Good Water Neighbors: Rehabilitating the Jordan River through transboundary cooperation

Meandering Jordan River
Published: 28 November 2016
Last edited: 28 March 2019
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Summary

EcoPeace Middle East established "Good Water Neighbors" (GWN) in 2001, to raise awareness of the shared water reality of Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis. The project develops political will for transboundary cooperation on water and sanitation. The GWN methodology is an original idea based on engaging cross-border communities and utilizing their interdependence on shared water resources to develop dialogue and cooperation for sustainable water management and advancing peacebuilding.

Classifications

Region
West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Global
Local
Multi-national
National
Subnational
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Cropland
Desert ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
Green spaces (parks, gardens, urban forests)
Hot desert
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Orchard
Pool, lake, pond
Rangeland / Pasture
River, stream
Salt marsh
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Theme
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Ecosystem services
Legal & policy frameworks
Peace and human security
Protected area governance
Sustainable livelihoods
Watershed management
Challenges
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Pollution (incl. eutrophication and litter)
Lack of public and decision maker’s awareness
Social conflict and civil unrest
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced
Target 6: Sustainable management of aquatic living resources
Target 7: Sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and forestry
Target 8: Pollution reduced
Target 10: Ecosystems vulnerable to climate change
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 15: Ecosystem restoration and resilience
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources

Location

Middle East | Jordan, Israel, Palestine

Challenges

A conflict mindset that urges upstream landholders to grab as much water as possible has led the Jordan River to be a mere trickle of what it originally was with 94% of the original water flow diverted. The water flow has a high concentration of sewage, fishpond effluents and agriculture runoff, despite its incredible environmental importance to the world, as a migration stopover for 500 million birds every year. The Jordan River is a border area surrounded by minefields, checkpoints and fences. The physical separation guarantees a complete lack of interaction between communities across the conflict; it secures a fear and lack understanding for people on the other side. It exacerbates the feeling of injustice and resentment. As a result, the quality of the environment, social stability and economic opportunities have been held hostage to the conflict.

Beneficiaries

The project delivers increased sustainability from an economic, social and environmental perspective. The beneficiaries are the citizens, the governments, international visitors, other stakeholders, and the global environment.

How do the building blocks interact?

The two approaches maximize the results: The Bottom-up approach addresses issues from a grassroots perspective with local initiative and engagement. In the Top-down approach, EcoPeace works with national governments and international institutions to raise awareness and develop advocacy strategies to advance concrete solutions. The synergy between the two approaches has proven to be important to deliver the necessary results.

Impacts

EcoPeace successfully raises awareness of shared water issues among Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis and brings them together to jointly advance sustainable cross border water and sanitation projects and improve the natural environment. In 2015, EcoPeace presented a regional Master Plan for the Jordan River Valley, which with the support of community leaders and members identified, advanced common solutions to cross border environmental challenges. EcoPeace widened the constituencies of support for a shared vision of the valley. As more and more people articulate the geopolitical, social and environmental benefits of investing in the river’s rehabilitation, the issue has garnered the attention of national decision makers and key world powers . In 2016, EcoPeace established a Center of Water Security in Washington DC to advance the resolution of water security issues in other conflict zones across the globe by replicating EcoPeace GWN model. The center seeks to disseminate best practices and adapt programming and strategies to the specific circumstances in the given locations.

Story

EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbor project works in communities to facilitate their understanding of their water reality AND their neighbor’s water reality. It is important for people to understand the interconnectedness between the communities even in the midst of conflict. People need to understand that they have the ability to influence the future, they are not victims without power - we develop their capacity and empower them to become good stewards of the environment. It enables children to take action and demand change and empowers adults to become advocates for solutions. Mayors and civic leaders turn the situation in the midst of a conflict. We bring people together across the conflict to find solutions that are in their self-interest and achievable only through cooperation. These solutions serve a common good across the conflict. When communities understand their interdependence, when they understand the interconnectedness of their future - then we see real progress in livelihood, sustainability, and peacebuilding. "We are the future, and if we start our future with a clean slate, without prejudice, then problems can be solved. Water is the most important thing for all of us, we all live in the same territory and nature connects us" - a 12-year old Israeli girl involved in GWN. It is a long-term process but the benefits are huge; advances are possible even in this long-term conflict with asymmetrical levels of power. Jordan, Palestine and Israel built sewage treatment plants. For the first time in 49 years, release of fresh water into the Jordan River allowed the survival of replanted native willow trees. Israel and Jordan initiated a sub-committee for rehabilitation of the Jordan River. We encourage the three governments to cooperate on water and projects in the Jordan Valley, with the confidence that by moving forward on water, it will create mutual trust and faith in a better future – even in the Middle East. We empower the local people to advance sustainable water security, they do not have to wait for politicians or diplomats. We encourage the local communities to take ownership over the process to advance solutions. "Through water and environment we can create true coexistence, based on respect and the protection of the rights of each side” – 16-year old Palestinian boy.

Contributed by

Marina Djernaes EcoPeace's Center for Water Security

Other contributors

EcoPeace's Center for Water Security