Interview Series Part 2
Dr. Nisreen Lahham; Regional Coordinator for the Nexus Dialogue in the MENA region
Dr. Nisreen Lahham is the Regional Coordinator for the Nexus Dialogue in the MENA region since 2016. She is based in Cairo, Egypt. The main objective of the MENA Nexus Dialogue is to advise and support the League of Arab States (LAS) and its 22 Member States to incorporate the WEF Nexus approach into the management of natural resources. In practice, this includes putting in place cross-sectoral policy recommendations and strategies on the regional level, through the work of the Arab Ministerial Water Council (AMWC), the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD) and other specialized councils at LAS, as well as on national level through the work of relevant ministries.
Previously, Nisreen worked for the think tank of the Egyptian Cabinet; Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC), where she led the Center for Future Studies, and was the main author of Egypt Vision 2030. She was also involved in many research projects on water and food security using Foresight methodologies. Her interests lie in sustainable development, green economy and Futures Studies. She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Development, with a focus on environmental economics, from Ain Shams University of Egypt.
Nisreen, what does WEF Nexus mean to you and how would you describe it in one sentence?
A WEF Nexus Approach helps us to better understand the complex and dynamic relationship between water, energy and food, allowing us to manage our limited resources sustainably. Based on a WEF Nexus perspective, we can understand how the impacts of a decision made in one sector apply to the other sectors. Thus, we can we can design and prioritize our response options and interventions, ensuring the maximization of overall benefits.
“WEF Nexus is an integrated holistic approach. It means considering the impacts of a decision in one sector on the other sectors”.
What are the main Nexus challenges in the MENA region?
Nisreen: A main challenge is the fragmented institutional framework governing the WEF sectors; strong sectoral “silos” and insufficient incentives for integrated planning and policy making at all levels. Further, there is no alignment between the top-down approach by the government and the bottom-up approach for adopting the WEF Nexus approach.
For example, in Morocco, the government has encouraged the usage of water-saving drip irrigation with subsidies and incentives based on new policies. However, the top-down approach of the government (to save water and energy) and the bottom up approach of farmers (searching for profit) are not well aligned, and hence farmers don’t always use the most efficient technology or in the way anticipated by the policymakers. There is a need for a combination of public money (subsidies, interest-free credit) and private investment to promote an integrated WEF Nexus approach.
What is the most promising approach for implementing/mainstreaming WEF Nexus in the region and why?
Nisreen: Appropriate framework conditions, targeted investments and pioneering actors are essential for making the WEF Nexus approach work. There is a need for WEF Nexus project implementation on the ground for showcasing the value-added of such an approach. Quantification of the benefits and added value of a Nexus approach can be used by policy makers for better coordination across sectors and improvements in terms of horizontal and vertical policy coherence.
Enhanced integrated governance can incentivize further Nexus implementations and investments and upscaling of solutions beyond the pilot scale, which in turn would further strengthen the WEF Nexus evidence and knowledge base. Continued dialogue and feedback loops between implementers of the WEF Nexus approach on the ground, policy makers, and the general public are the way forward to mainstream the Nexus approach in the MENA region.