Preventing water-related conflicts: Switzerland receives a delegation from the Middle East

Bern, Press release, 26.09.2013

Water can be a factor of tension and division, but it can also be a tool for peace and cooperation. That is the idea behind the Blue Peace Middle East initiative that Switzerland has been promoting since 2009 and it is within this framework that a delegation of some 40 Middle East representatives is currently in Switzerland. After meetings yesterday in Bern with members of the federal administration and Swiss parliamentarians, today and tomorrow the delegation will be on the banks of the Rhine in Switzerland and Germany to hold discussions with representatives from the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR).

For some years now, Switzerland has been developing an innovative approach to water diplomacy in the Middle East. The Blue Peace Middle East initiative involves the authorities and the leaders of several countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Presenting a number of original ideas in its design, in terms of diplomacy and at the operational level, the initiative maintains that cross-border cooperation is required for the management of water resources. A particular objective of Blue Peace Middle East, as its name suggests, is to foster the development of tools and models that lead to cross-border dialogue, resulting in a water-induced calm (blue peace) in the regions currently troubled by the issue.

Composed of ex-ministers, parliamentarians, journalists, editors and experts from the Blue Peace network, the delegation which is currently in Switzerland enjoys considerable political, institutional and media support in the countries of the region. Its members contribute to the promotion of dialogue on water management among political, academic, technical and civil society stakeholders, and in so doing they contribute to the success of Switzerland’s involvement in the region.

In Bern yesterday, the members of the delegation broached the challenges, the processes under way and the contributions Switzerland is making within the framework of the Blue Peace initiative. The meeting with Swiss parliamentarians also provided the opportunity to discuss the issue of water – a key geopolitical issue for the Middle East – and the first feedback from the network of journalists in the region: the Blue Peace Media Network was set up in March 2013 and constitutes one of Switzerland’s contributions to the Blue Peace initiative.

Today and tomorrow the delegation will be making field trips to Rheinfelden, Basel and Koblenz. The visits are being made on the request of the delegation members and are intended to give them the opportunity to study how the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR) operates. The ICPR enables several countries and regions to cooperate and accommodate multiple interests with regard to the usage and protection of the Rhine. The members of the delegation hope to apply lessons learned from this experience to their own region.

Switzerland, for its part, intends to continue its Blue Peace initiative support. Over and above its regular consultations with the political leaders of the region, it will oversee two projects it is supporting: one aims to improve the analysis of the various current and future types of water usage in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey; the other has as its objective the implementation of integrated water management for the Orontes river, which crosses Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.

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Further information:

SDC: Blue Peace initiative

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