||THE MULTILATERAL NEGOTIATIONS|
A Case Study of the Middle East Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources
The Middle East Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources (MWGWR) a case study of the "From Vision to Action" theme adopted by this international forum on water. Almost a decade ago at the Madrid Peace Conference, a vision for the Middle East was articulated. This conference launched the formation of a multilateral framework to address a number of issues in the Middle East, one of them being regional water issues. The fundamental objective of the multilateral track has been to lay the foundations for a just and sustainable peace by creating a dialogue that transcends the scope of bilateral negotiations. From the outset, the purpose was three-fold:
THE MADRID CONFERENCE AND THE BIRTH OF THE MULTILATERAL PROCESS
The Middle East multilateral peace process and its bilateral track began with the Madrid Conference in October 1991. Although the stated objective at Madrid was to begin a process to resolve the Middle East conflict, this objective was viewed in the broadest possible perspective. From the outset, the conference pursued a peace settlement that extended beyond the normalization of relations between warring parties. The message underlying the Madrid Conference was that the time had come to shed the old paradigms of the Middle East conflict and focus on the future.
The peace process partners agreed to establish a multilateral track in addition to the bilateral track. The two-track model adopted at the Madrid conference reflected the commitment of the participants and co-sponsors to build an additional dimension into the peace process. The decision to launch both a bilateral and multilateral track was not just the result of compromise between opposing approaches to negotiations. The bilateral track was designed to concentrate on the political issues of territorial control and sovereignty, border demarcations, security arrangements, and the political rights of the Palestinians. The multilateral track was established to examine a range of more technically oriented issues that extend across national boundaries and the resolution of which, is essential for the promotion of long-term regional development and security. The focus of the bilateral process would deal with problems inherited from the past, and the multilateral track would focus on issues that would shape the future of the Middle East.
A framework for the multilateral track was established in January 1992 at the Moscow Multilateral Middle East Conference, a forum that included thirty-six delegations from around the globe. There was consensus to establish five multilateral working groups and a steering group to coordinate the activities of the various working groups. The Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources (MWGWR) is one of these five groups.
FROM VISION, TO ACTION: THE MULTILATERAL WORKING GROUP ON WATER RESOURCES MODEL FOR COOPERATION
The model for cooperation incorporated in the multilateral peace process is premised on the vision of creating synergies through awareness of common problems, such as water. By concentrating on the common problem of regional water scarcity, the participants in the process have been able to transcend the realm of competing interests and create a situation in which, all parties share benefits. The central focus is placed on creating a positive dynamic that will lead to tangible results in solving common water problems and that will foster actions that will translate I into effective regional cooperation. This dynamic is self-reinforcing. Regional awareness and sensitivity to common needs lead to the conceptualization and definition of regional problems. This leads to a search for regional solutions, which then are channeled back into the process of bilateral problem solving between parties, and promotes synergetic regional cooperation. Once tangible milestones of regional cooperation are achieved, regional awareness is reinforced and the momentum is perpetuated.
Characteristics of the Multilateral Model
The model of cooperation exhibited in the multilateral framework has been a model-in-the-making. No preconceived limitations or requirements were developed or applied. At the same time, however, a common ground was fostered and reinforced by specific organizational and behavioral practices. The process has been gradual, deliberate, and, at times, laborious, requiring procedural definition, ratification of decisions by each of the participating regional parties, and the support (financial and otherwise) of the various donor parties involved. The progress that has been achieved, both in terms of project completion and confidence, building, can be attributed to a number of important factors:
MULTILATERAL WORKING GROUP ON WATER RESOURCES
As in many regions. of the world, water in the Middle East has been a point of contention for many years. The demand for quality water in the region historically has been a major issue of concern. The interdependency among the parties on common water resources only complicated matters. The scarcity of quality water in the region was designated by the multilateral track as one of five key issues that should be addressed on a regional level. It was felt that if the inherently bilateral issues, such as water rights and the allocation of existing resources, could be set aside, water could serve as a catalyst for cooperation and the advancement of peace. The multilateral framework enabled the regional participants to create positive scenarios from what was essentially an inwardly focused negotiation. This added dimension to the bilateral track of peace negotiations accentuated the positive and set the stage for capitalizing on potential synergies arising from the peace process.
