Egypt has no choice but to accept negotiations on the Nile River Basin

 

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MAY

“When two brothers cry, we have to listen and try to find a solution that fits both of them”, an approach Nile Basin initiative (NBI) is doing its best to enhance, as Dr. John Rao Nyaoro, Executive Director of the Nile Basin Initiative pointed out ,in an attempt to reduce increased tension mainly between Egypt , Sudan and Ethiopia on the construction of the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam, and figure out a win-win solution to Nile riparian countries, “otherwise we have to create another Nile River to meet states needs”.

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                                                                                                                       Mey Al Sayegh-Bujagal Dam- UGANDA 

The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) began its work in 1999, and its main objectives to develop the Nile Basin water resources in a sustainable and equitable way, and ensure cooperation between riparian countries, and target poverty eradication and promote economic integration. Besides Egypt,

Nile Basin countries include Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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The decision and policy-making body of NBI is the Nile Council of Ministers, comprised of Ministers in charge of Water Affairs in each NBI Member State, supported by the Nile Technical Advisory Committee.

However, the incomplete participation of Egypt is an issue affecting the spirit of the Nile cooperation. So far, Egypt continues to have reservations over “The Cooperative Framework Agreement” (CFA) which included none of its historical rights, that was guaranteed by 1929, agreement with Great Britain regarding the utilization of the waters of the Nile River, and the dispute on water security between upstream and downstream countries, and mainly Article 14 blocks any progress.  As a result, Egypt and Sudan froze their membership in 2012, while Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania signed the agreement, but recently Sudan was back on board.

In March 2015, an agreement of principals was signed between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, represented an important shift in Cairo’s approach to the Nile River. At political level, Egypt participates in meetings of NBI, but it does not attend technical meetings, a sign Dr.  Nyaoro considers as openness from Egypt to cooperate.

Dr. Nyaoro explained how NBI was launched and its mandate and the challenges it faces, to “Blue Peace Group” of water experts and journalists from Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, who participated  in the learning trip organized by  “Strategic Foresight Group” to Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)  in cooperation with Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in August  8-10 2016  in Entebbe- Uganda, to see how Nile countries succeeded in managing their transboundary water resources, so that Middle East countries can inspire from their experience ,and enhance  cooperation between countries who share river basins.

Dr. Nyaoro said: “Egypt realized that it is better to object within the NBI and not to boycott it, if we identify the needs of each country, we cannot meet them all, or we have to create another Nile river, therefore, we have no choice but to listen to each other if we want to survive”.

The role of NBI is limited to providing recommendations to member countries, and for instance, in case of Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam, NBI advised the concerned parties to resort to technical experts to identify how to fill the dam with minimum impact on Egypt and avoid any significant harm to it. NBI “cannot be on the forefront to facilitate dialogue; it is in the back stage, and trying to set a parallel track to bring member States who had reservations on board, and to reduce the risks of any project on them”  , Dr. Nyaoro said.

He stated that NBI is focused on sharing data, to ensure the equitable utilization of water, and not causing any significant harm to riparian states, comparing that to having one sharing bank account, where we need the consent of the parties to withdraw a cheque. There is no doubt that the driving force behind NBI was water scarcity.

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Dr. Nyaoro told “Aljoumhouria”:”we did not wait a volcano to erupt, we try to reach to balance when there is a conflict and to continue cooperation. Instead of waiting a catastrophic to happen, let’s cooperate. When two brothers cry, we have to listen to them and try to find a solution that is suitable for both”.

He did not deny that Israel played a mediating role between Egypt and Ethiopia.

He said to “Aljoumhouria”:” if Israel can help us to facilitate dialogue between Egypt and Ethiopia, if they have a prescription, we can use, nobody is against consulting external experts “.

Executive Director of the Nile Basin Initiative tried hard through Egyptian media outlets to reconcile points of view, since NBI considers media as it strategic partner, it contributed in building capacities of journalists to write scientifically  and  in a accurate way and motivated them by launching Nile Media awards for the best article.

In addition to the unresolved issue article 14 b on water security, NBI faces many challenges like ensuring balance of existing uses and potential uses of limited water resources, and insufficient contribution of member states in covering institutional costs.

If we compare between the three Field trips that «Strategic Foresight Group» organized to the Rhine, Mekong and Senegal Rivers, we can realize that the situation in Nile river Basin is different to what we had already seen, Maysoon Zoubi, a member of the Blue Peace Initiative core group and former secretary general of the water ministry in Jordan stated.

