The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), one of the regional bodies of the UN, said Western Asia is facing a dangerous strategic challenge in relation to the water situation given that the origin of most water in the region lies outside it. This statement came in an UNESCWA statement on the occasion of World Water Day, 22 March 2006.
The statement said the UNESCWA region suffers one of the most severe cases of water scarcity, rendering it vulnerable to pressures and challenges in the form of systematically shrinking aquifers and poorer water quality in many countries in the region. This comes as a result of equally polluted surface waters and aquifers and rising population density in many of these countries, thereby negatively impacting the amount of available, usable water.
The statement also said that countries in the region have made great efforts to find solutions to the challenge of scarce water resources in the last few years. All these efforts lacked, however, the factors of integration and popular participation so they were doomed to fail or be hard to implement. To boost awareness of and benefit from its efforts in the region, UNESCWA is concentrating on the application of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) principles from a comprehensive standpoint not a narrow sectoral one to ensure the successful development and management of water and lands with other related natural resources in order to achieve even-handed social and economic well-being without sacrificing principle ecological systems. To this end, UNESCWA prepared a long-term multi-part program.
One of the parts of this program includes providing technical assistance and support to member countries to develop and apply IWRM principles. Hence, it has provided guidelines on these principles since 2002; made an assessment of IWRM policies; and helped member countries prepare IWRM plans in 2004 and 2005. UNESCWA is also assisting these countries at present in its 2006-2007 work programme by working toward the institutional and legislative development needed to execute IWRM plans on the local and national levels.
Another part of the program is capacity-building in UNESCWA member countries to adopt and apply IWRM. UNESCWA drew up a guiding brochure that covers the technical, social, economic, institutional and legislative aspects. It is also preparing two training manuals for Arab parliamentarians and media in cooperation with regional and international organizations with the aim of explaining the role of these two groups in implementing IWRM principles. UNESCWA also organized workshops in Kuwait and Beirut between May and October 2005 and prepared a study on the role of rural women in water resources management.