Policy roundtable on water scarcity in the Arab region calls for urgent climate action to build resilience

November 22, 2021

New York – Expert panelists convening virtually to assess the impacts of climate change on water resources in the Arab region and implications to regional development, sounded an alarm that climate risks will most directly exacerbate the significant water related challenges that Arab countries are facing in what is already the most water scarce region in the world. This came in the conclusion of the sixth high-level policy roundtable co-hosted by the League of Arab States (LAS), the Government of Japan (GOJ) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

“The climate change in the Arab region will have a significant impact on water and agricultural sector. Discharge of main rivers are projected to decrease by 20% and the yield of staple crops such as rainfed wheat is expected to decrease by about 30%. This in turn will have a substantial impact on water and food security in our region. Therefore, adaptation measures to climate change should be given a high priority and must be in the heart of any development policy in order to avoid the negative impact of climate change,” said Dr. Naser Eddin Al Obaid, Director General, the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands.

Experts participating in the roundtable highlighted the serious implications of increasing water insecurity on the economy, social stability, and people’s livelihood, particularly vulnerable groups that are disproportionally affected, in countries across the region.

Mr. Tomofumi Nishinaga, Deputy Director-General, Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan pointed out that, “It is timely for us to gather wisdom on water issues in the Arab region. Next year Egypt will host the COP 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, and Japan would like to take this opportunity to strengthen cooperation with Arab states in the field of climate change. We believe that a series of discussions and collaboration, facilitated by UNDP like today’s roundtable, would further deepen mutual trust and friendship between Japan and Arab countries.”

The roundtable stressed the importance of managing water resources in the region sustainably and sensibly. They underscored the importance of addressing climate risks and transitioning to greener development models, providing examples of innovative approaches and policies, as well as technologies and tools available to support such a transition.

“Water is a crosscutting theme in all the SDGs. It is a core element in achieving sustainable development. In our region, water scarcity affects everyone, but its impacts disproportionally affect most vulnerable people. It is a major driver of displacement and social unrest, contributing significantly to conflict patterns in the region,” said Dr. Khalida Bouzar, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP. “Thus, we are prioritizing the climate-water nexus in the context of our own upcoming Strategic Plan and are focusing on scaling-up partnerships to significantly raise climate ambition with our partners.”

The virtual roundtable was part of the policy dialogue series launched by the tri-partite partnership in 2019, following the successful conclusion of the first Arab-Japan Political Dialogue held in September 2017. The roundtable series aims to enhance cooperation between Japan and the Arab States and to establish a policy dialogue platform encompassing common development priorities and concerns in relation to the region.

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