Regional Water Cooperation and Peacebuilding in the Middle East


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Publication Title

Regional Water Cooperation and Peacebuilding in the Middle East

Publication Type

This case study is one of a series within IfP’s cluster on Regional Cooperation on Environment, Economy and Natural Resource Management.


Annika Kramer

Publication Date

December 2008


Publication URL




In the semi-arid to arid climatic conditions of the Middle East, water resources management is a contentious issue between parties sharing the same water resources. On the other hand, solving water problems has been identified as a topic of common interest to Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. The implementation of joint water-related projects is therefore seen as a hopeful sign and related projects have received substantial funding from the international donor community, especially the US and EU.

Theoretically, the idea that cooperation over water resources could act as a pathway for building peace is feasible. This case study seeks to deepen the understanding of how the peacebuilding effects of such cooperation can best be harnessed, supported and sustained. It analyses two existing initiatives promoting water cooperation between Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians: the Good Water Neighbors project initiated by Friends of the Earth Middle East; and the 'Regional Water Data Banks Project, which promotes collaboration of water agencies in data management. The case analysis focuses on the design and implementation of cooperative processes, as both the form and content of cooperation are critical for peacebuilding.

Though the two initiatives take different approaches, commonalities exist in the challenges both have to face with regard to peacebuilding. Common challenges include: dealing with existing asymmetries, affecting political change, creating relationships and ownership, and dealing with different expectations. Both regional water cooperation efforts discussed here show that water is an issue that communities and experts agree cannot be solved unilaterally. The issue of water seems important enough to justify cooperation. While water can thus serve as a starting point for dialogue, this report shows that peacebuilding efforts involving Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis soon hit a road block when it comes to actual cooperation in water resources management. This is mainly because water issues are characterised by major inequalities among the three parties and are highly politicised. Cooperation in water resources management, however, remains an important goal to pursue, as it is the only way to sustainably manage the scarce water resources in the region. Cooperation is important in order to provide water for health security and livelihood reasons, and because water disputes fuel existing conflicts.

Building on the analysis of the two cases selected for this study, as well as on broader knowledge on water cooperation, the final chapter of the report makes recommendations for funding agencies and third parties involved in regional water cooperation initiatives in the Middle East:

  • Ask for clear theories of change and necessitate that water cooperation initiatives claiming to promote peace spell out how they aim to contribute to peacebuilding.
  • Address existing asymmetries in the design and implementation of initiatives in order to ensure that cooperation provides at least mutual – if not equal benefits – and to prevent asymmetric power relations favouring one party.
  • Promote regional water cooperation towards peacebuilding and human security with the national governments and authorities.
  • Provide ongoing funding, even when conflict escalates.
  • Do not interpret the need to remain impartial between the parties as the need to stay silent on abuses and injustices committed by parties.



See also

External Resources


' Regional Water Cooperation and Peacebuilding in the Middle East.pdf

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