Improving Regional Cooperation on Water: Meeting Report of the Third Session of the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention and Human Security

Dragan Stojanovski

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Climate change, economic development and population growth are changing perceptions of water and raising awareness of the growing stresses placed on the world’s freshwater resources. The limited availability of water is particularly acute in regions such as the Middle East where demand already outweighs supply and neighboring states must share their main freshwater resources. Competition over dwindling and ill-managed water resources will likely increase, potentially threatening food security, health, economic development and peace in a region already struggling with ongoing conflict.

There is an urgent need for political action in the Middle East and other regions – including much of Africa and Asia – to address the potential for conflict over water and to foster a process of cooperation among co-riparian states. Policymakers often acknowledge in principle the importance of water for regional security. However, the recent EastWest Institute policy series has shown that there is still insufficient coordination in the management of shared water resources.

To address these concerns, the EastWest Institute’s Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention and Human Security issued the Amman Declaration on Improving Regional Cooperation on Water (page 11). The declaration outlines a set of principles for parliamentarians that are necessary to overcome major challenges to cooperation on water across national borders. It was developed by members of parliament, government officials, academics, and civil society representatives from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. The Parliamentarians Network issued the declaration at their third international session in Amman, held under the patronage of Jordan’s Prince Hassan El bin Talal and in cooperation with the Royal Scientific Society.

The following report outlines in detail key points of discussion at the meeting. In brief, its recommendations include:

  1. Address co-riparian equity, a critical step to ensure the peaceful cooperation of all states and broad acceptance of agreements by upstream and downstream populations;
  2. Emphasize efficient and sustainable use of water resources to better manage water supplies threatened by climate change, overuse and pollution, particularly in densely populated areas already at risk of conflict;
  3. Build capacity and invest in water-management technology to ensure local ownership and management of shared water supplies;
  4. Manage agricultural development with limited water resources to meet rising food and nutritional demands of growing populations;
  5. Share data in a transparent manner to provide entry points for policymakers and experts to build trust and make informed legislative decisions;
  6. Build political will among policy makers and in their constituencies to foster dialogue and shape legislation towards efficient, sustainable and equitable water management.