Zoubi told “Aljoumhouria”: The NBI is still an initiative, it is not a commission yet, its role is advisory,

Cooperation in these areas put an end to disputes and now there are no conflicts between its member states, despite the presence of some internal disputes inside these states, consequently Arab states should not consider disputes as a pretext not to cooperate”.

Zoubi believes that there is an opportunity in the Middle East to start a similar cooperation. She says: “Cooperation between the countries of the Nile Basin Initiative began with sharing information, which is the cornerstone for building confidence, and the role of initiative to provide advice and guidance, we can inspire from them, it is not obligatory to start with a commission as the situation in the Rhine, we can start sharing data and guidance, and later on we can develop and advance forward.”

She recalls that in the Arab world, “we used to link the Nile River with Egypt, I have seen how many countries live on this river, which is in a state of evolution, and there is increasing demand for water, and the fact that Egypt is a downstream state have to reconsider its policies and its relations with African countries, instead of freezing its membership, it is best to try to reach a cooperation on the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia.”

It is a mistake if Egypt stays away, because next year work in the Renaissance Dam will start, despite its disapproval. Zoubi said: “Egypt signed principles declaration, but the work in the dam is still going on, so it is better to accept the fait accompli, and join agreements to ensure its rights, and avoid other losses. The importance of the Nile Basin Initiative is having a platform for cooperation; the withdrawal of Egypt will make it lose.”

She says: “There must be a balance and equality between the Nile Basin countries, there is no longer acquired rights Egypt can claim about.”

In light of the high demand for water, Egypt might be forced to look for alternative sources, it may be groundwater, if it wants the largest proportion, and it needs to use water efficiently.

Zoubi stresses that the withdrawal and the absence does not stop the project. She says: “Works in Renaissance Dam will begin next year, and it is important that the Nile River initiative funded by the member states to avoid the hidden agendas of the supporting countries “, calling Middle East countries to inspire from this experience and  to establish a Joint Secretariat to institutionalize cooperation properly and mutually .

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Dursun Yildiz, The director of «Hydro Politics Academy “agrees with Zoubi.

He said to “Aljoumhouria”: “Egypt has to be on negotiation table, mainly because climate change will affect it and its political presence only is not enough”.

He stressed that Middle East Countries have to adapt all together shortly, where Climate Change should be the driving force and connector for their cooperation.

Dr. Nyaoro in turn pointed out to the impact of Climate Change on Nile River, adding that

NBI developed Nile River Basin Climate Change strategy that has already been prepared and distributed, adding that adaptation measures will cost about 5 billion $ in the entire basin.

As a result to climate change, the Nile Equatorial Lakes, water flow to Aswan fell to 90 billion cubic meters after its annual average was 97 billion cubic meters.

In parallel, representatives of African river Basins, Komati Basin Water Authority,Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du Fleuve Senegal (OMVS),The Orange –Senqu River Commision (ORASECOM), Volta Basin Authorit, Commission Internationale du Bassin Congo-Oubangui-Sangha (CICOS),  explained to Blue Peace Group, about their successful experiences in managing their shared water resources, and how cooperation mechanisms were developed and challenges they faced.

In this regard, Yildiz said: “We have some examples of cooperation, trust building, sharing of information was going on under difficult conditions and this is the main lesson we are supposed to inspire of in the Middle East”.

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Sundeep Waslekar, President of “Strategic Foresight Group” asked the representatives of the African river basins bodies, what are the essential helpful elements for water cooperation that you recommend for the basins of Middle East countries?

He points out that “the agreements in some basins began between two countries and then others joined them, instead of waiting a holistic agreement, Middle East countries can start with the minimum,” and recalled that in 2010 there was a desire for economic  cooperation between Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. If there was a regional council between these four countries, the intention of cooperation would not have been absent. ”

Representatives of the African River Basins Authorities reply were, cooperation requires political and financial support of member states, trust building, common vision, sharing information, honest dialogue, clear legal framework, joint technical and development projects, equitable utilization and no significance harm”.

What is the minimum structure to promote cooperation in the River basins?

Establishment of a joint secretariat or autonomy body, including the financial contribution of all parties and drafting a convention to define the framework of cooperation and operational rules

As a part of the field visit the participants visited the Bujagali Hydropower Project built on the Victoria Nile in the town of Jinja that provides electricity to Uganda which suffers from power deficit and in turn to promote the socio-economic development of local residents.

