17 November 2021

Beirut time

Event series

Water scarcity: a challenge to sustainable development

  • Hybrid Event (League of Arab States and Virtual)
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To raise awareness on the challenges of water scarcity and to call for action, ESCWA, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the League of Arab States, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, the International Water Management Institute, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Oxfam, is organizing a high-level meeting entitled "Water scarcity: a challenge to sustainable development in the Arab region".

The water scarcity challenge in the Arab region poses a serious threat to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the capacity to uphold the basic human rights of access to water and sanitation. The multi-dimensional challenge must be met with a coordinated and multi-sectoral response. Actions are required at all levels of society and governance.

This one-day meeting will be organized within the thirteenth session of the Arab Ministerial Water Council, scheduled for 14 to 18 November 2021, and will include four technical panel sessions, each convened by a lead agency. ESCWA is the lead convener of the first technical session on the economic impacts of water scarcity. A background paper has been prepared on this subject and can be downloaded below. The meeting aims to promote dialogue on advances and innovations between decision makers, development partners, donors, civil society and scientists. Inclusive, multi-sectoral output messages are to be developed that will feed into intergovernmental high-level processes relating to water scarcity and sustainable development.

Outcome document

Participants in the high level  meeting held on 17th November, 2021 at the League of Arab States premises, representing ministers, executive government officials and members of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee of the Arab Water Ministerial Council, development partners, donors, civil society, academic and research agencies and representatives of international organizations and institutions, discussed water scarcity as a challenge to sustainable development in the Arab region through four technical sessions. Below are the joint key messages and recommendations arising from all sessions:

Joint recommendations from all sessions

  • Support capacity building, in particular training programs, with emphasis on new technologies and climate resilient planning.
  • Develop specialized websites and platforms, research centers, such as the Center for Water Economics, with support from Arab and international donors on the various aspects of water scarcity.
  • Plan and promote senior technical meetings periodically as they bring together political decision makers with technical experts.
  • Disseminate and translate regional and international studies on climate change. 
  • Lead agencies, organizers and the General Secretariat of the Arab Ministerial Water Council should coordinate follow-up by holding a meeting in the first quarter of next year (2022) to conceptualize mechanisms needed for implementation of the key messages and recommendations of the high-level meeting and report accordingly to the next session of the Council.

The first technical session was led by ESCWA and discussed the technical paper on the Economic Impacts of Water Scarcity in the Arab region. In this discussion, the most important measures that can be taken to enhance affordability of the Arab region’s high water investment costs were emphasized as well as the need to balance the cost and volume of large investments in infrastructure whether by private sector or governments. The importance of creating an enabling environment and increasing finance to ensure water and sustainable water development goals particularly innovative private sector financing linked to climate change adaptation were also highlighted.

This session was led by FAO in collaboration with IWMI and addressed the challenges and opportunities for the use of non-conventional water resources in the region. The discussion highlighted the importance of including promotion of production and use of non-conventional water in public policies and linking it to public health and food production. The role of governments in increasing non-conventional water resources through the expansion of wastewater and drainage water treatment and reuse through new methods and techniques that take advantage of the rapid technological development and innovation in water-related areas were also debated.    

This session was led by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and built on the intersection of two topics of great relevance to the Arab region, namely the management of scarce water resources and protracted armed conflicts. The need to protect essential services from the impact of armed conflict was identified as a growing challenged for water supply and sanitation (WSS) service providers. Discussants identified key areas on which humanitarian and development actor need to work together on to strengthen the resilience of essential services before and during protracted armed conflict notably the areas that are vital to ensure the subsistence of the civilian population, including water, wastewater, and electricity.

This session was led by UNICEF in collaboration with Oxfam and emphasized the need to preserve individuals basic human right of access to water and sanitation services.  Discussants in this session highlighted the importance of establishing a high-level coordination groups, to coordinate a multi-sectoral response between ministries and institutions concerned with water scarcity, with the aim of coordinating policies, unifying objectives, increasing technical capacity, and developing efficient water management plans. This will require increased prevention and adaptation to the effects of climate change while also involving communities and stakeholders with rights-based and transformative gender approaches to raise awareness of water scarcity and its challenges.  

Initiatives: Water Action Decade

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