Safeguarding Waterways Through Effective Peacemaking. Member Spotlight: Abby Brown

Who is Abby Brown

Abby is a mother of two children, she is a lawyer specializing in the field of water and the environment, and she also works in the field of conflict resolution as a mediator, especially in environmental issues, and more specifically, water issues, which are considered one of the most prominent cases among the community where she lives, Montana, United States leading ARB Law Group. Abby sees herself as a peace-maker at heart.

Conflicts related to the environment, especially water resources, are numerous, there is a limited amount of water”; hence, in her beliefs within this field of conflicts, conflict resolution and learning to communicate is more important than winning a case in the court.”

For her, solving environmental disputes begins with the surrounding community, as agriculture is the most prevalent in Montana, which makes environmental and resource issues such as water widespread and very sensitive; she stated thatone of the ways conflict resolution works in this field is to help  neighbors to learn how to communicate and share a resource that none of them own.”

Water is Owned by the Collective

Water is not owned by anyone but rather by the collective. Therefore Abby aims to work with the parties to help them find ways to deal with each other to achieve the maximum benefit for them all, especially in light of the climatic changes that have made water scarce resource in many areas around the world. Moreover, she sees that mediation and conflict resolution can be circulated to a more significant level so they can be used at the level of states and to resolve water-related disputes between these states.

As Abby sees, the new perspective now is talking about considering water as a human right,it means that globally we should be working towards sharing this resource so that every person has enough clean water to drink and to use for sanitation purposes.” Hence, considering water as a human right, and thus ensuring that everyone has access to what they need, it will be easier not to enter into disputes over water. Therefore, to go towards mediation and diplomatic methods, she states, “when people are on a shared ground and goal about everyone having enough water, it makes it easier to resolve conflicts.”

This issue is still sensitive, especially with the failure of many countries to recognize water as a human right, especially since this recognition will be followed by many responsibilities that the state must bear to solve the provision of water based on this ground.

In the environmental field and water issues, in particular, there is a significant change in the parties’ appetite for mediation and dispute resolution instead of resorting to courts, just five years ago mediation was not regularly used in water conflicts in Montana, but in the last two years both water users and decision makers are starting to embrace mediation as an alternative way to resolve conflict instead of going to the court.”

Water Mediation

At the international level, the success of mediation in water conflicts depends on the place; she states, in many communities in the United States and around the world, water is not just a resource to be managed, but is a spiritual and cultural element that relates to the traditions and religion of the people.” This makes it imperative that the mediator ensure the mediation process be based on a broad and significant understanding of this powerful connection between water, culture, and people.

Another essential term Abby see that is developing these days among academic and practitioners is environmental justice; for her, it means the “fair treatment and involvement of all people without looking at their socio-economic situation, race, gender, or national origin when developing and implementing environmental laws and policies to tackle environmental issues like water or air pollution, and to make sure that all people all are treated equally under these laws and policies.” 

Article by Yousra Hasona, MBBI Writer