Watering War or Peace in the Middle East

March 29, 2013

There appears to be very little coordination and cooperation among countries of the Middle East over sharing or managing water resources that cross international boundaries. The people and countries who share the water have very little information about each other and about what is happening to the water that they share with others across borders.

We often talk about water as the cause of the next war in the Middle East. That could well be if the countries and people of the region continue as they are doing now: Water usage is not reasonable in most places, and fair use of this precious resource is not in the general culture of the people.

Last week, I attended a conference in Istanbul titled Blue Peace in the Middle East, aimed at preventing a water war. The event was organized by the Strategic Foresight Group, and gathered more than 100 politicians, experts and journalists to discuss the water crisis in the Middle East and ways of transforming the resource into an opportunity for a new form of peace. In this blue peace, countries with access to adequate, clean and sustainable water resources would not feel motivated to engage in a military conflict with neighbors over control.

In a report titled Blue Peace, the Strategic Foresight Group calls for a rethinking of water in the Middle East. It presents a roadmap for action, beginning with efficient internal management, storage and distribution. It also calls for: The establishment of a Cooperation Council for Water Resources for Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey; and a high-level Confidence Building Initiative between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

This vision could be achievable if the governments and people of the Middle East provide adequate information to citizens, helping them understand the reality of the water crisis and monitor decisions made by governments.

To achieve this, the Istanbul meeting proposed the establishment of a media network, that would unite the regional media, water experts and decision makers, helping them inform, educate and prevent conflicts from arising.

Currently, water is the last item of priorities for the people, media and politicians of these countries. The main reason is the lack of informed interest on the subject. The establishment of cooperation councils and water commissions of these countries would not mean much without a connected media network.

The media need to create the adequate space and programs to disseminate information, and the politicians need to start making water part of their politics and policies. Among citizens, everyone must start opening spaces for this very important topic, beginning with social media tools.

Water is the next item on everyone’s agenda in the Middle East.

Today’s actions will determine tomorrow’s war or peace.


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