The MWGWR was established with the vision that water could become a source of cooperation rather than contention. By focusing on the big picture, i.e., addressing the gap between the supply and demand for water in the entire region both east and west of the Jordan River, the parties could create a positive dynamic that would help the region enhance water resources and, at the same time, add substance to the peace process.
Essentially, the idea was to move the focus from an internal need to control the limited water resources to a concern for the greater good of the regional population. In the 8 years that have passed since the Conference in Madrid, the MWGWR has succeeded in shifting the focus and in laying the cornerstone for regional capacity building in the field of water management. This shift has contributed to practical collaborative solutions to the Middle East’s common water problems within existing political reality. The organization and human dynamics behind the multilateral process provides a model for regional cooperation that can be emulated in other regions in the world.
The initial membership in the MWGWR was comprised of 47 delegations, which included 15 regional parties and 32 extra-regional or donor nations, institutions, and organizations from around the globe. A number of the participants were water professionals with little or no previous formal experience in politics or diplomacy.
The primary aim of the Working Group on Water Resources is to create an awareness of water issues from a regional perspective. More specifically, the Group’s objectives as articulated in Moscow, are to foster cooperation and coordinate efforts to ameliorate water problems through activities done under the group’s four agenda items:
While the direction of the multilateral track was established in Moscow, there was no certainty at the outset of the process that the multilateral track would succeed. No clear guidelines as to the organization or formal procedures that would govern the group were formulated before the launching of the multilateral track. There also was no clear indication as to the specific character or scope of the projects that would be undertaken in this new framework. In fact, some of the parties declined to participate in the multilateral discussions believing that they were premature. Despite this, a sense of common purpose did develop over time and structural norms were established. General goals were translated into clearly defined projects and specific on-going activities.
The activities initiated and sponsored by the Working Group varied in character and scope. They included regional studies; the establishment, upgrading, and standardization of regional water data networks; a multifaceted training program; a regional desalination research center; workshops; and various local projects. Some of the projects were structured as a cluster of specific activities that could be enhanced modularly and adjusted with time. Other activities were more strictly defined and focused on specific regional and local activities. All projects conformed to the Moscow agenda and many encompassed more than one of the four specified MWGWR agenda items. They emphasized pragmatic operational measures that either would be implemented as part of the original project activities or could be applied expediently at some time in the future. These projects lay the groundwork for future collaboration by preparing the building blocks from which cooperation could be realized. In this sense, the MWGWR projects represented initial steps towards regional capacity building; i.e., the creation of mechanisms for action on a regional level where none existed previously.
Between 1992 and 1996 the MWGWR convened formally nine times, both within and outside the MENA region. The last Working Group meeting was convened in Hammamet, Tunisia, in May 1996. Between plenary meetings, the Working Group held intersessional activities on a frequent basis. These intersessional activities rendered continuity to the collaboration among the parties and served as the engine driving the MWGWR’s programmatic progress.
Since 1996, despite the lack of formal MWGWR meetings, work has continued unabated on the original projects with a modest expansion of project activity to meet emerging needs and increasing capacity for regional cooperation. The Major Elements of the Water Problem in the Middle East Several major elements can be identified that characterize the nature and scope of the water issue in the Middle East.
Although these elements characterize circumstances in the Middle East, they are common, to some degree, to other regions of the world. The scarcity of quality water, whether resulting from limited availability or uninformed management, rarely respects political boundaries. Water resources often are shared between different political entities, and riparian claims can impair otherwise normal peaceful relations between states. Disparity between socioeconomic and political systems, also is common between neighboring states, and all regional" water systems are affected somewhat by politics. Accordingly, the adoption of an approach that looks beyond divisive issues and attempts to create common ground for effective water management on a regional scale is not unique to the Middle East.
