International and regional water and policy experts agreed at Friends of the Earth Middle East’s annual "Good Water Neighbors" conference held in Israel, that transboundary water issues can no longer wait. EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East's (FoEME) annual "Good Water Neighbors" (GWN) conference, held this year on 17 November 2013 on the occasion of the UN International Year of Water Cooperation, brought together more than 300 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian political officials, municipal representatives, water experts, local residents and civil society representatives in Herzliya, Israel last week.
Keynote addresses were given by Israeli Minister of the Environment Amir Peretz, on the role of environment as a bridge for peace; Mark Singleton, from the Office of the Quartet on the urgency of water solutions for the Palestinian Economic Initiative; and Lord Alderdice, sharing relevant experience from Northern Ireland.
Against the background of the renewed Israeli–Palestinian peace talks, former Israeli negotiator and senior researcher at the INSS, Dr. Oded Eran, highlighted the urgency to address now the unresolved cross-border water and sanitation issues, and discussed concrete opportunities for moving forward.
For the first time, H.E. Saad Abu Hammour, Jordan’s Secretary General of the Jordan Valley Authority, publicly declared Jordan’s commitment to the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River and the leadership role his Authority would assume in the rehabilitation effort. On the issue of the demise of the Dead Sea, much due to the operations of the mineral extraction industries of Jordan and Israel, H.E. Abu Hammour called upon the Jordanian and Israeli Governments to charge the industries, on both sides, for the utilization of Dead Sea water, currently extracted without any fee being charged. »If industry were to pay their share of the demise of the Dead Sea, they would have an incentive to develop alternative technologies that would use far less water and therefore be less harmful to the Dead Sea«, he stated.
Mr. Khalil Ghabiesh, Head of the West Bank Water Department in the PA, stated that sanitation issues in Palestine and the ensuing pollution to shared waters are of the utmost urgency and must be addressed immediately as part of a new cooperative arrangement between Palestine and Israel that needs to replace Article 40 of the Oslo Accords.
Mayor Yossi Vardi, Head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council in Israel, and Mayor Ali Al Agli, Head of the neighboring Muaz Bin Jabal Regional Council in Jordan, agreed on the need to advance a Cross Border Peace Park on both sides of the River Jordan in the Naharayim / Bakoura area, both as part of the Jordan River rehabilitation efforts, and as a source of much needed income for local communities that would greatly benefit from such a project's touristic value.
Gidon Bromberg and Nader Khateeb, Israeli and Palestinian Co-Directors of EcoPeace / FoEME reported on the success of the organization since last year's conference, to help leverage an additional $120 million worth of investments in water supply and sanitation solutions for the 25 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian GWN communities working with the organization. The organization released at the conference a new publication that details a new set of water and sanitation ‘Priority Projects’ for 2013.
A live video link-up between the GWN conference in Herzliya and The Hague Institute for Global Justice conference – also held on the occasion of the UN International Year of Water Cooperation – in The Hague, Netherlands, closed the 2nd day of the conference.
The GWN conference was held with the support of USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation program, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), EU’s Partnership for Peace programme, and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
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