The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Bank predict that water scarcity, induced by climate change, will potentially reduce GDP of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by 6 to 14% by 2050, if nothing is done to address this. In the report, the agencies highlight water and agriculture as key to conflict recovery, stabilization and peace building in the region currently experiencing armed conflicts and large refugee movements.
The report titled, ‘Water Management in Fragile Systems: Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises in MENA,’ warns against becoming trapped in a “vicious cycle” in which poor water management exacerbates social tensions. The report notes that environmental and water-related challenges act as risk multipliers because of their close connections to food security and livelihoods. The authors observe that “fragility has become the reality” in the region, as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Libya are experiencing ongoing armed conflicts, while Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Djibouti host large numbers of refugees.
The joint report recommends measures for post-conflict recovery through water and agriculture, for example, by improving drinking water supplies and sanitation, and working closely with water user associations and small-scale agricultural producers to improve the productivity of farming activities. The report draws lessons from the decade-long Australian water system reforms, which sought to return all water systems to sustainable levels of extraction, manage groundwater sustainably, and allow sufficient water for ecosystems. It notes that some of the measures adopted in the Australian context brought in improvements to water allocation through providing secure water entitlements for irrigators, allowing trading of water rights, and introducing water pricing based on economics.
The agencies propose that countries of the MENA region take a long-term approach to water management, adopt decentralized, participatory approaches, invest in innovative policies and practices, and work across boundaries. They conclude that “with the right support,” MENA countries can undertake consultation processes, based on their existing traditions of discussion and consensus building, to establish a new water agenda in the region.
A joint FAO and World Bank team led by Pasquale Steduto (FAO) and Anders Jägerskog (World Bank) prepared this paper. The team included Christopher Ward (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, consultant) from FAO, and Edoardo Borgomeo and Sandra Ruckstuhl from the World Bank.
Read the study here.
[This description was extracted from iisd.org]