UNITED FOR WATER: THE PROJECT PORTFOLIO
Projects undertaken by the MWGWR were chosen based on their contribution to the four agenda items outlined at Moscow: a) enhancement of water data availability; b) water management practices, including conservation; c) enhancement of water supply; and d) concepts of regional water management and cooperation. Each project fell under at least one of these agenda items, While, some, fit into more than one category. The projects were designed to provide technology transfer and to achieve pragmatic results. Conclusions included recommendations for institutionalizing regional cooperation in some form by either implementing joint infrastructure projects, building regional institutions and training centers, or preparing the elements necessary for regional action.
Initially, projects generally involved participating regional parties and a donor nation or institution that served as a shepherd or facilitator. The original projects generally were initiated by the donor party, with consensus acceptance by the participating regional parties. As time went by and collegial relationships developed, the participating regional parties assumed a more active role in proposing additional activities and refining proposals made by the other members of the MWGWR. For the first time, the participating regional parties were able to articulate in a consensual manner the nature, scope and needs of regional water issues. A joint statement issued in February 1998 summarizes their newly developed awareness concerning regional water problems. "Although, each core party has some limited potential of unexploited local water resources and can improve the efficiency of water use, the future water gap can only be covered through the provision of new and additional water to the region."
The major projects undertaken by the MWGWR are outlined below:
The project portfolio of the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources
Enhancement of water data availability
Regional Water Data Banks
Water management practices, including conservation
Public Awareness & Water Conservation Optimization of Intensive Agriculture under Varying Water Quality Conditions Comparative Study of Water Laws & Water Institutions in the Region
Enhancement of water supply
Regional Water Supply & Demand Study Middle East Desalination Research Center
Concepts of regional water management & cooperation
Water Sector Training Program Declaration on Principles for Cooperation Among the Core Parties on Water Related Matters & New and Additional Water Resources Water Atlas Waternet
Enhancement of Water Data Availability
Regional Water Data Banks Project
The three participating regional parties, with support from Australia, Canada, the European Union, France, The Netherlands, and the United States are implementing a project to establish, upgrade, and standardize regional data banks of hydrologic data. Norway also has made a substantial contribution to the Palestinian Water Authority that supports the goals of the project. The project is an ongoing capacity-building measure to enhance future cooperation in water management. It was approved in 1994 and launched in January 1995 with the formation of the Executive Action Team (EXACT), a regional oversight group consisting of members from the participating regional parties and representatives from active donor countries.
Thirty-nine priority recommendations were identified and agreed-upon by the participating regional parties, plus Work Package A, which is a series of actions designed to establish and promote capacity building within the Palestinian Water Authority. Examples of work undertaken by the Regional Water Data Banks Project the creation of regional directories of water resource professionals, institutions, publications, and projects and studies, compatible geographic reference systems, standardized data collection procedures and forms, standardized laboratory analytical methodology, development of mobile laboratories; participation in a regional laboratory quality assurance program, access to a wide area network, and joint training in a wide variety of hydrologic topics. These activities have resulted, in several publications as well as the adoption of standardized procedures among the three participating regional parties.
Additional actions that have been undertaken within the regional Water Data Banks Project include significant hardware elements that have enhanced the ability of the parties to monitor water systems. Specific local infrastructure projects that have been completed as part of the MWGWR initiative include:
The original project profile made possible the expansion of ongoing initiatives, even though the formal operation of the multilateral framework was suspended in 1996. The success of the early project initiatives opened opportunities for more comprehensive cooperation and has provided an Opportunity for the participating regional parties to dialogue focused on common water issues. Effective, teamwork among the Working Group members, in particular the participating regional parties, contributed immeasurably to the continued success of the MWGWR programs and their ability to attract donor assistance.