As an outcome, there is no doubt that the interference of external forces that supported Nile Basin countries was crucial in helping them enhance their cooperation while in the Middle East; the situation is quite different due to contradictions of interests of western and regional players, that make cooperation in transboundary water resources more complicated.

Therefore, Middle East countries should be wise enough to move on hand in hand and consider Blue Peace Group as a driving force for Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, to keep the debate on the importance of Water Cooperation alive, and to prepare the platform in coordination with Civil society, academics, universities, Yildiz concluded, and to put this issue on decision makers table when a settlement to Syrian and Iraqi crisis is reached to.


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Author

Mey Al Sayegh

Mey AL Sayegh
Senior Correspondent and International news editor@ ALjoumhouria newspaper

I work as a senior international news editor and correspondent at Aljoumhouria newspaper (Lebanese Arabic daily). In my articles, I focus on international conflicts and development, diplomatic issues and conduct interviews with foreign ambassadors to Lebanon and senior officials.
At the technical level, I am qualified to use computer and research engines properly and I am active on social media as well.
My native language is Arabic and most of my articles are written in this language. I also write articles and analysis in English language for SFPA, SAC- Slovakia think- tank.
I believe that the expert in anything was once a beginner, that what I learned from my experience as a journalist since 2007.I realized that being passionate of my work and the high sense of responsibility are the key points in my success. I walked my way bearing in my mind that my articles (English &Arabic) should not be boring or written in a press release form; they should reflect a human sense.
In parallel, I developed a wide network of public relations and been very active in advocating voluntary for the causes I believe in, even though it was not part of my daily tasks at Aljoumhouria newspaper and Tatwir Center for Studies.
As a result, I have been invited to a large number of countries to cover different topics, ranging from international politics (Geneva 2 on Syria) to development issues, and appointed as a member of Media network for Blue peace in the Middle East.

A list of most important certificates i have got from United States Department of State(International visitor Leadership Program June 16- July 4 2014)
Media for development program (2012-2013)
Reporting the EU training (2013-2014)

Experience
Senior Correspondent
Aljoumhouria newspaper
January 2014 – Present (2 years 3 months)missions abroad
The Geneva II Conference on Syria coverage- for ALjoumhouruia newspaper (January - February 2014 )
The Reform process in Jordan coverage - exclusive invitation from His Royal Highness prince Alhassan Bin Talal.(February 2014)
1 honor or award
Senior international and diplomatic news editor
Aljoumhouria newspaper
January 2011 – Present (5 years 3 months)zalka
January 2011 to date
Head of International news department/ Aljoumhouria newspaper ( http://www.aljoumhouria.com/)
Responsibilities:
- News reporting, Feature writing, Investigative reporting,
Editing, Research and Fact- checking, Conducting interviews
- Covering international and regional conferences

April 25 - May 10 2012
-Conducted Training for editors @ Aljoumhouria website

December 2013 to date
Freelancer -Conducting researches and interviews / Tatwir Center for Studies – Beirut- Lebanon
http://tatwir.net/ ( Arabic – English)

June 2012 till June 2013
Freelancer writer at Slovakian media (Blizkyychod Media)
(articles covering middle east issues written in English(

June 2013 to date
Freelancer writer at think- tank SFPA, SAC- Slovakia (English language)

May 2007 –September 2009:
International news editor - Al-akhbar newspaper – Verdun
Lebanon (http://www.al-akhbar.com/)

Certificates:
- International visitor leadership program on Investigative Journalism /United States of State of Department(July 4 2014)

- Media neighborhood training – BBC /Reporting the European Union (May 2014)

- Multimedia and social network /Agence France-Press AFP, Canal France International (CFI), UNDP , Montpellier ,France(October 2013)

Membership:
Member at Lebanese Editors Syndicate
- Investigative Reporters and Editors - IRE
( June 9, 2014 – June 2015)
- Blue peace Media Network

Workshops and conferences:
April 2011-till 2013
- Media for Development workshop /UNDP /AFP (Training sessions/ field visits / Sarajevo conference on civil war)

March 2013 to present:
- Blue peace conferences - Istanbul, Jordan, Geneva.
- Field trips :The Rhine river - Switzerland - September 2013/ Mekong river in Cambodia and Laos- November 2014/ Senegal river -August 2015

June 2013 / February 2014
- The 5th Wana Forum (The Uprooted) - Jordan.
- Reform process in Jordan.

November 2013
Coverage of Regional and Municipal elections and Green Economy in Denmark

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