1st Policy Advisory Committee of Blue Peace in the Middle East
The 1st Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) Meeting of Blue Peace in the Middle East was held online on June 3rd, 2021 under the chairmanship of HRH Prince of Jordan Hassan Bin Talal.
In addition to HRH Hassan Bin Talal, the meeting was attended by PAC and Managing Committee (MC) members of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, representatives of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and members of the Coordination Office (SUEN).
In the first session of the meeting, Mr. Andre Huber, Regional Head of Cooperation of SDC, delivered the first speech on SDC’s commitment on Blue Peace and expressed his pleasure to witness the results of years of commitment and strong individuals and institutions taking part in the initiative. He underlined that water scarcity risks in the region that may lead to humanitarian crises are too high to be borne by individuals and institutions and stressed the importance of regionally owned mechanisms such as the Blue Peace in the Middle East. SUEN gave a presentation on the overview of the new Blue Peace in the Middle East structure in place since 2019, the ongoing/planned activities undertaken by SUEN under the project on “agricultural water use efficiency” and the envisaged role of PAC within the new structure. The Inter-Islamic Network on Water Resources Development and Management (INWRDAM) introduced the White Paper on Water Diplomacy in the Middle East prepared in consultation with MC members to present the water and peace perspective in the region.
In the second session of the meeting, PAC members took the floor to intervene and comment on the current project, white paper and future of the initiative.
Mr. Kadhim Sahar Jaber, Director General at the Ministry of Water Resources of Iraq and PAC Member of Iraq, gave information of the duties of the State Commission for Dams and Reservoirs and expressed his appreciation for the organization of the meeting. He mentioned the current water scarcity experienced in their country and explained the works to address this issue.
Dr. Ghattas Khoury, Former Minister of Culture of Lebanon and PAC Member of Lebanon, noted that the political impasse in Lebanon is preventing to conserve the water resources the country possesses. He also highlighted the alarming issue of contamination of natural resources in Lebanon particularly through municipal and industrial sewage and shared his hopes that this issue will be regarded in the future works of the Blue Peace in the Middle East. Dr. Khoury, concluded his remarks by thanking HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal for hosting the meeting and conveyed his wishes to have the future PAC meeting face-to-face.
Dr. Doğan Altınbilek, former DG of Turkish State Hydraulic Works and PAC member of Turkey, indicated that the MENA region is the world's most water-scarce region and growing population, industrial development, urbanization and climate change put even more pressure on natural resources. He stated that water management affects energy politics, environment, public health, nature conservation and food security and for these reasons climate change should be addressed and water management systems should be adapted to new conditions. By emphasizing that agriculture consumes around 85 percent of water in the region, Dr. Altinbilek stated that it was wise that “agricultural water use efficiency” has been chosen as the first thematic area and it will be PAC members’ duty to convey the right messages to leaders and decision makers in their countries.
In his speech in the closing of the meeting, HRH Hassan Bin Talal first echoed the remarks of the former speakers on the significant contributions of Dr. Hasan Zuhuri Sarikaya, who passed away in January 2020 while serving as the first chair of Managing Committee, to the establishment and evolvement of the initiative. HRH further expressed that the Covid-19 pandemic shouldn’t derail the efforts towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation. HRH Bin Talal raised his concerns about food security considering the global population growth by also citing refugee influxes in this regard. HRH underscored the WEFE (Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems) concept as an umbrella minding social and ecosystem aspects basin-wide and raised the possibility to discuss a water and energy community for human dignity by referring to the foundations of the European Union as a coal association.