event 26 Sep 2018

Water Management in Fragile Systems // Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises in the MENA Region

Water scarcity is pervasive throughout the Middle East and North Africa and getting worse. Even before the recent political turmoil, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa were struggling to manage their water resources sustainably and to expand water supply and sanitation services efficiently. Now conflict has combined with weak institutional performance and contributed to an intensification of water challenges and a deterioration of water services.

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A new World Bank-FAO joint discussion paper finds that institutional failures to address water-related challenges can act as risk multipliers, compounding existing situations of fragility. But improving water management can contribute to building resilience in the face of protracted crises.

This paper is part of an ongoing collaboration between the World Bank and the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization to raise awareness about the importance of water management in fragile systems and to propose strategic responses. It is important to better understand these dynamics to ensure that water does not add to fragility, but rather promotes stability, and contributes to resilience in the region. This paper calls for redoubling efforts towards sustainable and efficient management of water resources, reliable and affordable delivery of water services to all and protection from water-related catastrophes.

Key Findings

  • The Middle East and North Africa water challenges are intensifying.
  • The scale of the challenge is unprecedented.
  • Failure to find solutions to water challenges aggravates fragility.
  • Fragility makes it harder to address water issues.
  • The compounding nature of water and fragility gives rise to a vicious cycle.
  • Don’t blame the drought.

Main Takeaways

  • Addressing water and fragility challenges requires a move from a focus primarily on immediate, reactive responses to a balanced long-term approach.
  • Use decentralized, participatory approaches.
  • Invest in innovative policies and practices.
  • Working together within countries and across boundaries is essential.
  • Water management is conducive to stability and peacebuilding.
  • Addressing short-term livelihood and food security needs is essential in the short-term.
  • Sustainable water management is necessary for the long-term.


World Bank Open Knowledge Repository (open access)


28 August 2018


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Bank Group

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