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IRAQ’S THIRST . COP 28 SIDE EVENT. HARMONIZING WATERS-COLLABORATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR CLIMATE-RESILIENT REGIONAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

 

IRAQ’S THIRST COP 28 SIDE EVENT

HARMONIZING WATERS: COLLABORATIVE SOLUTIONS FOR CLIMATE-RESILIENT REGIONAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT  which has been held between countries of Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the Iraqi Pavilion during the COP 28 in Dubai. 

23 Dec. 2023 

INTROD UCTION

 The transboundary water resources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers hold immense strategic importance for the nations of Iraq and its water sharing countries. These rivers are the lifeblood of the region, providing essential water resources for agriculture, industry, and domestic use. However, the sustainability of these shared water sources faces unprecedented challenges, primarily driven by the impacts of climate change. Climate change has exacerbated the existing vulnerabilities of the Tigris and Euphrates river basin, leading to a range of interconnected environmental, social, and economic challenges. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and increased evaporation rates have all contributed to dwindling water availability, while the region is also witnessing more frequent and severe droughts. These environmental changes have profound implications for the livelihoods and wellbeing of the millions of people who rely on these rivers.

 In this context, the Iraq Thirst initiative, which was launched by Bahr Aluloom Foundation (BAF) and UNDP began discussing the water, environmental and agricultural challenges facing the country. Iraq relies on its water resources from the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates and their tributaries, they constitute to the lifeline of the country and provide the basic need for agricultural, industrial, and domestic use. Therefore, water sustainability for these two rivers considering climate change has become an unprecedented challenge.

 Considering these challenges, the Iraq’s Thirst initiative was launched from the reality and importance of Track II diplomacy, which seeks to find solutions and support decision-makers in discussing these challenges with neighboring countries, and in recognition of the importance of water and environmental diplomacy, which has today become a necessity. There have been several dialogue activities and workshops with experts, universities, and decision-makers from Iraq and neighboring countries on the climate impacts, water scarcity, dust and sandstorms, pollution, natural decline and biodiversity, and the common effects on the region. These dialogues seek to search for areas of commonality between the region, build on them, and seek to develop joint strategies and mechanisms to adapt to the impacts of climate changes in the region to provide better water quality in the region and reduce the devastating effects of climate changes. BAF and UNDP proceeded with the organization of the important side event during COP 28 in the Iraqi Pavilion as they recognize that regional cooperation is essential not only for addressing immediate challenges but also for building resilience and sustainable solutions that can withstand the ongoing and future impacts of climate change.

By fostering dialogue and sharing knowledge and experiences, this event promoted a deeper understanding of the interconnections between climate change, water resources, and regional cooperation. The event also identified common goals, strategies, and frameworks for sustainable water management that can benefit all the riparian countries.

As the world grapples with the complex challenges posed by climate change, it is imperative that countries of the Tigris and Euphrates basin work together to find cooperative solutions that ensure the equitable and sustainable use of shared water resources. The "Harmonizing Waters: Collaborative Solutions for ClimateResilient Regional Resource Management" side event represented a critical step towards achieving this goal and building a more resilient and secure future for the people of the region.

BAF is a non-profit civil society organization and in its fifth season - Iraq’s Thirstworks to support the role of civil society organizations working in the field of climate action and water scarcity and always seeks to support in furthering solutions and increasing societal awareness towards challenges faced in Iraq.

Panel Participants;

Dr Jassim al Falahi Deputy Minister of Environment for Technical Affairs,Republic of Iraq

Mr Jihad Kanan Deputy Minister of Water Resources for Strategic Affairs, Syrian Arab Republic (Mr Jihad Kanan was called into an emergency meeting and was unable to complete his attendance in the panel discussion)

Dr. Adnan Altay Altinors Republic of Türkiye Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Head of Department

Ms Afsane Moeeni Climate Change Expert , Center for International Affairs and Conventions Environmental Protection Organization, Islamic Republic of Iran

Dr Saddam Qahtan Waheed Ministry of Water Resources, Chief Engineer, Republic of Iraq

Dr Mahdi Ahmad Managing Director of Iraq’s Thirst Initiative, Republic of Iraq

The session was moderated by Advisor to the Minister of Environment, Republic of

Iraq Dr Nadher Abood Fazaa.

