Olivier Cogels – Keynote Speaker

Keynote speaker and trainer in water geopolitics and diplomacy

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Specialist Subjects

  • Our Thirsty Planet: Is Humanity Really Running Out of Water?
  • The Blue Gold Rush: Defusing Water Wars
  • The Global Water Crisis: Challenges and Solutions
  • Water Geopolitics and Diplomacy in the Mekong Basin: Between Conflicts and Cooperation


  • English
  • French


Olivier Cogels is an internationally recognized Belgian expert in water geopolitics and diplomacy. His insightful lectures address critical global issues such as “Will humanity face a water shortage?”, “Are water wars imminent?”, and “How can we prevent them?”

His long commitment to addressing global water issues has involved collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders, from nomadic villages in the Sahel to governments, diplomats, and major international organizations.

He holds a Ph.D. in Agricultural Sciences from UCLouvain, Belgium, and conducted postdoctoral research in irrigation science at the University of California. His expertise, developed in over fifty countries, is supplemented by his role as a part-time academic, teaching at various universities in Europe and Africa, and serving as an Emeritus Professor at UCLouvain.

His career began in academia and teaching before founding a company specializing in satellite remote sensing. He then led the Belgian international cooperation in Senegal. As a Director at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome, he headed a program on innovative irrigation technologies. In Southeast Asia, as CEO of the Mekong River Commission, he played a crucial role in enhancing water cooperation between China and Mekong basin countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Recognized for his expertise in water geopolitics and diplomacy, Cogels has continued his career as a senior consultant for major international organizations. His advisory roles include shaping the World Bank’s hydraulic development strategy in the Nile basin and providing expertise to the European Commission, various UN agencies, and multiple bilateral cooperation entities.

In addressing global hydro-climatic challenges, Cogels rejects a catastrophic and fatalistic view. He strongly believes that through multi-sectoral cooperation, coordinated investments, innovative solutions, and more effective governance, these challenges can be met. This belief is a central theme in his lectures.

Cogels’ exceptional journey, along with his steadfast dedication to water-related causes for nearly half a century, has established him as a passionate and inspiring speaker. He is eager to inform and motivate those interested in responsible and equitable water resource management on our planet.

Popular Talks by Olivier Cogels

Our Thirsty Planet: Is Humanity Really Running Out of Water?

In a world where the image of a dried-up planet fuels fears and debates, this conference invites critical reflection on common perceptions about the global water crisis. Are we inevitably heading towards a widespread water shortage, or are there nuances and lesser-known aspects that we need to explore? We will examine the facts behind the alarmist headlines and demystify some myths surrounding the future of water. Our goal is to provide a more complete and balanced understanding of the current situation of water availability on our planet. Join us for an enlightened discussion that goes beyond simplistic claims, exploring the real challenges, possible solutions, and adaptation strategies humanity can adopt in response to our changing water environment.

The Blue Gold Rush: Defusing Water Wars

In a global context where water is becoming an increasingly strategic issue, this conference delves deep into the burning question: Are water wars really an imminent threat to our future? What realities lie behind the alarmist rhetoric? We will address these questions by adopting a critical perspective, questioning common assumptions, and examining the facts. The conference will revisit historical water-related conflicts to draw lessons, while scrutinizing current and future tensions, with a particular focus on underlying causes. At the heart of this analysis, we will evaluate the effectiveness of water diplomacy and transboundary cooperation institutions. Are these approaches truly the key to preventing future water wars, or are there gaps and challenges that need to be addressed? In conclusion, we will present visionary perspectives and strategies for peaceful and sustainable management of our precious water resources.

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