by JT | Jul 08, 2014

AMMAN — HRH Prince Hassan has announced a new initiative to help build peace and security in the Arab world through regional cooperation on water conservation and management.

The prince will assume the chairmanship of the High Level Forum for the Blue Peace Middle East plan, according to a statement released by his office on Tuesday.

The forum is a direct result of collaboration with the Strategic Foresight Group, an international think tank headquartered in Mumbai.

As part of his new role, Prince Hassan will provide strategic guidance and input to the work of the forum in identifying vulnerable segments of society in West Asian countries that are deprived of water due to violence, migration, climate change and other factors.

Earlier this year, the prince stepped down from the chairmanship of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board to be better able to focus on promoting equitable and durable solutions to water and sanitation across the region.

“The present conflict in Syria, that was in part caused by prolonged drought, presents a bellwether of future societal breakdown across the entire region, which must urgently be averted,” the statement quoted Prince Hassan as saying.

“We need to stop focusing exclusively on militarily security and develop long-term solutions that further human security for the people in the region,” he added.

The new initiative “will first map precise localities and communities in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey that are facing water shortage”, before moving on to propose water inclusion policies for the countries in the region, the statement said.

The forum will build on the earlier work carried out by Prince Hassan and the Strategic Foresight Group in the area of water conservation and management.

Most recently, a high-level group working with organisations such as the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation produced a strategic roadmap for water cooperation titled: “Water Cooperation for a Secure World”.

The report “pioneered the revolutionary ‘Circles of Cooperation’ approach”, which calls for countries to develop deep, policy-level cooperation on an inter-regional level.

“Out of the 148 countries that share trans-boundary resources in the world, no two countries engaged in active water cooperation go to war for any reason. Conversely, countries that have avoided water cooperation, such as those in the Middle East are at active risk of war,” the statement said.

Due to overuse, the aquifer on the Gaza-Israel border that supplies water for over 1.6 million people is expected to be unusable after 2020. Over the last 50 years, the flow of the Jordan River has more than halved.

River flows in Turkey, Syria and Iraq have depleted by 50 per cent to 90 per cent. Furthermore, 45 million people are at risk in Egypt within the next two decades with the rise in water levels of the Mediterranean.

On Tuesday, Prince Hassan delivered the keynote address at the Enhancing Security Through Water Diplomacy OSCE Security Days conference in Vienna.

“An absence of water is the biggest and most effective weapon of mass destruction,” he said, according to the statement.

“Only a few years ago, Jordan was the fourth poorest water country in the world. Now, struggling to cope with the influx of anywhere between two hundred to four hundred Syrian refugees a day, Jordan is today the third poorest nation in terms of water resources,” the prince noted.

“We have to move away from solutions that treat people as objects. Instead we need to focus on solutions that empower people and make them part of the solution. Let’s collaborate on water. It will be the first of many steps that will move my region, and regions across the world, from conflict to collaboration.”