International conference on MENA water governance begins in Sana’a [Archives:2006/964/Front Page]

July 17 2006

By: Amel Al-Ariqi
SANA'A, July 16 ) An international conference on water governance in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region began Sunday in Sana'a and will continue through Thursday. Hosted by Yemeni Minister of Water and Environment Abdulrahman Al-Ariani, the conference is supported by the Yemeni-German Cooperation's water sector program, GTZ.

Approximately 65 participants, including those from eight MENA nations, will attend the conference, entitled, “Water Governance in the MENA Region: The Current Situation,” including high-level representatives of ministries and national authorities, senior government advisors, senior researchers, national and international development experts and both private sector and non-governmental organizations.

However, the conference witnessed the absence of some members of the Palestinian and Syrian delegations. “The absence of these members is due to the Israeli staged attack on Lebanon, which has affected that region” Al-Ariani stated, “However, outcomes from this conference will be exchanged between all of the participating countries.”

The conference will conduct an assessment of the actual situation in terms of the region's water governance. “The conference will critically review the MENA region's water management situation and analyze trends and future outlooks, reviewing experiences and identifying key issues regarding water sector governance. Appropriate governance policies and strategies will be identified, focusing on the needs and future direction of capacity building strategies for improved governance. Strengthening regional cooperation and networking also will be discussed at the conference,” Dr. Mohammed Al-Hamdi said.

“The logic of these topics is to first conduct an assessment of the actual situation in terms of the region's water governance, identify critical issues that should be targeted, deciding what changes must be made and choosing policies and recommendations on how to reach the objectives,” Al-Hamdi explained.

The conference is part of a four-year capacity building program in the MENA region's water sector, formulated by InWEnt (Capacity Building International) on behalf of the Germany Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Along with its regional partner, the Arab Water Council, the program is focusing on eight countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Yemen.

According to Al-Ariani, the eight nations share the same problem regarding water issues: “The common foundation of these countries is water scarcity; that is, each of these eight countries is experiencing water scarcity.

“Yemen is considered one of the world's poorest countries regarding water. Water quantity is only 10 percent of the per capita share in the MENA region and less than 2 percent of the international average,” he added.

According to World Bank studies, the MENA region – home to 4 percent of the world's population – possesses only 1.4 percent of global water resources. Three quarters of its land mass is arid, making the region the driest in the world.

Defined largely by drought and desert, it suffers scarcity of fresh water, uneven availability, a growing gap between supply and demand, deteriorating water quality and dominance of agricultural water use. Jordan, Yemen, the West Bank and Gaza are among regional countries least well endowed with water resources.

The InWEnt capacity building program consists of numerous training events and seminars, as well as three international conferences, the first of which is being held in Sana'a. The second conference, entitled, “Water Governance in the MENA Region: Critical Issues and the Way Forward,” will be held in Cairo, Egypt in 2007, while the third will be held in 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain under the title, “Water Future to 2025 for the MENA Region.”

According to a press release, “The program's output will include improving institutional performance and policymakers' awareness of priority issues involved and a functional network on water issues within the MENA region.”