How can transboundary water cooperation in the Middle East and North Africa be strengthened to support the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and particularly Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) in the region?
The two-day workshop on “Enhancing transboundary water cooperation in the MENA region: progress, challenges and opportunities” took place in Beirut, Lebanon, on 3-4 March 2020. It brought together 35 participants from 10 MENA countries, representing Ministries of Water, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Parliaments together with international development partners, regional organizations and civil society.
The workshop was jointly organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med).
Throughout the two days, lively discussions were held on good and bad practices as well as lessons learnt from cooperation on transboundary surface and groundwater in the MENA region.
The link between climate change and transboundary water management
The workshop stressed the need to strategically develop approaches for exchanging data and information through methodological frameworks and case studies, involving all the riparian countries. One goal would be a common database featuring indicators on various factors such as guidelines, strategies for M&E or the enabling of the environment, as of this day data on some of these factors is rather incompatible. Tools that could accomplish and aid in this include statistical data and remote sensing or the application of GIS modelling. The exchange between the attendees also shed light on the linkages between transboundary water cooperation and climate change adaptation, such as the role of groundwater used for irrigation, the sustainability of applied pumping levels as well as the salinization of soils. Resources and tools of the Water Convention and the regional climate financing initiative led by the Union for the Mediterranean were mentioned as important tools, together with a set of tools and approaches for improving transboundary water cooperation in the MENA region, including good practices for water allocation and the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus framework. In addition, the role of the international water law in supporting transboundary cooperation was stressed.
The WEF Nexus approach and transboundary water management
The role of the Nexus approach in offering multiple benefits through the inter-sectoral approach it adopts, however the need for stronger supporting evidence through case studies was highlighted. Participants stressed the importance of considering cross interlinkages when planning Nexus interventions, for example in the use of renewable energy for water abstraction from wells, that can lead to an overexploitation of groundwater due to the abundance of energy for pumping or the creation of employment opportunities that counteract migration through the preservation of water resources and land.
In a session entitled: “Tools and approaches for improving transboundary water cooperation in the MENA region, Experience sharing of Nexus approaches application in transboundary basins from the region and beyond”, Dr. Nisreen Lahham, the Coordinator of the NDP- MENA was sharing the experience of the NDP in the Niger Bain on transboundary cooperation through the Nexus approach together with lessons learnt. (Presentation).
By the end of the presentation, participants discussed potentials for the MENA region by applying the Nexus approach in transboundary contexts, as seen in the successful example of the Niger basin. The main question was how to enhance the role of regional organizations, such as the Nile Basin Authority, in bringing stakeholders together to work on beneficial transboundary solutions for all riparian countries. Regional knowledge and practice exchange with other regional organizations such as the Niger Basin authority was considered along with improving stakeholders’ capacities for handling resource conflicts.
For further information, please contact Dr. Nisreen Lahham, Regional Coordinator of the NRD programme for the MENA Region.