Blue Peace Middle East attends Baghdad International Water Conference

Blue Peace Middle East attends Baghdad International Water Conference

Blue Peace Middle East attended the Baghdad International Water Conference this week to promote its vision of advancing sustainable development in the Middle East through closer cooperation over water, energy, food and ecosystems.

A delegation of members from Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Türkiye represented the Blue Peace ME Regional Mechanism and the Water Diplomacy Center at the 3rd Baghdad International Water Conference (BIWC) from 6-8 May to promote the initiative and its activities in the domain of policy dialogue, water diplomacy, research and education.

Blue Peace Middle East is the first initiative of its kind in the Middle East. The regionally owned dialogue platform, with members from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Türkiye, was established in 2010. It uses dialogue, capacity building, and concrete action to realize its vision of using the power of water to build a peaceful future for the region. Switzerland, through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), supported the initiative since the beginning.

During his opening remarks at the conference, Mr Vincent Pasquier, the Deputy Head of the Middle East and North Africa Department at the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, highlighted the importance of regional cooperation for sustainable development and the role that Blue Peace Middle East could play in fostering dialogue and exchange.

The Chair of the Blue Peace ME Managing Committee Maysoon Al-Zoubi said the conference was an important opportunity for Blue Peace ME initiative. “We were happy to exchange views with government representatives from the region,” she said. “There is clearly an appetite to start changing the way we manage our water.”

 During a special joint session with the Water Diplomacy Center (Jordan), Blue Peace members, Prof. Bülent İnanç (Türkiye), H.E. Dr. Jihad al Mahamid (Jordan), and H.E. Eng. Hussain Abdalamer Al Zubedi (Iraq), presented their perspective on national challenges and possible areas of cooperation around water in the region.

Eng. Maysoon Al-Zoubi provided further analysis of opportunities for regional cooperation, through the creation of more dialogue platforms, the implementation of concrete Water-Energy-Food-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus actions, awareness-raising and capacity building.

Prof. Majed Abu-Zreig, the director of the Water Diplomacy Center, gave an overview of the research and capacity-building activities at WDC. Finally, Prof. Mark Zeitoun from the Geneva Water Hub (GWH) spoke about the added value of the Blue Peace ME initiative for the region.

Speaking after the session, Eng. Al-Zoubi said she had noticed a shift in how regional stakeholders spoke and thought about water. “We don’t focus allocation of water shares anymore,” she said. “Instead we are discussing how to share the challenges this region faces. Climate change affects all countries in the region and we can all benefit from working together to address it.”

 Enhancing regional dialogue

On the second day of the conference, the Water Diplomacy Center held a panel on “Enhancing Regional Dialogue through Water Diplomacy and Research” in cooperation with the Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation (CMI) and the Iraqi NGO Apsu.

During this session, Eng. Al-Zoubi, gave an overview of the new phase of Blue Peace ME and the planned activities around policy dialogue and trust building, research and knowledge exchange, and the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem (WEFE) Nexus, with focus on youth engagement.

Mr. Nashwan Dhahir, the country director for CEWAS Iraq, discussed media work with Blue Peace Middle East, highlighting the importance of developing a new narrative that promotes cooperation for a sustainable future in the Middle East.

Prof. Bülent Inanç spoke about the “Improving Agricultural Water Use Efficiency in the Middle East” project that was implemented by the Turkish Water Institute (SUEN) during the previous phase of Blue Peace ME between 2019 and 2022. He said low water use efficiency in agriculture was an issue across the region and that the SUEN project had shown how closer cooperation and knowledge exchange could deliver benefits for all stakeholders.

Dr Ana Cascao of CMI discussed lessons learned from flood and drought management in the Nile Basin and reflected on how these might be applied to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. Dr Mara Tignino of Geneva Water Hub spoke about the principles of transboundary river agreements.

Switzerland, through its Embassy to Jordan and Iraq, as well as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, provided essential support to the Blue Peace ME sessions at BIWC this year.

For further information, please contact the Blue Peace ME Coordination Office:

Dr Francesca de Châtel, acting Head of CO: