Water of the Middle East and North Africa

Water Diplomacy in the MENA Region: A New Training Programme for Young Professionals

Water Diplomacy in the MENA Region

Photo 1: Photo group of the participants and the speakers, Alexandria, Egypt

Author: Gül Özerol

Fanack Water is collaborating with the Department of Governance and Technology for Sustainability at the University of Twente, the Netherlands, on a training programme on water diplomacy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The first edition of the training programme took place at the Swedish Institute Alexandria (SwedAlex), Egypt from 29 October to 2 November 2017.

Background of the Training

Water flows across national borders and interacts with other sectors, notably energy and food production. Tackling water problems, such as pollution, scarcity, droughts and floods, therefore requires a set of ‘diplomatic’ skills to incorporate the diverse and often competing and conflicting interests of various actors. Such skills are essential for understanding the causes and impacts of water problems in diverse political, economic and social contexts. They are also necessary for devising and implementing solutions at the right time and place. As with other global challenges, including climate change, food security and energy security, the diplomats who are involved in tackling water problems often come from a variety of backgrounds. This is due to the complexity of these challenges, which go beyond the realm of international relations, the traditional discipline associated with diplomacy.

In recent decades, various training programmes have been developed that focus on different concepts and tools relevant for water diplomacy. This training programme has two distinguishing features. First, it targets young water professionals from Europe and the MENA region. This geographic spread aims to enhance regional collaboration both within MENA countries and between the MENA region and Europe. Second, the programme builds on three elements that combine a scientific perspective on water diplomacy with practice, media and art:

• Communication through transboundary water dialogue: While globalization and the internet have facilitated communication across borders, there is a great need for communicators who understand and can convey other’s opinions, perceptions and presumptions about water.

• Co-creation through transdisciplinary water thinking: The training programme is founded on the notion that water diplomacy requires interdisciplinary knowledge and skills. However, it takes this notion one step further to create a transdisciplinary learning environment that nurtures the co-creation of knowledge in order to tackle complex water problems.

• Collaboration through multi-scale water governance: Complex water problems require the involvement of stakeholders from all governance levels, from local to global. Addressing the governance challenges around water requires an examination of the efficiency and effectiveness of cross-sectoral collaboration, and an inclusive approach to equity issues.

First Water Training Program

Photo 2: During the water diplomacy training, Alexandria, Egypt

Target Group and Participants

The training programme targets young professionals who constitute the future generation of water influencers and decision makers (government officials, practitioners, scientists, activists, journalists, artists). Participants are between 25 and 40 years old and have a master’s degree or equivalent or at least two years of full-time work experience in a relevant field, as well as a demonstrable interest in the social, political, legal and environmental aspects of water.

The first edition of the training programme in Alexandria brought together 21 participants from 14 countries (Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, the Netherlands, Palestine, Spain, Sudan and Tunisia).

Length and Scope of the Training

The training lasts a total of three months. During a virtual preparation period of four weeks, the participants familiarize themselves with the programme content and complete an assignment to introduce themselves. This is followed by a five-day residential course. Each day starts with lectures and keynote speeches by international experts. These are supplemented by group exercises. After the residential phase, the participants are enrolled for another period of eight weeks in order to co-create outputs within teams (see following section).

Upon completion of the training, three or four high-achieving and motivated trainees will be invited to join the subsequent edition of the programme as co-organizers or speakers. These ‘comeback’ periods are expected to enhance the impact and sustainability of the programme through creating interactions between the trainees from different editions of the programme.

Objectives and Expected Outputs

Upon successful completion of the programme, trainees will have the skills to:

Define and compare the key concepts related to water diplomacy, such as water security, water governance, integrated water management and transboundary water management;

Determine the interlinkages and conflicts between policy sectors (water, energy, urban planning, climate, land use, agriculture etc.) and governance levels (from local to global);

Identify and assess the trade-offs and synergies between water-related sectors and governance levels;

Analyse and compare the experiences in dealing with water conflicts and problems within the different political, social, economic and ecological contexts of the MENA countries;

Devise and design water solutions that are aligned with the political, social, economic and ecological contexts of the MENA countries.

To demonstrate these skills, the trainees and trainers will co-create several outputs. These outputs will be oriented towards the trainees’ professional interests but could include:

Policy brief that disseminates the training results to national and international policymakers;

Scientific article that disseminates the training methodology and results to academic audiences;

Online news article that disseminates the scope and results of the training to a broader audience;

Infographic that visualizes the training programme’s water diplomacy framework.

First Water Diplomacy Training Programme for Young Professionals

Photo 3: Certification ceremony of Alexandria, Egypt

Future Plans

We plan to offer the training in different locations in the MENA region for the next four years. This medium-term time frame was chosen to enable us to establish a network of young water professionals and expand the impact and reach of the programme throughout the region. This medium-term approach will also facilitate the establishment of synergies and partnerships, both among MENA countries and between the MENA and European countries.

Given its unique position at the water-media nexus in the MENA region, Fanack Water aims to continue as the communication and media partner of this training programme.

Conflicting water diplomacy in the Jordan and the Blue Nile basins

Transboundary water management in the Jordan River basin and the Blue Nile basin has historically been difficult. While water diplomacy surrounding the Jordan River is obstructed by decades of geopolitical conflicts between the riparians and unilateral infrastructure projects, cooperation over the Blue Nile has been hampered by conflicting views on water ownership and resource utilization for most of the 20th and 21st century. Despite several formal agreements on water allocation and resource management among different riparians, effective transboundary management is still lacking.

The two infographics, produced in the context of a Water Diplomacy Training organized by the Swedish Institute of Alexandria, the University of Twente and Fanack Water, outline the past decades of advances and set-backs of water diplomacy in the two river basins and highlight the persistent differences in water use between each basin’s riparians.

Jordan River
Conflicting water diplomacy: The Jordan River.
Blue Nile
Conflicting water diplomacy: The Blue Nile.