On Thursday, 10 February 2011, the “Blue Peace” report was officially presented by Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey. The document assesses the principal challenges linked to the trans-border management of resources. At present a factor of division and tension, water harbours the potential of becoming an instrument of peace and cooperation. This emerges as the report’s central thesis. Subsequently, it compiles a list of ten recommendations, calculated in the short, medium, and long terms, which are aimed to lead to pragmatic solutions.
Water resources in the Middle East are subject to an unprecedented pressure which is threatening the populations of entire regions along with their economic activities. Population growth, migration, urbanization, and climate change are all exerting an enormous impact on these resources. In fact, over the last 50 years, the flow rate of numerous rivers in turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan has plunged by 50 to 90 percent. And yet at the same time, the sustainable management of trans-border water resources is vital to provide for the requirements of agriculture, the need for clean drinking water, and for socio-economic development in general. It is key to avoiding human tragedy and to fostering the promotion of peace.
On 2009, a group of independent Indian experts, the Strategic Foresight Group (SFG), was mandated by Switzerland and Sweden to flank a process of reflection on this issue. A series of consultations and meetings took place in 2010, i.e., in Montreux (Switzerland), in Amman (Jordan), and in Sanliurfa (Turkey). The SFG then drew up the “Blue Peace” report based on these consultations, which in end effect brought together a good hundred of experts and leaders from the Middle East.
For the short term, the SFG stresses the necessity of trans-border cooperation in the management of water resources in the region. More specifically, it proposed the creation of a cooperation council on water resources which should initially be limited to five countries, i.e., Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey. The Council, which could already be set up as early as 2011, would be entrusted with the task of developing a shared vision, together with instruments and models needed to successfully conduct a cross-border dialogue on the issue of water resources. In the medium term, the countries concerned would have to cooperate in establishing joint programmes for the management of water resources. In this way, the process of consolidating a veritable “blue peace” could begin to take shape.
The report was financed by Switzerland and Sweden. Switzerland also provided support to the process on the strategic and diplomatic levels. It is committed to actively participating in the implementation of the recommendations listed by the “Blue Peace” report and to encouraging dialogue between the various stakeholders in the area of water management be they from the world of politics, the academia, the technological domain, or civil society. Switzerland’s commitment is embedded within the scope of Swiss support for the Geneva Initiative.
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