendations for conflict transformation and dialogue with a focus on environmental rights. The authors believe that although conflicts may seem a hindering factor for cooperation, for the sake of the environment and human rights, routes for cooperation should be established.

 

*Map of the Kura (Mtkvari) – Aras river system in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey. Shaded relief data from US Geological Survey. The map is taken from the website of EU Water Initiative for Eastern Partnership.

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