Connecting Waterpeople

The world is off track to achieve SDG 6, only 10 years to harvest! What can MENA region do

  • The world is off track to achieve SDG 6, only 10 years to harvest! What can MENA region do

Four years since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, UN-Water reports show the world is off track to achieve the water goal – the heart of the SDGs-, thus the same goes for all water related SDGs (only 10 years to harvest SDGs). Amid lots of highlights on what we need to do, governments must decide how to incorporate SDG 6 targets into national planning processes, policies and strategies and set their own targets, taking into account local circumstances and contexts including cultural.

Localisation of SDGs has received a great deal of attention among the government officials and policymakers. While ​MENA countries are the front-runners in presenting their voluntary national reviews (VNRs), there is still a long way to go in terms of localization process in MENA countries and implementation of the SDGs. The SDGs are not just a global reporting exercise, however, but rather involve a global program that embraces country-led efforts. Guided by the ideas contained in the 2030 Agenda, each nation must seek to become more prosperous and sustainable, while contributing to the global effort at the same time.

The SDGs are not just a global reporting exercise, but rather involve a global program that holds country-led national efforts and actions - Dr Elmahdi

Is the MENA region ready: The coming water crisis is already here

World Bank infographic

The water crisis in the MENA region stands at the forefront when considering water-related challenges that impede progress towards sustainable development, in which the region has become a global hotspot of unsustainable water use.  Under climate change (with a potential of 4 degrees Celsius increase in temperature), unsustainable consumption and over-abstraction of surface and groundwater resources worsen water scarcity and threaten long-term sustainable development.​​

The people of the MENA region conjure images of an oil-rich population; however, they live in the most water-scarce region in the world with water availability six times less than the worldwide average of 7,000 cubic meters. The region is home to 6% of the world’s population and less than 2% of the world’s renewable water supply. The Middle East and North Africa have experienced severe water stress against a background of recurring droughts and worsening environmental degradation, rapid urbanization and persistent food insecurity, compounded by conflict and civil unrest, giving rise to mass migration. All countries in the MENA region have high to very high-water stress (water withdrawals are more than 40% of total renewable freshwater availability), much higher than global averages. Over 60 percent of the region’s population lives in areas with high or very high surface water stress, compared with a global average of about 35 percent. Moreover, more than 70 percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) is generated in areas with high to very high surface water stress, compared with a global average of some 22 percent.​

In the coming decades, as populations grow, demand rises, and global climate change looms, per capita water availability in the region is predicted to drop in half by mid-century. As water turns into a growing scarce resource in the region, cooperation both within countries and among riparian countries is a must. Meeting these challenges will require bold actions and new mindsets on water management to mainstream the SDGs.

Arab states are currently facing their worst water crisis with intense competition over shared water resources, affected by the political instability and conflict that has swept the region - Hassan Aboelnaga

New Paradigm- “No Room for Business as Usual” to preserve precious water in MENA

Amman, Jordan

  • Changing mindset: The Arab region has been investing for a long time in linear systems of usage and dispose that use drinking water for all around use and by doing so, the region is consuming water beyond its sustainable limits.  It takes water for granted with no economic value. Countries are still treating the water and sanitation as two separate systems, similar to surface and groundwater resources, while they are all part of one system: the water cycle. Wastewater is considered as a risk and a waste that should be disposed; it is a resource of low quality before it is treated.

Wastewater is an untapped resource to close the gap of supply of demand - Dr Elmahdi

  • Integration and connection: Water is not a sector but a connector that links all industries and defend sectors. The water goal SDG6 is also interconnected with all SDGs. Thus, water policies and planning should be unified, taking integrated water resources management as a system of systems.​
    • Shift from social production to productive production system
    • Shift from centralise to decentralise water management and governance
  • Circular economy and Inclusive gender business model: The Arab region needs to go beyond water supply actions. Shift to demand management is fundamental to secure future generations’ livelihoods. Circular economy and inclusive gender business are offering alleviation and support sustainability for future generations.
    • Introduce water recycling into established businesses
    • Shift from more production per drop to more per drop and Kilowatt
    • Engaging private sectors in water and agriculture sectors.
    • Shift to water as economic goods
    • Introduce service delivery
  • Digital transformation and technology for saving water:  The future well-being hinges on transformation: from convergence of stresses and risks to a future of sustainable, climate-resilient and inclusive development. The 2030 Agenda is the world’s agreed roadmap for this transformation. Unequal access to water data holds back the region’s ability to respond to growing water challenges and to meet the SDGs. Water data are often insufficient, of uncertain quality, not being shared or simply do not exist in many countries. Yet, technologies for data collection—such as satellites, virtual sensors and mobile phone applications—are generating vast quantities of information.
    • Seize the potential of the increased availability of water data and big data tools to catalyze change
    • Enhance knowledge of decision making and investors by identifying how to channel multiple streams and sources of data into products
  • Localizing SDGs goals: Localizing is not the parachuting of global goals into local contexts. It means implementing global agendas at the local level to achieve local and global goals. Achieving the SDG6 relies not only on setting goals, but also on a responsive approach to farmers and the community
    • Empowering people and end users
    • Shift from state-run institutions to the water user organisation
    • Expanding more inclusive partnership
    • Fostering adaptation
  • Planning and sustainability: To get the Arab region on track, it is essential to fundamentally change the way the water system is managed ‘from linear system to circular system’ turning risks into opportunities, shifting from infrastructure delivery to more resilient services, and shifting from silo to integrated and holistic policies with integrated actions.

Sustainability is a collective of integrated actions, and can be secured in the MENA region, only if each country plays its role  - Dr Elmahdi

All of the above and much more will be discussed and deliberated on during the 5th of November 2019 session titled, ‘Water Security for Sustainable Development in the Arab Region,’ to be held during the 3rd Arab Sustainable Development Week organized by the League of Arab States.

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