With almost 800 million people currently lacking access to clean water and two-thirds of the world’s population projected to face conditions of severe water stress by 2025, disputes over water are a growing global concern. But while dwindling water supplies sharpen focus on conflict, long-term peacebuilding opportunities are often overlooked. [Video Below]
At last month’s launch of the USAID Water and Conflict Toolkit at the Wilson Center, Gidon Bromberg explained that the toolkit is about much more than just conflict. “It’s put very much in forefront the possibilities of peacebuilding,” he says in this week’s podcast. “Water is an opportunity in areas where there aren’t many opportunities.”
In 2008 and 2010, the price of many basic food stuffs soared, sparking a series of riots and food crises around the world. People in the poorest countries – those living with the smallest margins – were most affected, while the economies of developed nations were able to absorb the price changes. According to Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index, how climate change will impact different countries depends not only on their vulnerability to physical changes, but also their ability to absorb these impacts. [Video Below]
›January 7, 2014 // By Laurie Mazur
Physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a spouse or partner is a major factor in maternal and reproductive health, said Jay Silverman at the Wilson Center last month.
Silverman, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, cited a 15-country study of both developed and developing countries that found 25 to 75 percent of women have suffered from intimate partner violence at least once. And the effects are very significant, both in terms of the health of mothers and their children. [Video Below]
›“Cooperation over water is not a privilege, it’s a necessity,” said Gidon Bromberg, co-director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, in a TEDx talk at Yale. He sees the shortage of water in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine as an opportunity to bring these contentious communities together – even more so during this period of upheaval in the region.
Water woes have long contributed to regional tensions, said Bromberg. Water rights between Israel and Palestine were supposed to be settled during the Oslo accords in 1993, but negotiations were unsuccessful and water discussions were consequently left unfinished. The lack of formal negotiations caused each side to seize whatever resources they could Although Jordan was not part of the negotiations, it does share water resources with Israel and the West Bank and thus has been impacted by the lack of formal allocation processes. Both Jordan and Israel have diverted flow of the Jordan River into dams and irrigation projects. As a result, the Jordan River has lost 98 percent of its historic flow and the Dead Sea has lost one-third of its surface area.
Today, Israel has restricted Palestinian water use such that Palestinians have access to water only once a week in winter and once every three weeks in the summer, leading them to store water in containers on their roofs, Bromberg said. Though mismanagement is as much to blame as conflict, he notes, Palestinians chafe under the limitations.
Yet Friends of the Earth Middle East has used this difficult situation to educate the public, propose reforms, and build trust between Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli communities. Bromberg highlighted “fear of a small but vocal minority on both sides” as a key factor in preventing dialogue between the communities, but insists that water can bring people together. Neighboring communities have to work together, he said, “not because they’re best friends,” but to improve their own water situations.
Friends of the Earth provides that opportunity with their Good Water Neighbors project and hopes the trust built between communities extends beyond water issues as well. Since communities have strong motives to solve these problems, they work together more effectively than high-level politicians who may not be as apt to collaborate.
A positive update on the state of the Jordan River given in an interview with ECSP in October suggests that Bromberg may be on to something.
Sources: Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth.
Video Credit: TEDx.
›Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.” The Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP), established by the UN to monitor progress towards this goal, has twice concluded (in 2008 and 2010) that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are in good shape to meet this target. However, a new article in Development and Change, “The Politics of Assessment: Water and Sanitation MDGs in the Middle East,” by Neda Zawahri, Jeannie Sowers, and Erika Weinthal, argues that the JMP’s “reliance on classifying ‘improved’ and ‘unimproved’ water and sanitation infrastructure, through infrequent household surveys, has produced misleading assessments that fail to capture the extensive water quality and sanitation problems plaguing the MENA.”
The authors compared the findings of the JMP with a variety of data sources – participatory assessments, reports from other UN agencies, donor projects, domestic ministries and agencies, and academic research – and found major contradictions between the progress reported by the JMP and the situation on the ground. In one example, the authors write that “while the JMP considers piped household water as an improvement in water coverage, it fails to differentiate between ‘full’ coverage and ‘partial’ coverage, that is, household water supplies available only a few hours a week.” And the authors point out that according to UN-Habitat, “the availability of piped water does not necessarily translate into safe drinking water, as water may become contaminated before it reaches the tap.”
As a result of the weakness of the indicators used by the JMP, household surveys conducted by the JMP in the MENA region “[do] not adequately capture the quality of drinking water,” the authors write, and efforts to address this inadequacy through more comprehensive testing of municipal water samples were deemed “too complex to be routinely employed through the world” and “prohibitively expensive.”
“International organizations and national leaderships in the MENA lack substantial incentives to adopt more accurate assessments for safe water and sanitation,” Zawahri et al. conclude. The need to generate comparable data across time and space has trumped the importance of “gauging access, quality, and affordability of water and sanitation.”
›October 27, 2011 // By Kate DiamondGidon Bromberg, co-director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME), says in this short interview with ECSP that his outlook on rehabilitating the Jordan River has changed completely over the last five years. We had been “laughed at” for trying to restore the waterway, he said; now though, “we are very confident that the Jordan River south of the Galilee down to the Dead Sea will be rehabilitated.”
By building a cross-border peace park and encouraging collaboration between Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians on water scarcity and quality issues, FOEME aims to improve environmental and security problems that bind the three groups together.
The Jordan River has become so polluted that visitors, many of whom are devout Christians making a pilgrimage to one of the religion’s most sacred sites, have been barred from its waters due to health concerns. Furthermore, more than 98 percent of its fresh water is diverted for agricultural work, meaning that the pollutants that end up in the river are highly concentrated.
But today, Bromberg said, sewerage is being removed on both the Israeli and Jordanian sides and there is a commitment to do the same from the Palestinians. For the first time in 60 years, there are concrete plans to return fresh water to a river that is “so holy to half of humanity.”
Sources: The Age, Friends of the Earth Middle East, The Guardian, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
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