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Congress: 2008
Author(s): Eric Viala

AbstractTHE BLUE REVOLUTION INITIATIVE: WHY A REGIONAL WATER PROGRAM FOR THE MIDDLE- EAST Eric Viala ABSTRACT The Middle-East - North Africa (MENA) region is facing an unprecedented water scarcity situation. Whether this crisis will be amplified or mitigated by global climate change remains a debate. But there is no doubt that increasing population, urbanization and industrialization will keep boosting water demands, both in terms of quantity and quality. It has been argued that water issues vary in the region, from the unsustainable groundwater dependence of Lybia to the transboundary politics of managing the Nile River in Egypt, from the uncertainty of spate irrigation in Yemen to the complexity of operating and maintaining large dams in Morocco. But there is a commonality to the region which compounds the water scarcity issue: institutional and organizational scarcities. While managing water resources is becoming an increasingly difficult task, from technical, economic, social, and political perspectives, water agencies throughout the region remain mired into the old paradigm of increasing the supply, with possibly desalination as the ultimate and new magical recipe. While the demand management and IWRM concepts are being provided lip service, they remain non-transparent and non- accountable entities. Stuck in their engineering certainties that building water structures is the solution, they even sometimes deny the extent and severity of the existing or looming water crisis. Many donor-funded development projects strive to promote IWRM notions such as systematic data collection and analysis, transparent and participatory decision-making, sustainable and integrated management, etc. Without consistent commitment from top managers, it remains to be seen if the project outputs are really sustainable. Without enforcement of new procedures and practices in terms of delegation and responsibility, project results are short-lived. The Blue Revolution Initiative (BRI) is striving to “break the project cycle” and looks beyond to the core issue of changing values to govern decision making for water management. Its overall goal is to change the culture and governance of water. The BRI works closely with governments in the MENA region, actively pursues co-investments from the private sector, reaches out to like-minded foundations, and partners with regional institutions to address some of the most challenging water issues that the region faces: • Transboundary water management issues: by promoting national, regional, and local cooperation to improve water security. • Inefficient and nonproductive water use: by strengthening regional institutions and initiatives to improve water resources management and sector governance. Sensitive issues such as water valuation and groundwater management are being discussed. • Lack of access by the poor to improved water and sanitation services: by working with regional water utility associations, selected water utilities, and municipal and national governments, to test and share successful approaches. In order to advocate change, the BRI is implemented regionally to: • Create a shared vision with host governments, donors, the private sector, and NGOs. • Strengthen regional platforms which promote and carry out best water management practices. • Identify and support regional experts or “champions” from the region who will endorse and further the BRI values.
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