editor’s note: the publications mentioned in this newsletter are available for download from the website of Friends of the Earth Middle East:

Friends of the Earth Middle East would like to wish all our Muslim friends a Happy Eid following the completion of the Holy month of Ramadan. We also take the opportunity to wish our Jewish friends a Happy New Year!

Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) is proud to announce that we have won the Outstanding Leadership Award bestowed by the International Development Committee (IDC) of the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR).

Each year, the International Section of the ACR honors exceptional work promoting conflict resolution in development projects around the world. The award aims to celebrate leadership in the field and draw attention to the importance of conflict resolution in creating stronger democracies and economies. The award ceremony is being held on the 12th of October, in San Diego, California U.S.A.

Friends of the Earth Middle East is featured in this PBS News Hour segment entitled “Coalition Aims to Ease Middle East Water Disputes” that recently won first place in the reputable Society of Environmental Journalists “single story” category. The piece is about water issues in the region and the unique ways FoEME is working on the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and raising issues of fairer allocation of water resources to all sides. “Their group is unique in this region for having Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian members, including many school kids. They publicize issues that should alarm all sides, which rely on common water resources,” reporter Fred de Sam Lazaro says in the report.

From the judges: Excellent and well-told story — in words and images — of water as yet another obstacle to peace. Israel’s progress constructing desalinization plants and the symbolic water immersion by a multi-ethnic coalition of Mideast mayors provided timely frame for reporter’s examination of developing water crisis.

FoEME is delighted to announce that the documentary film “Last Call at the Oasis” – in which FoEME’s work on the region’s shared water resources is featured – will have its World Premiere on September 9, 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Produced by Participant Media (the same production company that did Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”), this documentary illuminates the vital role water plays in our lives, exposes the defects in the current system and shows communities already struggling with its ill-effects and individuals championing revolutionary solutions. We are extremely proud and honored to be a part of this important film.

Israeli Minister of Environment pledges 30 mcm of water to the Lower Jordan
This month, FoEME received the first ever commitment by the Israeli Minister of Environment Gilad Erdan to return fresh water to the Lower Jordan River.

This letter (in Hebrew), coming in response to a hearing held in the Israeli Parliament in December 2010 which identified the Jordan River as a project of National Priority, commits the Israeli government to return “at least 30 million cubic meters per year, with greater amounts once aquifer levels rise.” While 30 mcm doesn’t meet the ecological needs of the river, it is a significant first step forward, and builds confidence towards future allocations to be identified in the framework of a master plan.

High level meetings regarding the Lower Jordan River
FoEME held a high level discussion on advancements in rehabilitating the Lower Jordan River. The meeting, hosted by FoEME and the Kinneret Drainage Authority, brought together key representatives from all major Israeli Authorities including the Ministry of Environment, the Water Authority, the Lower Jordan Drainage Authority, the National Parks Authority, the local Water Boards, the area Municipalities, key NGOs and representatives of leading research institutes.

During the meeting, the Ministry of Environment and the Jordan River Drainage Authority presented national plans for the Lower Jordan River and the Terms of Reference for the master plan of the Lower Jordan River currently being launched. In addition, FoEME presented its draft Water Balance for the Lower Jordan River being advanced using the innovative WEAP model. FoEME’s presentation demonstrated that a combination of implementing the mid-term plans already being advanced by the Israeli government, and cost effective water demand management strategies advocated by FoEME, can return several hundred million cubic meters of fresh water back into the Lower Jordan River.

FoEME’s draft report and a related presentation are now available on our Jordan River Publications webpage.

Jordan River Photo Exhibition
This month FoEME launched its Jordan River Exhibition in Stockholm, Sweden during the annual World Water Week. The exhibition, organized in partnership with German NGO Global Nature Fund and photographer Eddie Gerald, features stark images of the Jordan Valley, highlighting its beauty, its heritage and its role in today’s conflict, contrasting the River’s current deteriorating situation with the magnificence of the landscape. The exhibition opens in Cologne, Germany on September 17 before traveling on to other destinations in Europe. If you are in the Cologne area, please join us for the open events! And be sure to check our new exhibition page frequently to see when the exhibition will be visiting a city near you!

The Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is supported by USAID, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Green Environment Fund, the Global Nature Fund / Ursula Merz Foundation and the Osprey Foundation.

Publication: “Promoting Green Jobs and Exports in a Green Water Economy in Israel”
FoEME continues to promote demand management water policies over supply management policies, and has recently concluded this research paper that clearly indicates how a water conservation economy is preferable to one dominated by desalination, both in terms of the quantity and quality of jobs it could produce.

The report demonstrates how water saving and conservation as a central goal of the water economy can help safeguard Israel’s natural capital and create thousands of high quality jobs; how Israel can capture billions of shekels in exports and take a leading role in one of the critical human challenges of the 21st century (as Israel has done already with drip irrigation). (Click here for the Executive Summary in Hebrew)

This project is supported by Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Tel Aviv.

Publication: “Paths to Sustainability, July 2011” (Hebrew)
“National Plan for Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Environmental Organizations’ Position”
This paper was written by the Coalition of Environmental Organizations in Israel, of which the FoEME Tel Aviv office is a member, following the recommendations of the “Shani Committee” and the Israeli government’s decision to implement a national, multi-year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Israel. The paper includes references to components that are missing in the program, including the energy sector, energy efficiency, green building, transportation and the water sector, with recommendations for bridging the gaps.

This project is supported by Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Tel Aviv.