MENA // Water Energy Food Nexus as a Key Driver for Achieving the SDGs in the Arab Region
By Nisreen Lahham. Under the auspices of His Excellency President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States (LAS) organized the "Arab Sustainable Development Week" from 14-17 May 2017. This event was organized by the Sustainable Development and International Cooperation Department at LAS, in cooperation with the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the World Bank, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and other agencies.
This initiative by the LAS aligns within its leading role in disseminating the sustainable development agenda goals, devising a consolidated Arab vision in this regard, and emphasizing to Arab government policy makers the way to achieve such goals and to make them an integral part of their respective national development strategies. This became evident in the recent establishment of the Sustainable Development and International Cooperation Department and an Arab Sustainable Development Committee that includes focal points for communication among Arab countries concerning sustainable development
The event was attended by representatives of Arab countries, a number of diplomatic missions accredited to the LAS, Arab organizations, UN specialized agencies, (is also a UN organization), regional and international organizations, representatives of civil society, the private sector, academics, journalists and parliamentarians.
The main goal of the Arab Sustainable Development Week was to support the Arab countries to achieve the SDGs, exploring challenges and opportunities for future of Arab societies, and to provide a comprehensive Arab framework to discuss issues of sustainable development in the Arab region.
A session on: Mainstreaming the Water Energy Food Nexus in National and Regional Policies, was chaired by Dr. Hammou Laamrani (LAS-GIZ), and reported by Dr. Nisreen Lahham (GIZ ACCWaM and Nexus Dialogue Programme). This session aimed at debating and analyzing the potential of a nexus approach in integrating sectors and institutions in the Arab region to achieve the sectoral SDGs 2 ,6, 7 and related SDGs.
Dr. Matthias Bartels (GIZ ACCWaM programme, Egypt) talked about mainstreaming water, energy and food security Nexus: integration issues and solutions for the Arab Region. In his statement he stressed that in spite of the challenges facing the implementation of the Nexus approach in the Arab region, there are no alternatives to ensure a sustainable future. Moreover an integrated approach to development offers new opportunities. He referred to successful models in the region for implementing the Nexus approach such as: solar farming projects, solar desalination projects, sustainable cities initiatives, and grey water treatment projects. Dr. Matthias stated that there is an urgent need to mainstream the Nexus approach at all levels to become an essential component of all regional strategies and all decisions in different sectors.
Dr. Hussein Abaza (Egyptian Ministry of Environment) discussed the issue of integration across sectors in practice, referring to the challenges and opportunities for Egypt in this regard. He stated that the greatest challenge facing the application of the Nexus approach is the sectoral mentality in national institutions and limted knowledge about economic incentives to shift to a holistic approach. And in order to convince decision-makers to adopt the Nexus approach, he emphasized the importance of clarifying the economic return of integrated policies, in comparison with sectoral policies approach, through different scenarios. Moreover, he pointed out that there is no need to create new institutions, yet he highlighted the importance of restructuring the Egyptian institutions related to water, energy and food sectors, and the role of capacity development in the application of the Nexus approach.
Mrs. Carol Chouchani (UNESCWA) discussed the topic of: linking SDGs and NDCs in the Arab region- the WEF nexus as a model. She stated that achieving the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda should be pursued using a Nexus approach that integrates water, energy and food sectors, as well as climate change under the bigger umbrella concept of human rights as a cross cutting issue, while implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards reaching the goals of global climate agenda . Besides, Mrs. Chouchani mentioned that the Arab countries NDCs prioritize climate change adaptation interventions mitigation measures, given the fact that the Arab countries are among the least contributors to global warming and are among the most affected countries by the impacts of climate change. She listed 7 Arab countries (Morocco, Sudan, Djibouti, Mauritania, Jordan, Comores and Tunisia) that have set their adaptation financial needs estimated to $ 21 Billion for adaptation and to $ 93 Billion for mitigation. She also stressed that some countries have referred to forms of nexus in their NDCs and some are relating SDG and NDCs in broad terms.
Ambassador Shahira Wahby, (LAS) addressed two questions: how to bring regional sectoral policies to more coherence to achieve SDGs 2, 6, 7, and how can the nexus serve regional economic integration? Answering the first question she mentioned the need to formulate interrelated policies at the regional level through the specialized Ministerial Councils of the League of Arab States, and the importance of reforming governmental institutions without creating new institutions. She emphasized the need for capacity development for government ministries and agencies on two levels: decision makers and executives. She also mentioned that priority must be given to Nexus and sectoral coherence when planning and allocating budget for different sectors. Regarding the second question Ambassador Shahira stated that Nexus should be considered as a means of achieving integration of Arab countries, taking into consideration the comparative advantages of each Arab country and thus achieving Arab political agreement. She concluded that the nexus is a gateway to Arab regional economic integration.
In the final Declaration of the Arab Sustainable Development Week the participants stated that sustainable development is characterized by being integrated, interdependent and indivisible. And the efforts of the Arab countries must have the same characteristics to improve their credibility and increase their resources in the field of sustainable development, to become a means of changing the way of life in Arab societies. Hereafter, the participants emphasized the need to adopt the Nexus approach, encourage the concepts of compatibility and tradeoffs, prepare indicators, build information and support institutional structures, with an aim to reach decision makers at all levels, especially local communities, to address the challenges facing their communities and support them in capacity building and resilience.
Moreover, the participants highlighted the importance of supporting the ministerial councils and the Arab joint action institutions in their efforts to implement the goals of sustainable development, taking into account the Sustainable development Goals and the interrelationships between the economic, social and environmental dimensions while working on the preparation of programs and projects.
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