Fostering Regional Cooperation: Blue Peace ME at the 4th Baghdad International Water Conference

Fostering Regional Cooperation: Blue Peace ME at the 4th Baghdad International Water Conference

Blue Peace Middle East attended the 4th Baghdad International Water Conference from 27-29 April to promote its vision and activities in policy dialogue, water diplomacy, research and education. A delegation of members from Jordan, Iraq, Türkiye and Iran represented the Blue Peace ME at the conference.

Blue Peace ME stands as a pioneering initiative in the Middle East, serving as a regionally owned dialogue platform established in 2010. Comprising members from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Türkiye, it employs dialogue, capacity building, and concrete actions to achieve its vision of using the power of water to build a peaceful future for the region. Since its inception, the initiative has received steadfast support from Switzerland, facilitated through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

On April 28, 2024, Blue Peace ME presented an insightful technical session on “Transboundary Cooperation for Water, Peace and Resilience: Insights from the Middle East.” In this session, our delegation presented the findings of the Blue Peace ME Water Footprint Assessment, fostering a shared understanding of regional water challenges and opportunities for enhanced water use, efficiency and allocation in the region.

During his opening remarks at the technical session, H.E. Eng. Hussain Abdalamer Al Zubedi, the Technical Undersecretary at the Ministry of Water Resources of Iraq and Blue Peace ME Policy Advisory Committee member, introduced the initiative to the attendees and highlighted the role that Blue Peace ME could play in fostering a shared and deepened understanding of regional water challenges and opportunities to enhance efficient water use in the region.

Then, the Regional Water Cooperation Advisor at the Embassy of Switzerland - SDC office, Eng. Mufleh Al Alaween Abbadi, highlighted the role of SDC in supporting the Blue Peace Middle East initiative to promote water cooperation over shared water resources among all relevant users and decision-makers through water diplomacy.

Dr Mohammadreza Shahbazbegian (Iran) highlighted the Water Footprint Study that delves into the comprehensive assessment of total water consumption and pollution across various sectors, shedding light on the susceptibility to drought and water scarcity.

During the panel discussion, H. E. Eng. Hussain Abdalamer Al Zubedi, Dr Majed Abu-Zrieg (Jordan) and Blue Peace ME Managing Committee members, Dr Hakam Al Alami (Jordan) and Prof. Bülent İnanç (Türkiye), reflected on the implications of the study's findings, considering the urgent need for diversified water sources and enhanced resilience against external shocks.

Dr Abu-Zrieg, the director of the Water Diplomacy Center, highlighted the critical importance of capacity building in advancing sustainable water and land management practices. Concerted joint efforts are essential to implement effective educational and technical programs across the region.

In efforts to strengthen cooperation on transboundary water resources, H.E. Mr Al Zubedi highlighted the significance of the latest Memorandum of Understanding between Iraq and Türkiye, which aims to forge a new vision for water infrastructure investments. By adopting a vision focused on fair and equitable allocation of transboundary water, the agreement seeks to enhance cooperation and sustainability in managing shared water resources between the two nations.

Furthermore, Dr Al Alami explored innovative approaches to foster regional collaboration in water-saving technologies and practices, address common water challenges more effectively, and contribute to sustainable water management and resilience in the region. Finally, Prof. Inanç emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts in implementing water-saving technologies and practices in agriculture, which is the largest consumer of water in the region.

The panelists suggested key solutions to address water scarcity in the Middle East, emphasizing the importance of integrated water resource management and collaborative efforts to mitigate water scarcity challenges in the region.

The Imperative of Transboundary Cooperation

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region grapples with unprecedented water scarcity, impacting various aspects of life including socio-economic development, environmental health, and political stability. With 19 out of the 22 Arab States falling under the freshwater scarcity threshold, collaborative solutions are urgently needed to ensure water security and sustainable development.

Recognizing this imperative, Blue Peace ME co-organized a high-level session, with UNECE – water convention, at the 4th Baghdad International Water Conference to raise awareness about the benefits of hydro-diplomacy and transboundary water cooperation. Through discussions on hydro-diplomacy instruments, participants gained valuable insights into leveraging such cooperation for sustainable socio-economic development and addressing current and emerging challenges.

"We feel that the Middle East is a crucial region when it comes to water management and cooperation. This is why we have been engaged with the Blue Peace initiative for more than ten years," says H.E. Emilija Georgieva, the Ambassador of Switzerland to Jordan and Iraq. "It is really interesting what has been achieved thanks to the huge efforts of all countries in the region.”

Transboundary water cooperation stands as a key strategy to enhance climate resilience, water efficiency, ecosystem benefits, and socio-economic stability in the region, highlighting hydro-diplomacy as a crucial pathway for transformative change in the region.