Dr. Aaron Wolf, professor at Oregon State University, receives the Heinz Award in the Public Policy category for his pioneering leadership in the practice of water diplomacy, which brings science, problem-solving and cultural sensitivity to the mediation of transboundary water conflicts.
Raised with an acute awareness of the world's limited fresh water supply, Dr. Wolf decided early in his career to find a way to break the gridlock that dominated tensions over water rights. By combining 21st century insights with an adherence to ancient wisdoms, he has opened new paths in global policy through his unique approach to negotiating disputes over bodies of water shared by two or more regions.
From international water talks in Southeast Asia and Africa, as well as work on the U.S.-Canada Columbia River Treaty and elsewhere in the Western United States, Dr. Wolf has played a leading role in brokering critical agreements around what is increasingly the planet’s most precious resource. Convinced that standard Western conflict resolution models are just one piece of the puzzle, his rare manner of negotiation incorporates both traditional methods along with alternative approaches that focus on common values between competing users.
To prepare future generations of scholars and leaders in this field, Dr. Wolf joined other leading academics to found a consortium of 10 universities on five continents to build a global water governance culture focused on peace, sustainability and human security. In March 2015, he announced a partnership for a joint Master’s degree program on water cooperation and peace.
The breadth of Dr. Wolf's critical work proves that by sharing science-based evidence and identifying shared values, cooperation can replace conflict. In both research and practice, he has carved out a new understanding of how water disputes can be resolved – embracing the notion that water need not be a barrier to peace, but can serve as a language for reconciliation.
Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.