Over the past 5 years, eleven EXACT meetings have been convened. In addition, there have been scores of meetings among the participating regional parties to implement the project recommendations, keep the activities pertinent to regional needs, and to examine desirable expansion of ongoing activities. At the meeting held in Amman in May 19,99, five additional projects were approved by EXACT:
Water Management Practices, Including Conservation
Public Awareness and Water Conservation Project
At the 1996 MWGWR meeting held in Tunisia, the Working Group initiated a project to focus on awareness programs for water conservation. Regional participants included Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia. The U.S.led program includes technical assistance in determining the best practices for establishing public awareness campaigns and educational programs. Public awareness campaigns for water conservation were run simultaneously in Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Tunisia. The local campaigns of Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority then were compiled into a video depicting the regional problem of water scarcity and the means to address the problem. As. the next phase, Israeli, Jordanian, and the Palestinian representatives agreed to extend activities by introducing an educational program on water and water conservation into their school systems. Unlike previous school curricula, this educational program will approach the issue of water from a regional perspective. The project was adopted May 1999, and incorporation into the school curriculum is planned for September 2001. This project signifies the first time the Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian school systems will teach a jointly developed and identical regional program.
Optimization of Intensive Agriculture Under Varying Water Quality Conditions
This project was initiated in 1996 by Luxembourg and involves the Palestinian Authority, Morocco, and Israel. The aim of the project was to set up a demonstration farm in Beit Hanoun for technology transfer in the field of water use. The focus of the project activities is placed on developing the use of saline and brackish water for sustainable fanning in Gaza. Project implementation is led by Al-Azhar University of Gaza.
Comparative Study of Water Laws and Water Institutions in the Region
A comparative survey outlining the legislative, regulatory, institutional, and pricing framework of water-resource management in various Middle Eastern countries and territories was conducted by the Norwegian government through the Center for Environmental Studies and Resource Management, a non-governmental organization known as "CESAR." In the first stage, common denominators among the various water management systems were identified. The detailed comparison among the various water regimes established a potential starting point for consensual formal cooperation in the future. The study’s appendices included a compilation of English translations of the various water laws and water authority by-laws as presented by each party.
Enhancement of Water Supply
Regional Water Supply and Demand Study
This three-stage study was sponsored by the German government. The first stage, completed in 1996, involved collecting current and projected data for the years 2010, 2020, and 2040 from the three participating regional parties. Demand was compared with supply and water quality data, and the magnitude of the gap between supply and demand was calculated and modeled for these periods.
The second stage examined alternative strategies for bridging the gap: seawater desalination, conveyance via pipelines from fresh water sources near the region, and conveyance by sea from outlying sources, such as Turkey.
Each regional participating party examined a different strategic alternative. Desalination was found to be the alternative that best met the criteria of technical and economic feasibility. The third stage of the project where the participants identified priority activities for implementation, was completed in February 1998. The key recommendation arising from this study is the proposal for joint development of prototype desalination plants on the Mediterranean and Gulf of Aqaba coasts. It is estimated that this project could be implemented within 3 years at a cost of $30-$50 million. The participating regional parties have approached the German government for assistance, and discussions currently are being held on this matter.
Middle East Desalination Research Center
The Middle East Desalination Research Center (MEDRC) was proposed by the government of Oman in 1994, endorsed by the Multilateral Working Group on Water Resources, and inaugurated in Muscat in December 1996. The United States, Oman, Japan, Israel, the European Union, and Korea contributed financial resources to fund its establishment and initial operation. The Center’s mission is to conduct, facilitate, promote, coordinate, and support basic and applied research in water desalination and supporting fields; and to raise the standard of living in the Middle East and elsewhere by reducing costs and improving the quality Of the technical processes involved in water desalination. It coordinates and sponsors basic and applied research, initiates training programs in desalination, promotes electronic networking, and encourages regional cooperation towards the development, and improvement of desalination technology.
Objectives of MEDRC are:
MEDRC has co-sponsored seminars and workshops worldwide with partners from the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, and has constructed a website at www.medrc.org as well as a data bank and on-line bulletin board to promote partnering in research projects.
To date, five Requests for Proposals have been announced, generating seventy project proposals. Seventeen multinational research projects have been awarded resulting in twenty-seven organizations in twelve countries working on projects primed and assisted by MEDRC. Together, this represents a total project budget of 2.4 million dollars.
Concepts of Regional Water Management and Cooperation
Water Sector Training Program
The MWGWR undertook a regional water sector training needs assessment to identify human resource technical requirements and to develop skills required to effectively manage regional water resources. As a result of the need for assessment, approximately 275 water resource personnel from the region were trained in seminars and courses held in Australia, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Oman, the United Kingdom and sponsored by the donor parties of the MWGWR. The participants came from Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Yemen.
