STOCKHOLM: In its latest bid to minimize conflict over transboundary water resources in the Middle East, Blue Peace has embarked on a new venture to promote cooperation and efficient water management across the region.
The Istanbul-based Turkish Water Institute (SUEN) was chosen on August 31 to serve as the coordination office of the Blue Peace Initiative and will host the project’s coordination office starting January 1, 2019, until the end of 2020.
The Blue Peace Initiative was first launched in 2009 by the India-based think tank, Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) and supported by both the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
The new project will focus on increased cooperation between water experts and decision makers from Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Iran, who recently joined the initiative, with the aim of minimizing squabbles over water resources in the region.
As well as organizing conferences and workshops, issuing reports and recommendations, it also included expeditions for Blue Peace community members to Transboundary Rivers like The Rhine, The Mekong, and The Nile to gather insight from successful cooperation experiences in these shared basins.
Swiss Ambassador to Sweden Christian Schoenenberger praised the effort of the Blue peace community in trying to bolster cooperation between regional players while maintaining that his country is willing to support studies that promotes Trans boundary water infrastructure.
SFG President Sundeep Waslekar, on the other hand, welcomed the move to transfer the operational steering wheel to SUEN while expressing hope in “the spirit of cooperation prevailing as is it did in 2010,” when turkey agreed to set up a free trade zone with three of its Arab neighbors, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan.
The new establishment would include a Coordination Office, Thematic Activity Centers, Managing Committee and also a Policy Advisory Committee.
The body’s first key area of focus will be “efficient water use in agriculture” as agreed upon by the Blue Peace members in the February 26 meeting in Istanbul.
Given that 80 percent of water in the Middle East goes towards agriculture purposes, making it essential for food security, there is an emphasis on improving irrigation and therefore reducing waste while increasing conservation in other areas.
Danilo Turk, the former president of Slovenia, argued that regional actors should take on leading role in finding solutions to their water problems, arguing that it’s only logical to move the center to Turkey.
Touching on Turkey’s ability, the former president argued that Ankara is in the best position to take on the role “having enjoyed peace for a long time.”
“I’m not underestimating the water conflicts between Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran but I am hopeful that this would bring increased cooperation in solving these problems.”