About 100 policy makers, Members of Parliament, serving and former Ministers, media leaders, academics, and water experts from across the Middle East and the representatives of successful transboundary water cooperation institutions from Africa participated in the International Conference on ‘Exploring the Water-Peace Nexus: Blue Peace in West Asia’ held in Amman, Jordan on 18-19 March, 2015. The participants strongly emphasised high level political commitment to regional cooperation and joint management of transboundary water resources as a prerequisite for sustainable peace-building in the region.
The conference was co-hosted by the Strategic Foresight Group and the West Asia North Africa Institute in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and in cooperation with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and GIZ.
HRH Hassan bin Talal of Jordan launched the two SFG reports “Water and Violence: Crisis of Survival in the Middle East” and “The Hydro-Insecure: Crisis of Survival in the Middle East” during the inaugural session held on March 19, 2015. He presented the first copies of the report to HRH Princess Sumaya bint el Hassan and HE Helena Rietz, Swedish Ambassador to Jordan.
HRH Prince Hassan called for the creation of a Commission for West Asia to collectively address and deal with current problems and create long term water cooperation mechanisms. He also highlighted the need to listen to the views of local civil society groups and organizations on assessing water challenges they are facing, and provide them with the capacities to generate organic community based solutions.
Ambassador Helena Reitz emphasized the importance of transboundary water cooperation to strengthen the relationship between riparian states and be a strong driver for peace. She underlined the growing vulnerability of women and children due to the on-going crisis in the region and stressed that it should be given the highest priority.
The conference provided a platform for experts from Africa to share their experiences in successful transboundary water cooperation with the participants from the Middle East. These included representatives of the Senegal River Basin Commission (OMVS), Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Kenya (IGAD). The experts from Africa collectively stressed on the importance of political will at the highest level as the most important element in transboundary water cooperation. Coupled with a common regional vision is the importance of strong institutions. Any institutional framework must include high-level decision makers, as well as have strong mechanisms and committees at different levels of government.
The participants from West Asia discussed the link between water security, agriculture and food security and that the impact on vulnerable populations, and that these linkages must be a part of any regional dialogue and debate. The plight of populations made vulnerable by the growing water scarcity, along with the conflict in Syria and Iraq was also placed high on the agenda of the conference, with the participants calling for greater regional cooperation and coordination in tackling these concerns. They recognised that it is important to promote further dialogue and discussion to deepen understanding on the need for cooperation between countries over water, security, agriculture and food trade sectors, and that the future of the region was dependent on this.
To download the full report of the conference please click here.