Declaration on Principles for Cooperation Among the Core Parties on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water Resources
Following the 1995 completion of the Norwegian-led Comparative Study of Water Laws and Water Institutions in the Region, participating, regional parties entered into discussions to develop a Declaration on Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters and New and Additional Water. In initialing the formal Declaration, the participating regional parties jointly resolved to cooperate in the development of new and additional water resources. They recognized the importance of:
In addition to documenting the common denominators among the systems, the Declaration details avenues for potential cooperation in developing new water resources and in other water-related matters, should the participating regional parties decide to move the process forward.
Water Atlas Project
Initiated by the Norwegian government, the Water Atlas is a comprehensive data base of historic, scientific, technical, legal, and economic literature (occupying some 850 pages) regarding water resources and related issues of Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian interest. This database was provided to the participating regional parties to use as a tool to facilitate future discussions and activities.
Miscellaneous Activities Completed
The Waternet Project, established by the Norwegian Government in 1996 is the first joint initiative by the participating (Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian or "Core") parties to implement parts of the Declaration on Principles. The project has three main parts. First, Waternet-Local establishes a computerized information system to display relevant local water information. It is designed to meet internal objectives related to water information. The initial focus of the Waternet Information System (WIS) is on the development of a module called Water Library and Information Navigator" which features water-related bibliographic information. Three computer node sites have been established by each party.
Waternet-Regional, the second part of the Waternet Project, will assist the participating parties to form a shared, computerized regional water information system. It is designed to link the Parties’ local nodes, thus permitting regional sharing of water information.
The third part of the Waternet Project is establishment of a Regional Waternet and Research Center in Amman, Jordan. The objectives of the Center, which is expected to begin operation in 2000, are to develop and maintain the Waternet, to stimulate regional cooperation on water-related matters, to initiate new regional and joint activities, and to promote cooperation among the Core Parties as outlined in the Declaration on Principles. The Waternet Steering Group, consisting of regional representatives, Norwegian project implementers, and technical experts as needed, meets regularly to lead, monitor, and evaluate the project. A Local Steering Group and a Local Technical Group provide further assistance and support.
IDENTIFIED NEEDS – FUTURE ACTIVITIES
Demonstrating the "ground-up" approach by the regional party members over the years, they have compiled a list of priority projects that require a source of funding. I This list focuses on expanding the preliminary work already accomplished and includes, in some cases, the, procurement of selected field equipment for various regional water projects.
UNITED FOR PEACE: COOPERATION AS A MEANS TO CONFIDENCE BUILDING
The progress attained at the programmatic level would not have been possible without the development of mutual trust and credibility among the participating regional parties. The success in confidence building is evidenced by two major outcomes of the process. The MWGWR has been at able to continue operations during the fluctuations of the political climate of the bilateral track. In addition, the participating regional parties have come together not only to implement, but to expand ongoing activities within the multilateral framework.
The process of confidence building has been dynamic, complex, and vulnerable to a wide array of elements. Despite significant progress, however, this process is still in the making. Rather than mitigating problems that arose within the bilateral framework, the multilateral track served as an additional sounding board for traditional grievances. Only after the parties had reached the first stage of the bilateral track (the interim agreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the peace accord between the Jordanians and the Israelis), were the parties able to make significant progress on the multilateral track. Difficulties were encountered At several junctures on the way. At times, national interests intervened and the development of specific programs had to change course, but they did continue to move forward. This ability to change direction and to reach consensus is directly related to confidence building measures and empathy developed as a result of the multilateral activities. In the final analysis, momentum has been positive and a mechanism that can drive operation to higher levels has been created.
The participating regional parties have gained credibility not only in their dealings with one another, but with the donor nations as well. In many cases, they have cast off their earlier role as passive recipients and have become the initiators of regional water projects. As a sub-group, the participating parties today are able to better articulate local and regional needs and function as active partners in the design and direction of future initiatives. Today, the MWGWR represents a focal point to which additional projects can be directed and from which they can be effectively carried out.