Dr Nadher Abood Fazaa.   Advisor to the Minister of Environment, Republic of Iraq

▪ The side event organized by BAF and the UNDP “Harmonizing Waters: Collaborative Solutions for Climate-Resilient Regional Resource Management” is an extremely important side-event at a significant venuethe Iraqi Pavilion at a hugely significant time- COP 28. ▪ We are proud to see such a side event at the Iraqi Pavilion with transboundary countries ▪ COP28 has demonstrated a united Iraq at a decisive moment for international climate action. ▪ We thank the organizers of this side event for their work on Track II diplomacy ▪ The Track II space creates a vibrant forum for experts, intellectuals, and civil society groups to engage in lively discussions like we are having today ▪ By fostering open dialogue and cooperation, Track II diplomacy helps pave the way for constructive solutions and deeper understanding between nations. ▪ Today more then ever, water & climate diplomacy is necessary ▪ As countries within one region, we each have our challenges, but we must work on identifying our commonalities and work together to find solutions ▪ Iraq’s Thirst initiative has undertaken excellent steps inside Iraq and outside Iraq to bring the issue of water scarcity and climate action on roundtables between experts- and we praise the team for this success. ▪ We are excited to listen to the excellent mix of panelists discussing Collaborative Solutions.

Dr Jassim al Falahi    Deputy Minister of Environment for Technical Affairs, Republic of Iraq

▪ The importance of securing fair water shares to preserve biodiversity, especially the marshland areas that suffer from severe droughts that have greatly affected the rich biodiversity in this region such as the Marshlands of Iraq that are listed as a World Heritage Site. ▪ The marshlands are vital for humans, for other ecosystems and for our climate, providing essential ecosystem services such as water regulation, including flood control and water purification. ▪ Wetland biodiversity matters for our health, our food supply, for tourism and for jobs. Wetlands also absorb carbon dioxide so help slow global heating and reduce pollution ▪ This side event comes at a critical timing within an important historical stage where all nations are looking to confront the impacts of climate change ▪ Climate change is challenge that threatens us all, which requires real and serious solutions to solve through cooperation and shared responsibility in reducing the damage caused to counter climate change.  Iraq is one of the countries most affected by climate change and regional adaptation against impacts of climate change is a national priority for Iraq. ▪ This requires efforts, contribution and effectiveness of all countries and within the principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. ▪ All countries of the region are exposed to a growing effect of climate change but its impact on Iraq is detrimental amid the water scarcity crisis, unprecedented rise in temperatures beyond global rates. ▪ One of the most important challenges facing Iraq is water security which is impacting our economy and our development. ▪ water security - food security - national security- is one of the most important conflicts that threaten civil peace and can be destroyed and have a direct impact on Social, psychological, health sciences, security and political impacts are the effects of the consequences of climate effects, especially those related to drought, land degradation, shrinking agricultural areas, and pressure on livelihoods. ▪ We rely greatly on the outcomes of this side event which will be a helpful factor in the government sectors in exploring areas of joint dialogue and great support for decision makers in creating an infrastructure capable of generating many visions and ideas in a way that supports climate action between the region and in establishing a flexible and responsive regional system capable of confronting the climate challenge. ▪ We need to explore a regional Green fund through the support of the International Community for climate change and environmental challenges by adopting joint projects within the region that lead to reducing the effects of climate change.

Dr Saddam Qahtan Waheed      Ministry of Water Resources, Chief Engineer, Republic of Iraq

▪ Impacts from the climate change, such as increases in temperatures and decreases in rain, are affecting Iraq’s water resources, the agriculture sector and its biodiversity. ▪ Rising temperatures disrupt precipitation patterns and the entire water cycle. ▪ water scarcity threatens livelihoods and impacts food security of citizens across the region. ▪ Climate migration is exacerbated considering the difficult water situation Iraq is encountering ▪ Regional cooperation is extremely important, and the Ministry of Water Resources supports this model of dialogue ▪ From a regional perspective, it is important to focus on climate-smart agriculture and modernization of local water supplies, including new technologies in water management to increase resilience to climate change. ▪ It is equally important that we focus on the issue of policies and how as a region we can work together to setting public policies in the field of the interconnection between water, food, energy and the environment .

 Integrated and comprehensive approaches need to be considered regionally such as using data-driven tools including early warning systemsto help us identify the impact of climate change and water Security on social stability of our region, and strategies and interventions we have available to manage, monitor and mitigate water-related risks. ▪ The Ministry of Water Resources has been working seriously to reduce the impact of climate change through, for example, by lining irrigation canals, using closed-piped and mechanized systems, initiating water harvesting dams, updating the strategic study, and others.

