Water management and peace promotion in the Middle East
Water as a source of peace
Since 2009, Switzerland has been involved in a new type of cooperation which combines peace promotion and the sustainable management of water resources in the Middle East. This region is
experiencing a major crisis caused by the decline in quality and the progressive drying up of numerous common water resources. An independent report published in 2011 established that the sustainable
management of cross-border water resources on a political level could not only avoid natural disasters and human tragedies but could even develop into a means of promoting peace.
Moreover, water reserves and dams rarely correspond to the political frontiers drawn by human beings. The management of these resources must therefore also be a cross-border activity. With this in mind, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Human Security Division have launched a Swiss water initiative in the Middle East known as Blue Peace. Supported by the Swedish government, this initiative aims to transform the water crisis in the region into an opportunity for the countries concerned. They will have to unite and to strengthen their peaceful links through the concerted and sustainable management of water resources. As a result, this issue is raised to the level of high politics rather than being confined to national water management organisations.
But for Blue Peace to become a lasting reality, all aspects of water management (supply, pollution, cleaning, etc.) have to be dealt with in a cross-border approach.
Three meetings and a report
In 2009, a group of independent Indian experts, the Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), was mandated by Switzerland to reflect on this issue. With its support, a series of consultations and meetings took place in 2010 in Montreux (Switzerland), Amman (Jordan) and Sanliurfa (Turkey).
Bringing together a hundred experts and leaders from the Middle East, these consultations pave the way for future collaboration. On the basis of these discussions, they produced a report entitled
The Blue Peace: Rethinking Middle East Water. This document, published in February 2011, evaluates the main challenges facing the cross-border management of resources. In their efforts to find
pragmatic solutions, they drew up a list of 10 recommendations for the short medium and long term.
In the short term, the SFG proposes to create a Cooperation Council for water resources in the Middle East. Initially only five countries would be involved: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and
Turkey. In the workshop in Montreux, these countries also asked Switzerland to assist them with the establishment of this institution. The task of the council – whose establishment has been postponed
until the situation in the Middle East stabilises – would be to develop a shared vision and instruments to realise it.
The project in brief
Global Programme Water Initiatives
FDFA / Human Security Division
Land / Region
Strategic Foresight Group
In the Middle East, cooperation on managing water resources is not a foregone conclusion. Despite the risk of environmental, humanitarian and political crises linked to the depletion of water resources in the region, there is only a limited willingness to cooperate.
To promote peace through an innovative transnational water-management approach
Populations of Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Israel and of the Occupied Palestinian Territory
CHF 4,908 million
September 2009 – December 2015
Human Security Division:
Additional Information and Documents
- The Blue Peace - Rethinking Middle East Water
Download (PDF, 3128 KB) : [en]
- Speech by Martin Dahinden on the launch of "The Blue Peace Report"
Download (PDF, 24 KB) : [en]
- The Blue Peace - Rethinking Middle East Water: Highlights
Download (PDF, 280 KB) : [en]
- Water for peace
Global Brief March 2014
Download (PDF, 1682 KB) : [de] [en] [fr]
- Report “The Blue Peace: Rethinking Middle East Water”
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