In 2017, the IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions held two round tables on the question of water in the region. You will participate in a panel concerning water security and water diplomacy, focusing specifically on water in armed conflict. Is the IPU Committee on Middle East Questions still tackling this issue? (See also Global Insights/Global Geneva article: LINK)

Yes. I can say that the IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions is the only forum where Palestinians and Israelis are still talking to each other. At the height of the Gaza crisis, we had an online meeting with the two sides and the members of the Middle East Committee.

What came out of this online meeting?

Our platform, which is a mechanism for trying to ease tensions between the two communities, is still there, alive and kicking. The two delegations were bitter because of what was happening but they were not at each others’ throats. We are proud of creating a climate of trust in the region. The water project is relevant. In the discussions, the Israelis had offered assistance aiming at increasing the volume of water available in the region and the Palestinians have accepted to submit projects to the Israelis. That was a couple of years ago before the onset of Covid.

Martin Chungung, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. (Photo: IPU)

Did the Covid pandemic stop the implementation of this project?

Several events overtook our plans. The ongoing crisis between the Israelis and Palestinians, the attack on the Al Aqsa mosque and the Gaza crisis have left us putting this on hold. The two sides have not challenged what we planned to do. It is very important to continue to strengthen this path because water should be an element of peace and not an element of strife. In this era of technology, there is nothing for me called water shortage. We have to manage water in a way that it is equitable for all. We have to grow the water pile, to make sure that there is more water for everyone.

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Are scientific exchanges key for a revival of the peace process?

If we can use the scientific exchanges and cooperation that are available, increasing the water pile is indeed a strong potential for the prospects of peace in the Middle East. My belief has been strengthened by what I have seen on the ground, in the Middle East, where I have gone. I have seen that Palestinians and Arabs in general, and Israelis, are cooperating on scientific projects including agricultural irrigation.

Is it time for a culture of peace in the region?

That is what the IPU is promoting. We know that in the past, when the issue of water was raised in the Middle East, some people were raising it in terms of one side, because of military strength, extracting all the water, including from the other side, for their own purposes. But I do not think that it reflects the true picture today. There are projects. The Israelis have been open in explaining to us plans for increasing water resources in the Middle East or the transfer of water from other parts of the country in the region. The Palestinians have acknowledged this and have agreed, at least those with the delegation that comes to the IPU.

Geneva Press Club Panels 21 September 2021

Water: weapon of war or instrument of peace?

When and Where
Tuesday, 21st September 2021 from 11am until 1pm
Hybrid format: at the Geneva Press Club with Covid Certificate (Domaine de Penthes, Chemin de l’Impératrice 18, 1292 Pregny-Chambésy) and online. To participate: register here

Moderators: Pierre Ruetschi, Geneva Press Club Executive Director, and Kasmira Jefford, Geneva Solutions Editor-in-Chief.

Opening statements
• Michael Møller, Former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

1st Panel: Water Security: How to prevent conflicts and preserve resources?

  • Segolene Adam, Chief of Humanitarian Policy at UNICEF
  • Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
  • Abdoulaye Sène, Co-President of the International steering committee of the 9th World Water Forum
  • Mara Tignino, Lead Legal Specialist for Geneva Water Hub
  • Patrick Youssef, Regional Director for Africa, ICRC

2nd Panel: Water as a driver of peace in the Sahel region

  • Jean Bosco Bazié, President of Eau Vive Internationale
  • Général Emmanuel de Romémont, Founder of More Water For Sahel
  • Baaba Maal, Singer and Guitarist, Land Ambassador for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification
  • Ambassador Marion Weichelt, Swiss Ambassador to West Africa, FormerAmbassador to Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde

Closing remarks
• Dr Danilo Türk, Lead Political Advisor for Geneva Water Hub, Former President of Slovenia

Luisa Ballin est une journaliste Italo-suisse qui collabore régulièrement avec le magazine Global Geneva. 

Italo-Swiss journalist Luisa Ballin is a contributing editor of Global Geneva magazine.

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