Dr Mahdi Ahmad      Managing Director of Iraq’s Thirst Initiative, Republic of Iraq

 ▪ We thank the participants of the side event for joining us today at this very important Track II dialogue initiative. ▪ The efforts of BAF and the UNDP through the Iraq’s Thirst initiative has resulted in excellent bilateral dialogues between Iraqi experts and peers in neighboring countries ▪ Iraq’s Thirst has explored the internal challenges of water management in Iraq- through the support of decision-makers, experts in national institutions, the Kurdistan region, and the applicable governorates concluded the need to push towards passing the legal framework for water management and focus on finding solutions to the challenges of water pollution and strengthening the relationship between the center and the region in water and environmental issues. ▪ The initiative has also explored the external challenges to water scarcity and prospects for cooperation with neighboring countries bordering the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in integrated water management, considering climate change impacts that have exacerbated the crisis and created major effects on water, agricultural and environmental security. The project has succeeded in holding workshops and roundtable discussions at the various level of stakeholders in the region with the hope that the dialogues will continue to include the rest of the riparian countries soon. ▪ Strengthening journalism in water and climate issues was an important aspect of Iraq’s Thirst and the learnings can be shared with civil society organizations in transboundary countries to Iraq to replicate a similar approach. ▪ Iraq’s Thirst has focused also on building academic capabilities by establishing partnerships with Iraqi universities to consolidate the process of scientific research- we aspire to extend this academic partnership beyond Iraqi universities and towards academic institutions in riparian countries. ▪ BAF is currently working on establishing a proposal for Alalamain Center for Water and Environment a pioneering scientific center at the national and regional levels in the water and environment sectors that will contribute to finding effective scientific solutions to the challenges facing Iraq and the region as a result of water scarcity and climate change.

Dr. Adnan Altay Altinors    Republic of Türkiye Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Head of Department

▪ Türkiye approaches the water issue solely from a humanitarian perspective and considers transboundary waters as a source of cooperation rather than conflict among the riparian countries. ▪ Türkiye is always ready for water cooperation among riparian countries based on reasonable and scientific perspective. ▪ We are of the opinion that utilization of transboundary rivers in an equitable, reasonable and optimal manner is in the best interest of the riparian States. ▪ Lasting solutions to transboundary water issues can be reached through confidence building and genuine cooperation among riparian statesConfidence can be built by sharing the benefits of water. ▪ We are ready to share our experiences on sustainable utilization of water. ▪ Our country, like the whole region is being adversely affected by climate change, experiencing floods and droughts in a more frequent and intensive way. ▪ Global warming has an alarming impact on the amount of water resources. We have been experiencing serious drought for four years. However, we are taking decisive steps to increase water efficiency in all sectors, particularly in agriculture. ▪ As a water-stressed country, Türkiye is establishing river basin management systems in order to manage water resources in a sustainable and integrated manner for sustainable development. ▪ We are preparing river basin management plans and sectoral water allocation plans, including flood and drought management. ▪ We have launched the Water Efficiency Mobilization to save water countrywide in all sectors. ▪ We have been investing only in closed/pressurized irrigation systems to utilize the limited water resources efficiently. ▪ We believe that not only the upstream riparians but also the downstream countries have the responsibility for effective and sustainable use of water resources. ▪ Türkiye has always considered the needs of downstream countries. We truly understand the challenges faced by Iraq in relation to water. ▪ The amount of water measured at the Euphrates-Tigris River Basin is wellbelow the long-term average. ▪ Thanks to our water infrastructure, we are able to release more water than the natural flow to the downstream countries. ▪ Despite the long-term drought, we are pushing our limits to release the maximum amount of water to downstream. ▪ Efficient and sustainable water utilization is indispensable to address water scarcity. ▪ The recent technical meetings on water are fruitful and we attach importance to their continuation. ▪ We would like to enhance our cooperation with Iraq in the field of water.

We believe that “Joint Standing Committee” (JSC) is the appropriate platform to discuss the water cooperation based on mutual understanding ▪ JSC constitutes an important opportunity to enhance our cooperation in the field of water ▪ It is essential to establish a cooperation based on mutual trust with a longterm perspective.

