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Med Water Forum in Tunis: draft WEFE Nexus Strategy for the Mediterranean discussed during 2nd Regional Roundtable

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60 stakeholders from around the Mediterranean discussed the draft ‘Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystems (WEFE) Nexus Strategy in the Mediterranean Source to Sea continuum’ during the 2nd Regional WEFE Nexus Roundtable, which was held on 5 February 2024 as a dedicated 3-hours side-event to the 5th Mediterranean Water Forum in Tunis, Tunisia.

In structured sessions with facilitated discussions that were moderated by the key partners of the Strategy’s elaboration process, GWP-Med presented the scope, Goals and Objectives of the draft Strategy. Feedback was received from participating representatives of national authorities, regional institutions, civil society and Academia.

The draft Strategy aims to assist countries and stakeholders in improving the integration of policy and management frameworks and instruments across WEFE sectors and spatial components. To this end, it sets a number of Goals and related Objectives and directions for action related to institutional arrangements, policies and cooperation frameworks, efficient and effective planning, financing and implementation of technical and management solutions, informed decision making based on enhanced science-based knowledge, engagement of capacitated stakeholders, and increased public awareness.

Overall, participants welcomed the draft Strategy and acknowledged its value for enhancing coordinated action across sectoral and spatial levels in the Region to address the interlinked challenges that ecosystems and the water, energy and food sectors are facing in the Region, especially in view of the impacts of climate change.

Among others, issues that were raised and stressed in the discussions included:

  • the need to further raise environmental priorities in cross-sectoral planning
  • the importance of local ownership and persuasion of stakeholders towards their engagement in the Strategy’s implementation upon approval
  • the clarification of responsibilities for the implementation of actions towards meeting the Strategy’s Objectives, and
  • the key role of accurate and harmonised data, including within overall advancing the digitalisation agenda related to WEFE Nexus.

The updated version of the Strategy will be further discussed in forthcoming fora, including the UfM Regional Platform Meeting on Water (previously Water Expert Group) in Lisbon.

“5th Mediterranean Water Forum” – video by the Institut Mediterraneen de l’eau (IME)

In the opening high-level session of the Roundtable, 3 Ministers from the Region provided welcoming remarks.

H.E. Ms Leila Chikhaoui Mahdaoui, Minister of Environment of Tunisia, noted that climate change threatens arable lands and groundwater resources in Tunisia, as well as marine and terrestrial biodiversity. To address such combined challenges, coordinated Nexus approaches are required to adapt to climate change, ensure food and energy security, increase the resilience of populations and ecosystems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Solutions also include smart water management, recycling of wastewater and desalination, as already envisioned in the National Ecological Transition strategy.

H.E. Mr. Hani Atef Nabhan Sewilam, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation of Egypt noted that the WEFE Nexus approach should be the future for the Region. None of the 17 SDGs of the UN Agenda 2030 can be achieved without coordinated Nexus approaches. Given that water, energy and food can be the source of conflicts in the Region, the Nexus instead provides a platform for cooperation. He underlined that the rapidly falling cost of solar energy makes desalination increasingly competitive. Producing more food with less water is a key challenge and precision agriculture can provide solutions in that regard.

In a written message read by Water Director Ms. Mona Fakih, H.E. Mr. Walid Fayad, Minister of Energy and Water of Lebanon (who at the last minute was not able to attend) outlined WEFE Nexus activities that are being implemented in Lebanon by GWP-Med under the MedProgramme and acknowledged that they have assisted Lebanon’s path towards integrated and sustainable management of resources. He also welcomed and supported the development of the WEFE Nexus Strategy for the Mediterranean and stated that he looks forward to its adoption and implementation.

The opening session also included welcoming remarks from

  • Mohamad Kayyal, MedProgramme Coordinator, UNEP/MAP
  • Almotaz Abadi, UfM Deputy Secretary General in charge of Water, Environment and Blue Economy
  • Frederic Fourtune, Program officer, European Commission DG NEAR B2
  • Octavi Quintana, Director, PRIMA
  • Michael Scoullos, Team Leader, EU Water and Environment Support (WES) in the ENI Southern Neighbourhood region

The development of the draft WEFE Nexus Strategy in the Mediterranean Source to Sea continuum is a joint initiative of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the UN Environment Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP-MAP), and the European Union (EU). It is prepared by the Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med) in the framework of the GEF UNEP/MAP MedProgramme Child Project 2.2 on WEFE Nexus, in cooperation with the “EU WES in the ENI Southern Neighbourhood region” Project and the PRIMA Foundation. The development of the Strategy was requested by representatives participating in the 1st Regional WEFE Nexus Roundtable in the Mediterranean that was held in 6-7 June 2023, in Rabat, Morocco.