Fourth meeting of the High-Level Joint Water-Agriculture Technical Committee - ESCWA
18 October 2022
9:00–17:00

Beirut time

Conference

Fourth meeting of the High-Level Joint Water-Agriculture Technical Committee

Participants
Location
  • Cairo, Egypt
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The High-Level Joint Water-Agriculture Technical Committee (HLJTC), the technical arm of the Joint Water-Agriculture Ministerial Council of the League of Arab States, is organizing its fourth meeting with support from ESCWA and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa. The meeting is taking place on the sidelines of the 2022 Cairo Water Week.  

The objectives of the fourth HLJTC meeting are:

  • Reviewing progress made towards piloting the guidelines on improved allocation of water resources for agriculture with a focus on countries that expressed interest in applying the guidelines
  • Providing and discussing proposals to implement the Joint Ministerial Council resolution on the action plan to operationalize the Cairo Declaration
  • Reviewing progress on a report on the status, challenges and future of non-conventional water 
  • Discussing additional water-agriculture cross-cutting issues to be addressed in preparation for the 2023 HLJTC meeting

The meeting brings together senior officials from the ministries of water and agriculture sectors in Arab countries, representatives of international and regional organizations, led by FAO and ESCWA, and relevant experts.

Outcome document

  • Item One: Implementation of the Cairo Declaration Action Plan
  1. Take note of the timetable prepared by the Technical Secretariat and partners to implement the Cairo Declaration 2023 Action Plan, and assigning the Technical Secretariat, in coordination with partners, to set priorities for implementation during the year 2023, and to submit a report to the next meeting on implementation.
  2. Adoption of the agreed priorities to be implemented during 2023
  • Item Two: Use of Non-Conventional Water Resources in Agriculture
  1. Invite Arab countries to provide the Joint Technical Secretariat with its comments on the draft report no later than 20/11/2022 and assigning FAO to complete the report in the light of the observations and submit it to the next meeting of the committee.
  2. Take note of the report prepared by the International Water Management Institute on wastewater reuse and calling on Arab countries to benefit from the report's recommendations in reusing their water.
  3. FAO and ESCWA, in cooperation with the Joint Technical Secretariat, to prepare a paper on the status of brackish water in the Arab region, methods of treatment and its uses in the Arab world.
  4. FAO and ESCWA to prepare a report on the sludge resulting from water treatment, and to explore ways to safely reuse it
  • Item Three: Voluntary Application of the Guidelines for Allocating Water for Agriculture:
  1. FAO and ESCWA to continue supporting these countries in preparing and implementing action plans.
  2. Invite implementing countries to prepare reports on the progress of implementing the executive action plans and send them to the Technical Secretariat before the next meeting of the Joint Arab Ministerial Council to be held during the month of October 2023.
  3. Invite FAO and ESCWA to explore resource mobilization opportunities to expand the piloting of the guidelines on water allocation for agriculture in other countries wishing to do so
  4. Welcome the Qatari request to implement the guiding principles, and request the technical secretariat and partners to begin the steps of voluntary application, and request Qatar to establish a national team from the concerned authorities
  5. Request Arab countries to list all the activities and programs they carry out in the field of water allocation at the national level and those they implement in cooperation with other regional and international organizations, and to provide them to the Technical Secretariat to ensure consistency and avoid duplication of implementation.
  6. Take note of the proposal of the Lebanese Republic to establish a platform for the exchange of information, expertise and experiences on water allocation for agriculture, and requesting it to submit an explanatory memorandum on the subject, taking into account the decisions of the League of Arab States on establishing new mechanisms within its system.
  • Item Four: Addressing Data gaps in the fields of water and agriculture by applying spatial information (remote sensing and geographical data)
  1. Arab countries to benefit from the experiences of development partners and specialized organizations to build and develop national capacities on modern technology in the field of remote sensing and geographic information systems to overcome the challenge of lack of data to support decision-making and find solutions to challenges related to the water and agricultural sectors, such as water productivity and water resource management, and productivity of crops and land and develop effective policies So.
  2. Arab countries to take advantage of remote sensing and big spatial data platforms, such as the WaPOR portal, and use the available cloud computing platforms to make analyzes that support decision-making, such as those for monitoring agricultural water budgets, water productivity, water resource management, and forecasting droughts, monitoring vegetation cover, crop and land productivity.
  3. Arab countries to take advantage of the data portal of RICCAR Regional Knowledge Center and use the available data to assess the impact of climate change on the water and agricultural sectors and implement climate change adaptation and mitigation programs at the national and regional levels.
  4. Arab countries to take advantage of training opportunities offered by the projects implemented by the FAO, ESCWA and regional organizations on the use of spatial (RICCAR) outputs to assess the impact of climate change on the available water and the productivity of agricultural crops in the Arab region.

Progress made in implementing the decisions of the second meeting of the Joint Arab Ministerial Council for Water and Agriculture was presented briefly. Discussion followed on the methodology followed and the definition of water allocation.

The participants were also briefed on the process to be followed to implement the guidelines, which depends on understanding water uses in the country, using scientific and technical tools to understand and prioritize water allocation challenges, and means of communication and engagement with a broader group of stakeholders. The criteria for selecting the experimental areas were also reviewed.

National teams that apply the guidelines for allocating water for agriculture on a voluntary basis presented the progress made in preparing action plans.

The Joint Technical Secretariat presented a timetable for implementing the Action plan prepared in cooperation with ESCWA. The first phase, with a duration of (2-3 years), focuses on creating an enabling environment by establishing: coordination mechanisms, a culture of partnership between the water and agriculture sectors, building capacity in the field of integrated management of the two sectors and the development of integrative policies and legislation.

After ensuring the availability of the enabling environment, the first phase will be completed by implementing joint projects at national levels, including:

1. Develop programs for optimizing management of water and agriculture,

2. Agricultural entrepreneurship,

3. Development and adoption of agricultural techniques,

4. Infrastructure rehabilitation,

5. Raising the social protection and resilience levels,

These programs will be subject to review and updating towards the end of the first phase, approximately three years.

FAO consultant presented a working paper on desalination. It included information about the available technologies and the status of water desalination in the Arab region and its legal, political, economic, environmental, and cognitive dimensions; In addition to the opportunities available to expand the use of this technology.

A working paper prepared by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the reuse of treated water was also presented. This paper prepared through the “rewater” project, in cooperation with FAO, included a summary of policies in this field based on the project’s outputs. It also included additional information on the multi-barrier approach to risk reduction adopted in the WHO Handbook on the Safe Use of Wastewater.

A presentation on “spatial information and data” was included as information and data are of importance and are basis for formulating effective policies to address problems and lay the foundations for sustainable development in the agriculture and water sectors in the Arab region. Data gaps are however one of the main challenges facing most Arab countries.

Another presentation was made on the prospects and challenges of using the latest technology in the field of spatial information (remote sensing and geographical data) and its applications to overcome the challenge of data gaps to support decision-making and achieve sustainable development goals in the fields of water and agriculture. Another presentation highlighted the use of the outputs of (Riccar) the spatial assessment of the impact of climate change on the available water and the productivity of agricultural crops in the Arab region.

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