Ms Afsane Moeeni     Climate Change Expert , Center for International Affairs and Conventions Environmental Protection Organization, Islamic Republic of Iran

▪ Climate change in Iran has been associated with heat waves, temperature rise, and low rainfalls, like other countries in the region, including Iraq. Due to higher evaporation owing to the increase in temperature, decreasing rainfalls, and more demands for water consumption as well as development issues, Iran is facing water shortage, desertification, and sand and dust storms; in such a way that it has adverse tangible impacts on health, economy and well-being. ▪ Subsequently, broad measures on national, regional, and international scales were proposed and adopted in the country regarding sand and dust storms, which were aimed to reduce the serious effects of this slow on-set disaster. ▪ At the national level, extensive related research on the origins of the particles (sand, dust …), and different ways of combating them and preserving traditional knowledge were supported and conducted; also plantation, applying living and non-living windbreaks, seeding, run-off management, arid-land afforestation and mulching went underway. In the same vein of national measures, initiatives on broadening regional and international cooperation were launched. ▪ Multiple MOU(s) with consideration of expanding regional cooperation were signed. Through the MOU signed between Iran and Iraq, the action plan came into existence after upholding official meetings. ▪ It was decided to enlist the below as areas of cooperation: o sharing of successful experiences and joint action on SDSs, o exchange of climate information, o cooperation in the field of technologies and promoting capabilities and capacity building o picking up pilot areas to provide pilot services, as well as o cooperation for the development of regional collaboration ▪ It is worth mentioning that two ministerial gatherings were organized by Iran regarding the issue of transboundary environmental issues, especially sand and dust storms: ▪ Regional Ministerial Meeting on Environmental Cooperation for a Better Future:

The Heads of the Department of Environment, the Ministers of Environment, and senior officials of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Iraq, I.R. Iran, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan participated in the meeting in Tehran, Iran on Tuesday, 12 July 2022. Representatives from the United Nations, UNEP, UNDP, UNESCO, FAO, WMO, ROPME, and APDIM also attended the meeting. ▪ The main fields of agreement and outcomes of the meeting are as follows: o establishing a network for environmental information exchange. o called for closer cooperation to observe the economic, social, environmental impacts of climate change. o convening a technical working group to program the roadmap, formulating regional cooperation mechanisms and action plans based on considering the needs, strengths, and weaknesses the region and its government parties have. o concluding a regional agreement to enhance cooperation among the countries in the region and creating a regional fund to financially support the implementation of joint projects for combating sand and dust storms in their respective countries. o developing green belts in affected countries, with the purpose of water management, together with stabilizing, restoring, and strengthening soil as a way of adaptation to climate change and tackling sand and dust storms. ▪ International Conference on Combating Sand and Dust Storms o Based on resolution number A77571 of the United Nations General Assembly in 2022, Iranian Department of Environment (DOE) organized and held an international conference on 9-10 September 2023 in Tehran with the support of the United Nations. The event brought together representatives from more than 50 countries, highlighting the urgency of tackling SDS on a global scale. The main fields of agreement and outcomes of the meeting are as follows: o formulation, revision, and implementation of sub-regional, regional, and global action plans towards sand and dust storms through the technical and financial help and support of the Multilateral Organizations and United Nations. o supporting the establishment of a regional fund platform for West Asia to tackle sand and dust storms in line with “Regional Ministerial Meeting on Environmental Cooperation for a Better Future” in 2022; constitution of a regional center, working groups, and/or committees with the membership of countries affected by sand and dust storms so to fulfil the aim of capacity building, attracting technical support, and the preparation and implementation of the regional and sub-regional action plans. o welcoming the proposal to establish a convention on adaptation, management and tackling SDSs

 I N T E R V E N T I O N S    F R O M    A U D I E N C E :

