Democratia – Aqua – Technica is a DAAD-financed project within the research programme “Hochschuldialog mit den Ländern des westlichen Balkans” (Higher Education Dialogue with the countries of the Western Balkans). 

The interdisciplinary network Democratia – Aqua – Technica, founded in 2019, comes in: Initiated by SRH University of Applied Sciences Heidelberg and the University of Novi Sad, three project-based events have been planned with partner universities from Russia, Hungary, and Turkey. 

 

The focus of the network is on the development of innovative technical solution concepts for sustainable water resource management to promote the reduction of regional and local conflicts and the motivation of the “next generation” for civil society engagement. Building on the experience and results of this first series of events in 2020, University Heidelberg and the University of Novi Sad, together with Middle East Technical University (METU, Turkey), as a new project partner, plan to hold four project-based events to continue the developed solution concepts. As the Corona pandemic meant that the events planned for 2020 could / can only be implemented digitally, the focus of the follow-up project is on the in-depth practical implementation of the initial solution approaches.

The planned events include a hackathon, a study visit to Germany with a visit to the ACHEMA trade fair, a practical Young Scientist Research Week in Serbia, and a final digital conference. Following a cross-academics approach, the group of participants includes different academic qualification levels (graduate students, PhD students and scientists), who will work together in international and interdisciplinary groups on a project basis across the four events. 

Scope of the Project

The history of many countries is characterized by struggles over natural resources. The resource water is of central importance for the socio-economic development of a society or a state. If this access is restricted, e.g. by pollution, overuse or political conflicts, the associated decline in the social standard of living and general dissatisfaction can lead to massive intra-societal tensions, which have an enormous destabilizing potential for democratic forms of government and society. Both resource scarcity and resource abundance act as internal destabilizing factors through the resulting competition for distribution. This distributional competition occurs between different user groups, e.g., between agriculture and industry, urban and rural populations, or between ethnic groups. In addition, weak rule-of-law structures create a fertile breeding ground for corruption and clientelism in water policy and management.

Because of its importance, water as a resource is often politicized and/or ideologized. Political goals such as maintaining power, regional dominance or ideological dominance outweigh the question of technical solutions for demand-oriented distribution. Whether water supply and wastewater disposal, freshwater production, or water treatment – the spectrum of water technology options for promoting water resource management geared to local and regional needs is diverse and very promising in terms of promoting the reduction of conflicts. Complementary to the technological perspective, water partnerships as alliances between state institutions, companies and civil society actors can make an important contribution to conflict reduction and democracy development.

The DAAD is the world’s largest funding organisation for the international exchange of students and researchers. The motto of the DAAD is “Change by Exchange”. Since it was founded in 1925, around two million scholars in Germany and abroad have received DAAD funding. It is a registered association and its members are German institutions of higher education and student bodies. Its activities go far beyond simply awarding grants and scholarships. The DAAD supports the internationalization of German universities, promotes German studies and the German language abroad, assists developing countries in establishing effective universities and advises decision makers on matters of cultural, education and development policy. More about the DAAD on their website.