Members of Parliament from the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine, have identified a series of historic first steps to tackle the critical issue of ensuring water supplies across the region.
In a unique three-day round-table meeting that ended today in Geneva at the headquarters of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the MPs focused on finding common solutions to a common problem – a water crisis which is predicted to worsen significantly across the Middle East over the coming decades.
The areas targeted for action include increasing the total volume of water available to the region, ensuring fair distribution and managing increasing demand. Research by the World Resources Institute suggests that by 2040, eight of the world's 10 most water-stressed nations will be in the Middle East.
The MPs defined a range of concrete proposals to ensure adequate supplies across the region, including the mapping of existing legislation on water governance to identify gaps and next steps; developing mandatory standards on water use; raising public awareness on responsible consumption; and enhancing levels of treating waste water.
The need to develop a transitional legal framework on water governance and to prioritize access to safe drinking water – Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals – was also identified. All the proposals will be presented to IPU’s membership at its October Assembly with recommendations on practical follow up action.
The round-table meeting, which concluded on 2 June, was the first of a planned series of events being organized by IPU through its Committee on Middle East Questions, to highlight the role of science and technology in fostering projects which help create an environment conducive to building peace. Open to all parliaments in the Middle East, the event was attended by MPs from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Palestine and the United Arab Emirates, as well as members of the IPU Committee.
"This meeting marks a major step forward in building regional co-operation to tackle the shared problem of water security. The significance of this threat, and of this joint approach to tackling it, cannot be overestimated," said Committee President Denise Pascal Allende. "It is a sensitive and complex issue, and to have held these talks in a constructive and positive atmosphere demonstrates a willingness on all sides to find solutions that will promote peaceful co-existence."
The MPs heard evidence from development organization WaterLex, which specializes in water policy and governance, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and technology specialists Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME), a Jordan-based laboratory which brings together scientists from across the region.
“IPU has a long-standing commitment to build trust, dialogue and peace in the Middle East. This meeting demonstrated that it is possible for people with divergent views to cooperate on an intractable issue such as water,” said IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong. “We have managed this week to unite scientists and parliamentarians across the region. The scientific community has shown us that models for co-operation that build peace do exist and that what needs to be achieved on this issue is not a pipe dream.”
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organization of national parliaments. It works to safeguard peace and drives positive democratic change through political dialogue and concrete action.
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