“Wa­ter short­ages have ag­gra­vated the re­gion’s refugee cri­sis (it­self the apotheo­sis of poor gov­er­nance)”

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

This year’s World Wa­ter Day, on March 22, pro­vided an op­por­tu­nity to high­light what in many coun­tries has be­come a grim re­al­ity: The avail­abil­ity of fresh wa­ter is in­creas­ingly a defin­ing strate­gic fac­tor in re­gional and global affairs. Un­less wa­ter re­sources are man­aged with ex­tra­or­di­nary care, the con­se­quences could be dev­as­tat­ing.

Last year, the United Na­tions World Wa­ter De­vel­op­ment Re­port once again high­lighted how the grow­ing gap be­tween sup­ply and de­mand could cre­ate con­flict. The World Eco­nomic Fo­rum has ranked wa­ter crises as the most wor­ry­ing global threat, more dan­ger­ous than ter­ror­ist at­tacks or fi­nan­cial melt­downs, and more likely to oc­cur than the use of weapons of mass de­struc­tion. And re­search by the Strate­gic Fore­sight Group has shown the im­por­tance of wise man­age­ment: Coun­tries en­gaged in the joint ste­ward­ship of wa­ter re­sources are ex­ceed­ingly un­likely to go to war.

The Middle East serves as a tragic ex­am­ple of what can hap­pen when re­gional co­op­er­a­tion is lack­ing. Iraq, Syria, and Turkey have fought over ev­ery cu­bic me­ter of the Ti­gris and Euphrates rivers. All have lost as a re­sult. Non-state ac­tors con­trol im­por­tant parts of the two river basins. And wa­ter short­ages have ag­gra­vated the re­gion’s refugee cri­sis (it­self the apotheo­sis of poor gov­er­nance).

The bitterest part of the tragedy is that it could have been avoided. In 2010, at the West Asia-North Africa Fo­rum in Am­man, we pro­posed the cre­ation of “cir­cles of co­op­er­a­tion,” which would have in­sti­tu­tion­alised col­lab­o­ra­tion among Iraq, Jor­dan, Le­banon, Syria, and Turkey on wa­ter and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. A sim­i­lar ar­range­ment would have helped man­age en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sources shared by Jor­dan, Is­rael, and Pales­tine.

If a supra­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion had been cre­ated, it could have in­tro­duced joint strate­gies to man­age drought, co­or­di­nate crop pat­terns, de­velop com­mon stan­dards to mon­i­tor river flows, and im­ple­ment in­vest­ment plans to cre­ate liveli­hoods and de­velop wa­ter-treat­ment tech­nolo­gies.

Other re­gions have done ex­actly that. Coun­tries shar­ing rivers in Africa, South­east Asia, and Latin Amer­ica have recog­nised that na­tional in­ter­ests and re­gional sta­bil­ity can be mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing if hu­man needs are given pri­or­ity over chau­vin­ism.

Last fall, the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity adopted the UN’s Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, which prom­ise to “en­sure avail­abil­ity and sus­tain­able man­age­ment of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion for all.” Part of this pledge is a com­mit­ment to “ex­pand in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.”

Those in charge of im­ple­ment­ing this com­mit­ment must bear in mind that wa­ter co­op­er­a­tion is not merely about sign­ing treaties and hold­ing meet­ings. It also en­tails jointly plan­ning in­fra­struc­ture projects, man­ag­ing floods and droughts, de­vel­op­ing an in­te­grated strat­egy to com­bat cli­mate change, en­sur­ing the qual­ity of wa­ter cour­ses, and hold­ing reg­u­lar sum­mits to ne­go­ti­ate trade­offs be­tween wa­ter and other pub­lic goods.

The Wa­ter Co­op­er­a­tion Quo­tient, a mea­sure of col­lab­o­ra­tion cre­ated by the Strate­gic Fore­sight Group, can help coun­tries shar­ing river basins and lakes mon­i­tor the in­ten­sity of their co­op­er­a­tion. Out of 263 shared river basins, only a quar­ter ben­e­fit from prop­erly func­tion­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive or­gan­i­sa­tions. It is cru­cial that such or­ga­ni­za­tions be

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.