Launch of the UNDP-RBAS Report: Water Governance in the Arab Region: Managing scarcity and securing the future

: 28 November 2013
Location: Manama, Bahrain

It is widely known that the dwindling supply of freshwater resources and a rapidly growing population, increased urbanization, economic growth and the various threats of climate change and pollution have led to a water crisis across the Arab region. Without committed and collaborative efforts across the region to improve water governance, water scarcity, and the associated desertification, land degradation and drought in many countries, will continue to have serious ramifications for health, food security, economic growth, human development, and political stability.

To further these efforts, the United Nations Development Programme’s Regional Bureau for Arab States (UNDP - RBAS) has gathered technical and policy experts from across the region to produce the “Water Governance in the Arab Region – managing scarcity and securing the future” report.

It is intended to provide the Arab countries and the international community, donors, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders with an extensive understanding of the water situation in the region, moving beyond the traditional approach of simply presenting inventories of availability, uses, accessibility, dependency, etc, to place the water crisis in a socioeconomic and environmental context. Laying out the building blocks for effective and efficient resource management, the report demonstrates the integral role that water governance plays in the sustainable human development of the region.

UNDP RBAS and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain are jointly hosting a high-level launch event to stimulate dialogue on these findings and recommendations of the report. By bringing together Ministers of Water, the League of Arab States, the UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, experts from institutes across the region, key regional organizations and other leading stakeholders, the launch also provides a platform for increased regional cooperation on water governance issues, and an opportunity to explore the potential for equitable and sustainable solutions to the water crisis.  

The report puts forth several key messages:

  • While scarcity of this finite resource is the foundation of the water crisis, the water crisis is also one of governance (local, national, and international), with major challenges including: unclear and overlapping responsibilities; inefficient institutions; insufficient funding; overly centralized decision-making; lack of compliance with regulations and ineffective enforcement; and limited public awareness. To advance water governance reforms and in turn catalyze the region-wide aspirations for overall governance reform, decision-making should follow several general principles including public participation, transparency, equity, accountability, coherence, responsiveness, and institutional integration.
  • Policies must shift from managing supply to managing sustainable demand and from crisis management to long-term planning.
  • Water availability for different  sectors (agricultural, industrial, municipal, etc) should be balanced and understood within the water-energy-food nexus.
  • Establishing water’s “real” cost is essential. Cost effectiveness assessments and policy development must incorporate environmental externalities and social, political and health impacts, as well as operational and construction costs. Financial sustainability requires a clear water financing scheme that identifies financing sources and economic instruments. Along these lines, any plans for privatization should be weighed for effectiveness, efficiency, equity and other elements of good water governance.
  • Arab countries should leverage their socio-cultural solidarity to support the rights of all riparian countries to fair, just and equitable shares in international water resources.
  • Deficiencies in human and institutional resources are a key contributor to water scarcity, and thus localized capacity building, training, and organizational development must be prioritized.
  • Research and innovation: Strong support and investment in scientific and technological organizations is needed, as well as the development of national indicators for monitoring water reform progress and impacts. 
  • Legislative frameworks: While most Arab countries have the institutional and legislative frameworks for good water governance, they still require innovative legislative instruments to effectively support implementation.
Water Governance in the Arab Region: Managing scarcity and securing the future

As this report presents the issue, the need to improve water governance requires much more than efforts to increase the supply of water. Rather, addressing the crisis requires strengthening technical capacities and national institutions and developing mechanisms to increase the transparency and accountability of public water services.

Download the report
Flickr Slideshow
  • HM King Hamad receives UNDP Administrator
  • HRH Princess Sabeeka receives UNDP Chief
  • Top UN development official Helen Clark visits Bahrain
  • Top UN development official Helen Clark visits Bahrain
  • Foreign Minister patronises UNDP's Water Governance report launch ceremony
  • Top UN development official Helen Clark visits Bahrain

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Video: “Every Drop Matters"
A documentary on water governance in Arab States: Stories of community-based solutions to water scarcity

Every Drop Matters (2013)
addresses the issue of water scarcity exacerbated by climate change in Arab states. This documentary features a number of water governance pilots that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS) has been supporting in the Arab region. It presents the experiences of communities from 5 countries (Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia), who talk about the impact of water scarcity on their daily lives and how community-based solutions have changed their lives. The documentary also emphasizes the need to link to policy-making initiatives at the national level with efforts at the regional and global levels.

This documentary was produced by the Regional Bureau for Arab States at UNDP, with support from the Coca-Cola Foundation.


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