Water experts from the MENA region called on the regional parties and international community to strengthen “water diplomacy” as a preventive action and a path to achieve sustainable development and durable peace.
Inaugurating IPI MENA’s Water Preventive Diplomacy Conference on April 11, 2018, H.E Dr. Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, Bahrain’s Minister of Electricity and Water Authorities, said that water scarcity is a threat multiplier that exacerbates “existing tensions and instability in the MENA region, where the potential role of water in conflicts is probably more than other regions, especially since more than two thirds of the region’s water resources are flowing from outside, with no binding agreements between the riparian countries.”
Minister Mirza emphasized, however, that “water can also be a productive pathway to confidence building, cooperation, and conflict prevention, where globally recorded cooperative incidents on water exceed those incidents on water conflict.” Referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, he noted that “despite these conditions, they have done well in providing water services to their population and other expanding economic sectors.”
Panelist Lena Salame, Senior Specialist in International Water Law, Mediation and Negotiation, stressed that while “international law offers the generic frameworks in which states can act, the complexities and specificities of the subject at stake mean that more needs to be done at the national, regional and international levels.” She highlighted that key aspects within water preventive diplomacy reside in “building trust and capacities across the various key players, and leveling the playing field among them.”
On his side, panelist Waleed Zubari, on behalf of the Water Science and Technology Association (WSTA), urged the regional community “to implement mechanisms that lead to the development of a common vision on cooperation for the promotion of regional integration.”
Expanding on the need for regional integration, panelist Dr. Noha Nasralla, underlined the collaboration and cooperation between the Nile Basin countries, as a testament to the capacity of water as a tool to build trust.
Addressing the audience, Shaban Osman, CEO of 1958 Project Management & Marketing (1958 PMM), said, “Your presence today is a testimony of the strong engagement of governments, public and private sectors, and the civil society in promoting water preventive diplomacy to minimize the potential for water-related conflicts.”
Moderating the event, Nejib Friji, Director of IPI MENA, called on the MENA leadership to “join IPI’s Water Preventive Diplomacy effort to solve long-standing water differences and divides before they turn into conflicts.”
The conference was attended by an audience of government officials, water experts, diplomatic corps, regional and international organizations, representatives of civil society, private sector, academia, and media.