Water Program: Tigris, Euphrates, and Jordan River Basins

IMTD  is involved in water-related conflict resolution and initiatives, especially as they relate to sanitation and access to clean drinking water.

Three Rivers Project

We propose to convene three professional, non-governmental water experts from each of the countries in the Tigris, Euphrates, and Jordan River basins (Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq), along with the United States to meet in Amman, Jordan for five days in order to draft a protocol establishing a joint water commission for future consideration by member states.

Purpose of the Project

To do the “staff work” for the governments to encourage them to adopt the regional commission and proposal.

Context

Almost all of the conflicts between Israel and its neighbor states have on some fundamental level been related to the rights of access to fresh water. Geography dictates that Syria cannot make water decisions regarding the Jordan without factoring in the Tigris and Euphrates, which also flow through Syria. Recent events indicate the stresses involved with those rivers. Both Syria and Iraq have complained that Turkey uses the Ataturk Dam to limit the flow of the Euphrates, thereby enhancing its influence over the Arab states. The recent decision by Turkey to sell fresh water to Libya may further exacerbate the downstream complaints.

One of the most effective ways for neighboring states to coexist peacefully has been to form joint river management bodies. Since water is crucial to economies, agriculture, fishing industries, transportation, the life of the people and the state itself, water becomes more precious than any mineral. The Nile, Rhine, Rhone, Danube, and Mekong, all have international bodies which are able to keep the peace through dialogue and negotiation. Once they have achieved water security through cooperation states are wary of risking so fundamental a resource to other, relatively petty complaints. Relative to water everything else is small.

Project Detail

The participating water experts in this dialogue would be from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and the United States. Israel may be reluctant to participate since every other state is Muslim, but the presence of Turkey and the United States should be helpful. The tensions between Turkey and the downstream Arab states have recently increased, with some speculating that Turkey is trying to establish itself as a regional superpower through the control of water.

We propose to convene three professional, non-governmental water experts from each of the countries and the United States to meet in Amman, Jordan, for 5 days in order to draft a protocol establishing a joint water commission for future consideration by member states.

Once the commission has developed a comprehensive draft, the next phase of the implementation process will be to work through the United Nations and within civil society in the member states to generate private sector support for the agreement. Our plan is to prepare the political ground for government approval. An agreement reached by experts representing each state, with the general support of their citizens, is easier to frame as a ratified treaty.