The role of the donor parties has been crucial, unbiased and dedicated leadership – coupled with a continuing commitment of funds and personnel has sustained the process throughout nearly a decade of existence. Working relations between the donor representatives and the regional participants have emerged as a real partnership and transcend the traditional donor-recipient relationship.
The participating regional parties have assumed, an increasingly pivotal role. Growing trust and credibility among the parties has resulted in their active involvement to initiate and define, new projects. Original project profiles have been modified to more accurately address regional needs. This aspect will be particularly important in the implementation of capacity building and infrastructure projects. It also is a key element in attracting donors to support expansion of the original project portfolio.
INTERACTION BETWEEN THE BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL FRAMEWORKS
Despite attempts to keep a clear and well-defined division between the bilateral and multilateral tracks, it is apparent that each was affected by the other. As bilateral relations improved in the early years of the process, cooperation in the multilateral framework intensified. In this respect, it is important to note that numerous Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian representatives participated in both the bilateral and multilateral tracks of the peace negotiations.
However, when problems beset the bilateral track, they did not automatically spill over into the multilateral framework. Although difficulties in the bilateral track political process did create some obstacles, the process of confidence building in the earlier years clearly paid off. The Multilateral Track of the MWGWR may have had to change gears but, nevertheless, it maintained its positive momentum. The" participants maintained focus on long term goals and the multilateral projects continued in a less formal mode. This informal framework not only enabled the continuation of existing projects, but also the funding and expansion of projects to meet emerging needs. The confidence built before 1996 kept the process robust and resilient to changing political realities. Informal meetings of the MWGWR were held in 1998 and 1999. More, importantly, informal meetings among the participating regional parties were convened on an irregular, as needed, basis. This new forum allowed the participating parties to jointly plan new project initiatives and present the plan to donor nations.
FUTURE DIRECTION FOR THE MULTILATERAL WORKING GROUP ON WATER RESOURCES – WHAT LIES AHEAD?
The multilateral peace process has proven to be an effective mechanism for positive change. The working relations that have been established among the participating regional parties offer an unprecedented opportunity to move forward into new ventures that will support regional growth, prosperity and peace. Nothing in life is static. Either we grow, or we stagnate and wither away. Like life, the MWGWR must be an evolving process. We must continue to grow, and we can capitalize on the momentum and resources that have been established over the past decade. To foster this progress, a higher profile for the MWGWR and its activities is now in order.
The MWGWR offers a viable process to undertake larger scale infrastructure projects that will physically demonstrate the benefits of the multilateral framework. An excellent starting point would be construction of the prototype desalination plants on the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. This proposal is a direct outcome of a working group study that demonstrates the possibility of creating as much as 10 MCM of additional water annually in these areas.
The MWGWR should endeavor to bring other parties from the MENA region into the process. Systems developed in the Regional Water Data Banks and Waternet Projects easily can be extended to include other regional parties. The many countries that participated in the Regional Training Program represent potential partners for ongoing and future activities.
Having proven the effectiveness of the multilateral framework, can we extend and enhance the. project portfolio to include, other topics that involve water management for sustainable development, such as the potential future activities listed earlier? In addition, regional water issues that can be addressed effectively Within the multilateral framework and, ideally, in conjunction with the Multilateral Working Group on the Environment, include:
The last chapter in the Middle East Peace Process has yet to be written. Regardless of the outcome the MWGWR is a tried and proven model And a process for effective regional cooperation in water issues that can be applied in, other areas of the world. The combination of commitment towards the common objective of fostering regional awareness, directed project definition and planning, the. inclusion, of confidence building measures as an integral part of the, group’s raison d’etre, effective teamwork, and proactive international guidance has led to the creation of a positive dynamic that facilitates capacity building on a regional scale. The success of the multilateral framework, as, reflected in, the MWGWR’s decade of existence, should serve as a beacon to the rest of the world as to what CAN be accomplished by working cooperatively on a regional level. We stand ready to share our experience in developing regional partnerships with those who may be just beginning the complex and daunting task of resolving national differences to enable both sharing and effective management of water resources. Join us. We welcome you!