Mr Ridhaian   Senior member of negociating delegation,Islamic Rebuplic of Iran   

▪ At the beginning, and on behalf of my delegation, I wish to extend a warm appreciation to our brothers and sisters in Iraqi delegation for inviting us in this gathering. ▪ Climate change as major threat that is affecting the globe and all of us. There is no country in the world that is immune of the adverse impacts of global warming and climate change. ▪ Like many countries such as Iraq, Syria and Turkey, we in Iran are experiencing very similar situation in the form of increased temperature, less precipitation and more drought across the country. ▪ Due to this situation, we have already lost a considerable share of our surface and ground water resources and this is significantly impacting our development and growth. ▪ This necessarily forces us to focus more than before on climate change and its adverse impacts. But in our strive, regional and bilateral cooperation are of particular importance. ▪ We need to address our needs in having a better understanding of the challenges in a more scientific based manner. Accordingly, more efficient collaboration among national meteorological organizations as well as the academic and research centers of the region to provide us with more solid scientific data and information is a must. Such collaborations could enrich our policy making efforts and boost our decision makings to be more rational and sustainable. ▪ One of the areas of concern which have majorly affected us, is the sand and dust storms phenomena. ▪ We are happy that for combating this big challenge, Iran and Iraq have jointly taken great initiatives. The International Conference on combating Sand and Dust Storms on 9-10 September in Tehran – Iran, was the result of the 2022 UNGA resolution which both countries pushed for its adoption and implementation. ▪ This Conference which attended and supported by the UN system resulted in a number of initiatives and decisions including, a final declaration, proposing a regional plan of action on combating sand and dust storms, request for establishment of a regional fund and consideration of setting up a regional center or committee for boosting regional collaborations. ▪ Also, adoption of the UNGA resolution on nomination of a day as the International Day of Combating Sand and Dust Storms in this year, is another sample of our collaboration and joint efforts. ▪ Iran is willing and ready for a genuine cooperation and partnership in all areas related to environment preservation, sustainable development and addressing our common challenges. ▪ We hope with more interactions and exchanges of delegations, we could move towards preparation and implementation of many joint and regional plans and projects to benefit the prosperity, livelihood and sustainable development of our great nations. ▪ Once again, I thank you for your kind and valuable invitation.

 C O N C L U S I O N    B Y  M O D E R A T O R

Dr Nadher Abood Fazaa.

Advisor to the Minister of Environment, Republic of Iraq

 ▪ The Iraqi Pavilion is extremely pleased to have hosted this excellent discussion today ▪ it is without doubt that the need for Iraq and its neighbors to collaborate work together to find cooperative solutions that ensure the equitable and sustainable use of shared water resources. ▪ The side event demonstrated the enthusiasm for the regional collaboration in building a more resilient and secure future for the people of the region. ▪ Iraq since 2003 has only one weapon- dialogue and we are committed to finding solutions peacefully and amicably through dialogue only. ▪ Iraq today more than ever is taking the climate crisis more seriously and this is clear when we compare the previous years participation with today, we see a great Iraq presence at COP28 ▪ Today in this pavilion we witness all of Iraq in its regions, ministries and parliament and experts are here engaged with dialogue with its water sharing neighbors discussing cooperation- this is an excellent step in the correct direction and I congratulate all panelists, attendance and the organizers for this event. ▪ I convey to you the apologies of Mr Jihad Kanan who needed to leave the side event and attend an urgent meeting. ▪ The issue of water is a sensitive topic and is one that will not be solved over night, but I am confident this side event is a critical step in the right direction. ▪ We are seeing at first hand track II diplomacy yielding tangible outcomes and such efforts will lay the groundwork for future progress by encouraging open communication and mutual understanding between the regional countries.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 The side event observed an official, academic and technical participation and included interventions and proposals that led to contributing to the maturation of regional collaboration dialogue. Therefore, the panelists recommend the following:

1. The need for continued Track II diplomacy in areas of regional collaboration on climate action that will support decision makers in creating an infrastructure capable of generating many visions and ideas in a way that is flexible and responsive for a regional system capable of confronting the climate challenge.

2. To engage with the international community and gain support for climate change and environmental challenges by adopting joint regional projectsthrough a regional green fund

3. The necessity of conducting joint regional academic research that can lead to developing practical solutions for sustainability and maintaining an environmental balance- e.g., shared Marshlands, dust storms and water pollution.

4. Creating a Joint Standing Committee” (JSC) from officials, academics and experts in the region to discuss the water cooperation based on mutual understanding

5. The importance of establishing a center specializing in water governance and climate change that includes the countries around the Tigris and Euphrates basin and the possibility of other regional countries to join to assisting governments in formulating policies and strategies for environmental challenges and climate change, increasing community awareness, building and developing technologies and capabilities, and strengthening partnerships for experts

Source : IRAQ’S THIRST COP 28 SIDE EVENT www.bahralolomforum.com

To read the side event brochure  as PDF version  Please click on

/uploads/editor/images/Side_Event_UNDP_BAF_Regional%20Cooperation%20on%20Water%20Resources%20Management%20and%20Climate%20Action.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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