Photo Credit: Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2 June 2016. Delegates on balcony at IPU. Roundtable on Middle East Water, IPU Committee on Middle East Questions (image source)


 

“The role of science and technology in projects of peace” was the focus of this historic meeting held in Geneva, 31 May to 2 June, 2016.

WaterLex General Manager Ms Amanda Loeffen and Scientific Officer Dr Florian Thevenon presented the expertise of WaterLex to the attendees. The roundtable participants, welcomed by IPU Secretary General Mr Martin Chungong and Committee President Ms Denise Pascal Allende, Member of the Chilean National Assembly, included members of the Committee from Belgium, France, Lesotho, Palestine, and the United Arab Emirates. The delegations included Members of Parliaments from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, and Palestine, as well as experts. The meeting was open to all parliaments in the Middle East to attend. Also presenting at the roundtable were Dr Maurizio Bona of CERN and Professor Herwig Schopper of the SESAME Council.

This roundtable on water was historic for two reasons. First and foremost, it was to create an environment of knowledge sharing to support a water-centric peace project in the Middle East in the hope of building regional, broad cooperation for improved water governance and security. Second, the roundtable’s focus on water fostered a constructive and positive atmosphere among the participants, and enhanced the discussions to further generate solutions that will be beneficial for the entire region.

The presentations of Ms Loeffen and Dr Thevenon described the role of WaterLex as a neutral actor to catalyse change in the region for improved water governance. Using WaterLex’s expertise in water legal and policy frameworks and water science, the roundtable outcome could support Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) implementation in the Middle East and showed that it is possible to cooperate on an issue as intractable as water. The delegates listened attentively as Ms Loeffen explained the concept of transitional legal frameworks as a possible tangible solution for enabling cooperation. Creating a dialogue around water is a priority for the upcoming October IPU General Assembly, to be held in Geneva.

WaterLex considers SDG 6 as integral to all of the SDGs. It recognises that environmental, social and economic realities vary from one country to another so innovative solutions are needed to secure improved water governance and access to safe drinking water. The roundtable delegates demonstrated a willingness to discuss the complexities of water access, shared technologies for securing water, and discussed how to make the limited “water pie” bigger using new technologies and cooperative models within the region.

Next steps

The IPU Secretary General, Martin Chungong, noted that this roundtable on water “united scientists and parliamentarians across the region,” and he added that cooperative models based on science and technology are possible to build peace. The participants formed a working group to discuss ideas and proposals for cooperation over the coming months. This will hopefully lead to practical follow-up actions to be presented at the IPU General Assembly. WaterLex looks forward to supporting the efforts of the IPU Committee on developing this innovative approach to regional water management in the Middle East.