We need to “Wake-up” and realise that groundwater is being over-used and depleted”, says Charafat Afailal, former Minister in charge of water in Morocco.

In the conclusion of the plenary, Amanda Loeffen summarised that the achievement of all the SDGs, and not just numbers 6 and 2 on water and food, especially in water scarce and fragile systems, is highly dependent on good governance.  There is a need for more sustainable water management, efficiency, and distribution amongst sectors, but the way to realise this outcome is not straightforward: It seems that there is no “One Size Fits All” solution.

The SDGs offer an opportunity to bring together the nexus-driven approach concerning water, food and land”, as introduced by the keynote speaker, His Excellency Mahmoud Abu-Zeid, President of the Arab Water Council (AWC).

The achievement of SDGs is entirely aligned with economic values such as poverty eradication and inter-related with other SDGs in the environmental and social spheres. The concentrated international coordination and political commitment at national level to achieve the SDGs should be harnessed to continue the momentum.

 “Cross-sectoral collaboration is crucial, not just cross sector, but across stakeholders”, according to Mr Bakhodir Mirzaev, from the Islamic Development Bank.

It helps integrate sustainable land management into political decision making, planning and financing. No one policy can sufficiently address the complexities of land and water management, so coordination is imperative between a multitude of sectors – water, transport, energy, agriculture. We need to start at the local level. The technical sessions have suggested that we do a good job of cross -sectoral collaboration at local levels, but this has not yet been lifted to the national level and integrated into regulatory frameworks. This is especially true at times of crises.

Addressing institutional and policy obstacles supports choices of decision makers to adopt good agricultural practices – we need clear-cut laws and regulations. Most NENA countries have enhanced legal and policy frameworks over the years with decentralisation, basin-wide management planning and improved coordination of decision making and stakeholder participation.

Ambassador Hassan Janabi (former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Iraq) spoke about the situation in his country where there are “5000-year old traditions built into the social fabric, so new laws take time to implement“.

Jean-Marc Faures, Regional Manager, FAO, introduced the need for recognition of both land and water tenure in order to progress the understanding of good governance that is aligned with the SDGs.

Governance is the framework of rules that influence land and water use and management, and tenure recognises the rights of individuals and groups, defined by formal and customary law, and is a sub-set of the former. It is the uncertainty over land and water governance that can ignite competition over scarce supplies.

His Excellency Boubaker Karray, Directeur de Cabinet, Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fishery, Tunisia, considered that

“Rational behaviour is needed to connect mechanisms and laws to land use and energy security, and simple solutions are needed”.

And finally, it was brought out in the discussions that Gender and inclusiveness need to be institutionalised into the systems that are in place. There have been a number of examples this week where results have improved through the engagement of women in the decision-making processes. SDG 5 on gender should be included in all governance developments.

As summarised by Amanda, it is therefore our collective duty, especially given the fragile environments in the NENA, to develop institutional reform to:

  • Address efficiency and accountability
  • Strengthen regulations around groundwater and other water resources
  • Adopt participatory approaches, including an institutionalised role for women
  • Improve investment processes to support these programmes.

We have the political will and the opportunity now, and within the scope of the 2030 Agenda, to achieve this!

Click here to download the background paper prepared for the Plenary Session on Land and Water Governance

or here for the executive summary.