Background on the Policy Dialogue
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is facing mounting pressures on its natural resources. Climate change, population growth, food insecurity, water scarcity and extreme weather events are feeding into regional tensions and these are expected to increase in the future, especially tensions over shared water resources. Building the resilience of local communities and government institutions to cope with current and future water scarcity is imperative. Effective management of natural resources as part of sustainable development is key to building this resilience.
At the second Planetary Security Initiative Conference in December 2016 that took place at The Hague, Netherlands, a working group focusing on the MENA region discussed the need to build resilience towards resource scarcity through an integrated approach to water, energy and food management. The recommendation was to turn from theoretical studies to action by engaging in a dialogue with relevant policy makers from countries in the region, building on existing initiatives and successful examples of integrated planning in order to identify possible areas and scales for national integrated planning and regional cooperation.
Therefore, the IGG MENA Hub, in collaboration with RVO and the NL Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the Issam Fares Institute has taken the initiative to organize a sub- regional policy dialogue for the Levant as part of the Planetary Security Initiative on an integrated approach to the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus.
The first workshop of the policy dialogue is taking place in Amman Jordan on the 4th and 5th of October, 2017 and will include representatives of ministries of Water, Agriculture and Energy of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Palestine. The second consultation meeting will take place in Beirut, Lebanon on 23- 24 November, 2017.
Aim of the Policy Dialogue meetings
The short term aim of the policy dialogue meetings that will take place in Amman and Beirut is to identify modalities for regional cooperation or collaboration using the Water-Energy-Food Nexus Approach as a vehicle.
The objectives include:
- Propose policy recommendations that can be adopted on both national and regional levels based on shared experiences of existing challenges, opportunities, and initiatives.
- Identify pilot projects that could be replicated in all participating Levant countries that are scalable and could inform national and regional policy on the benefits of a WEF approach to planning.
Why the WEF Nexus in MENA region
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, challenges and engages the efforts of both rich and poor countries. The multi and cross-sectorial nature of the SDGs recognize an urgent need for an integrated management approach to achieve the long-term sustainability agenda. Such an approach recognizes the synergies and trade-offs among resources and considers pursuing cross-sectorial solutions (Obersteiner et al., 2016).One such integrated approach is what is known as the “Nexus Approach”.
A Nexus Approach in general is internationally interpreted as a process to link ideas and actions of different stakeholders from different sectors for achieving sustainable development (Endo et al., 2017). The Nexus framework therefore features the interdependencies that exist between natural resource sectors and highlights the need to pursue an integrated management across them (UN ESCWA, 2016).
Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus
The water-energy-food sectors have been identified as priority areas for SDGs in a number of documents, questionnaires and proposals (UN ESCWA, 2016; United nations, 2012 a; United Nations 2012b; Weitz, 2014). A water-energy-food nexus framework has the potential to address, examine and achieve the sectoral SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) as well as 13 (Climate Action) among other related SDGs, by recognizing the links between the 3 sectors and supporting an integrated management concept.
Water, energy and food security are hardly achieved in the Arab countries due to the increasing pressures that the socio-economic growth, limited natural resources and degraded ecosystems pause. Political conflicts and security issues further impair the ability of the member states to manage and achieve sustainable resource use (UN ESCWA, 2016). As such governmental institutions are urged to increasingly adopt a more comprehensive and integrated approach to manage water, energy and food scarce resources, that exhibit cross-border nature and complex relationships.
Mainstreaming of the WEF Nexus Approach at Different Scales
In order to mainstream a nexus approach at the local, national and Arab regional levels, it is deemed important to enhance coordination and collaboration amongst existing institutions rather than create new ones (El Hajj and Farajalla, 2016). “Only stronger institutions active in developing and implementing strategies that are related to WEF sectors can be considered for the development of a comprehensive WEF nexus strategy for the country” (Chnais et al, 2016).
One of the recommendations to mainstream the WEF nexus by institutions in Arab countries is to “empower existing institutions already active in developing and implementing strategies/ policies related to WEF sectors to develop a comprehensive WEF nexus national strategy”(Chnais et al., 2016). Policy dialogues and evaluation of policies for the WEF nexus in a periodic manner would achieve this (El Hajj and Farajalla, 2016).
At the same time, “integrated institutions” whereby several sectors are managed under same body do exist in several Arab countries and could act as gateway towards a WEF nexus approach. However, such integration is not yet well represented in policy.
Several regional strategies and initiatives developed and adopted by regional institutions for managing one pillar of WEF nexus could present an opportunity towards mainstreaming nexus thinking on the regional level (El Hajj et al., 2017).
Such examples include:
- The Arab strategy and action plan for water security in the Arab Region to meet the challenges and future needs for sustainable development 2010-2030 adopted by the Arab Ministerial council in 2012 and 2014
- The Arab Sustainable Agricultural Development Strategy 2005 to 2025, adopted by AOAD (Arab Organization for Agricultural Development), identifies water as the key determinant for sustainable agricultural development
- The “Pan-Arab Strategy for the Development of Renewable Energy Applications: 2010 – 2030”, adopted by the 3rd Arab Economic and Social Development Summit of January 2013. The strategy identifies electricity interconnections between countries of the region as a cornerstone in regional cooperation
The few existing models of “integrated institutions”, an increasing awareness on the importance of the WEF approach among policy makers and the existing small scale projects are prospects to allow mainstreaming of WEF nexus into policies/strategies and projects in the region (Chnais et al., 2016).
Examples of Small scale projects from the region
Lebanon Case Study
The village of Taanayel in the Bekaa region of Lebanon suffers from inadequate water access and high level of water pollution. A 30 months pilot project initiated in 2014 funded by the European Union and implemented by Arc En Ciel, a local non-governmental organization, anticipated a supply of equitable, clean water to residents while relying on green technology.
The project was designed to improve the catchment area through the construction of new water channels and the rehabilitation of existing deteriorated ones, to install screening and water conveyance system and to build two artificial lakes of 50000m3 capacity. The water conveyed to the artificial lakes is aerobically treated using renewable energy generated by photovoltaics and wind turbines. To meet the water demand and monitor domestic water consumption, 6000 liters of purified potable water are supplied daily from the installed public points.
In addition the project made water available for agricultural use in an efficient manner supplying water through fertigation system operated by renewable energy (55 KW supply) and covering 100 hectares of land.
To help in solving the problem of water pollution the project installed Sewage collection system, on-site wastewater treatment with a daily capacity of 20 m3 and disposal. “Clean, reliable and affordable energy for heating/cooking” was generated by using logs issued from shredded and compressed pruning products (twigs, etc.).
Jordan Wastewater Treatment Plant Project
Jordan faces environmental and health challenges due to water scarcity and discharge of contaminated water in rivers and agricultural lands. "The construction of As-Samra WWTP relieved most parts of Jordan by providing safe reuse of water for irrigation” and energy recovery from wastewater. The facility achieved in 2015 serves a population of 2.2 million living in the Greater Amman and Zarqa areas and treats an average flow of 365,000m³ of wastewater on a daily basis.
Development opportunities that could increase resilience to climate change and environmental and health crises caused respectively by water scarcity and contaminated water in Jordan are currently undertaken. Integrated water and energy solutions (WEF nexus approach) support the efficient and sustainable exploitation of these resources eg freshwater or polluted water use in agriculture are being substituted for treated wastewater and energy recovery from the digestion biogas supplies 80% of energy demand for wastewater treatment.
Where and when
4-5 October 2017