Water More Important Than Oil for the Future of the Arab World
For too many in the Arab World today the most immediate challenges are all-consuming. From the Syria crisis and its spillover effects, the difficult political transitions underway in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, to the still unfulfilled ambitions of the Palestinian people for national determination, the Arab World today remains a region where crisis, conflict and political challenges shape the lives of much of the population and are understandably front-and-center in the regional dialogue.
However beneath the surface, a consensus is emerging that any potential progress on any of these fronts may be undercut if sufficient attention is not given to another issue: the Arab world’s deepening water crisis.
Indeed, the Arab peoples today are not only undergoing major political changes, we also facing a new transformation in our relation with the natural world. If the last seventy years can be considered the era of oil in the Arab region, the years to come will be shaped to a much greater extent by how we make use of water.
Last week the Regional Bureau for Arab States of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a new report on the future of water in the Arab region. Entitled the Arab Water Governance Report, the publication argues that the future will depend on whether the Arab countries can vastly improve the way water is managed. Oil and gas have allowed for significant modernization over recent decades including unprecedented improvement in human development, but continuing our progress requires us to treat our water with as much reverence as we have our energy resources – or even more.
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