The World Bank and FAO have published a joint report that draws on their work in water management systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The report highlights water as a ‘risk multiplier’ in the region and proposes that sustainable, long-term management of water resources can be a pathway to peace.
The authors suggest that the SDGs can provide a framework to promote long-lasting solutions to water and fragility challenges.
15 August 2019: The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) have published a joint report that draws on their work in water management systems in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The report highlights water as a ‘risk multiplier’ in the region, given that competition over scarce water resources is likely to exacerbate conflict. The authors propose that sustainable, long-term management of water resources can also be a pathway to peace, and that the SDGs can provide a framework to promote long-lasting solutions to water and fragility challenges.
The report, titled ‘Water Management in Fragile Systems: Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises in The Middle East and North Africa’, argues that water is “the common currency that links nearly every SDG,” including, SDG 6 on water and sanitation and those that address food security (SDG 2), health (SDG 3), energy (SDG 7), jobs (SDG 8), social equity (SDG 10) ecosystem services (SDGs 13, 14 and 15), and peace and justice (SDG 16). Thus, it suggests that effective action on water resources has great potential to bring peace and stability. The report calls for increasing efforts to manage water resources sustainably and efficiently, ensuring that water services are reliable and reach everyone, and protecting all populations from water-related catastrophes.
The authors recommend using decentralized, participatory approaches to water and related agricultural issues, noting that leadership is important at all levels, and that responses should include dialogue with local communities and “whatever local government may exist on the ground.” They also call for investing in innovative policies and practices that can contribute to crop productivity and the efficiency of water use, including measures to promote the resilience of rain-fed agricultural systems, for example, through land conservation and reclamation. They urge transboundary cooperation, especially in view of the small size of many MENA countries and their shared water resources.
The authors make comparisons with water governance reforms implemented in Australia in response to the country’s water crisis, including the creation of a federal water department and legislation, establishment of an independent authority for the Murray-Darling Basin, investment in water science and water data, and independent oversight.
Overall, the report highlights that daily activities related to the use of water resources in growing food, generating rural employment, providing food for households and producing and selling food, generating rural incomes and employment, rebuilding household-level food security, supplying drinking water, and rebuilding social cohesion have great potential for stabilizing fragile conditions and promoting peace. [UN-Water Report Web Page] [World Bank Report Web Page]