In the years following its inception in 1994, EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) promoted cooperative relations between Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians over issues pertaining to the region’s shared environmental heritage and resources. These were optimistic times of the Peace Process, when and an end to the bloody Israeli-Arab conflict seemed near.
But the turn of the Millennium saw us entering into a period of great turmoil and uncertainty. By 1998, the belief that peace in the Middle East is indeed within reach had faded in the face of the Oslo Accords’ failure to stand up to peoples’ expectations. Being a regional organization in a region where the very term Peace Process has come to mean increased violence and preservation of the status quo – was becoming harder than ever.
In order to stay relevant EcoPeace/FoEME, a top-down advocacy organization at its inception, decided to complement this classic method of work with a bottom-up approach of community led activism that emphasizes dialogue, confidence building, and cooperation activities on cross border natural resources, particularly shared waters. Despite the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2001 we managed to convince funders that cooperative relations between Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian communities were possible, and the organization’s 'Good Water Neighbors’ (GWN) project was launched early that year, initially involving 11 communities – five Palestinian, five Israeli and one Jordanian.
The project was designed to raise awareness of the shared water problems of these communities, educate youth and harness both adult residents and municipal staff to the task of changing reality on the ground. Based on identifying cross-border communities and utilizing their mutual dependence on shared water resources as a basis for developing dialogue and cooperation on sustainable water management, the project today includes 28 communities (11 Palestinian, nine Israeli and eight Jordanian), who share the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, the Mountain and Coastal Aquifers, and various cross border streams.
By addressing issues of sanitation and conservation the GWN project thus constitutes the basis for our efforts to advance the rehabilitation of these declining natural resources. Another major goal is to help these communities in developing the social and economic potential that the rehabilitation of these shared waters hold, with a strong emphasis on opportunities for tourism.
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