Better water governance and food security key to development in Arab region, says UNDP chief

Dec 6, 2012


Doha – Water scarcity and consequently food insecurity are critical issues in the Arab States region, and climate change will exacerbate these already existing vulnerabilities, said United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark today at the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference (COP18/CMP8) hosted in Qatar.

Her remarks were delivered at the opening of the “Understanding the Water and Food Security Challenges in the Arab Region” side event jointly organized by UNDP’s Regional Bureau of Arab States (UNDP-RBAS), the Qatar National Food Security Program (QNFSP) and its Global Dry Lands Alliance (GDLA) Initiative, and the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF)

Helen Clark underlined that 15 Arab countries are below the international water poverty line of 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, and in eight of these countries the population has access to less than 200 cubic meters of water per year.

With agriculture output squeezed, the region imports more food than any other region in the world. Because of this heavy reliance on imports, “peoples of the region are very vulnerable to food price rises,” said Ms. Clark. “Such price spikes have an especially detrimental impact on the poorest and most vulnerable populations,” she said, adding that between 2006 and 2008, food prices increased by 44 per cent in Iraq, 25 per cent in Syria, and 19 per cent in Lebanon.

In his opening remarks, Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiya, Executive Chairman of QNFSP, Member of the Board of Governors of the World Water Council and Chairman of COP18/CMP8 Organizing Committee said that Arab countries are acutely cognizant of these existential challenges and are at the forefront of the search for means to address them comprehensively and in a sustainable manner.

“More than 2.5 billion people live in dry land areas throughout the world,” said Al-Attiya. “Climate change is already exacerbating the food and water stress challenging these regions—putting them literally on the front line of impact.

“Common threats demand shared action,” added Al-Attiya.  “This fundamental principle has never been more important than at this time when so many face food and water insecurity.  Those of us who call dry land nations ‘home’ must come together to collaborate on research, development, finance mechanisms and tools for quick response in times of crisis.”

UNDP, QNFSP, GDLA and the 3GF joined forces to organize this side event at COP18/CMP8 to discuss priority governance issues and policy choices that governments in the region need to consider in addressing the nexus between water and food security. 

The event comprised a roundtable discussion moderated by Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Director for Arab States, UNDP, featuring H.E. Fouad Douiri, Minister of Energy, Mining, Water, and Environment of Morocco; H.E. Bader Al Dafa, Ambassador-at-Large and Executive Director of Global Dry Lands Alliance (GDLA) Working Group, Qatar; H.E. Miguel Angel Moratinos, former Foreign Minister of Spain and Senior Diplomatic Advisor of the Global Dry Lands Alliance (GDLA) Working Group; Lisbeth Jespersen, Deputy Head of Secretariat, Global Green Growth Forum (3GF); and H.E. Mohamed Benaissa, former Foreign Minister of Morocco, who moderated the Q&A segment of the roundtable.

This set of distinguished speakers examined important trends and associated regional efforts on building alliances for addressing water and food security, including national alliances that QNFSP is leading, regional initiatives managed by UNDP on water governance and building resilience to climate change and public-private partnerships catalysed through 3GF.

The roundtable also examined innovative solutions focusing on utilizing technologies, facilitating investments and forging public-private partnerships to rapidly bring to scale green growth opportunities, which can contribute to addressing water- and food-related challenges in the Arab region.

Contact Information

Alex Armentano, International Media Lead for COP18/CMP8
Mobile: +974 6684 6427
Tel: +974 4426 1935    

Noeman AlSayyad,
Regional Communication Advisor, UNDP – Regional Centre in Cairo
Tel: +20 2 2456 4942
Mobile: +20 10 0181 1876

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