UN World Water Development Report 2024

UN Releases World Water Development Report 2024

  • On Friday, March 22, the United Nations released its World Water Development Report 2024, which “highlights that tensions over water are exacerbating conflicts worldwide.”
  • The Middle East and North Africa mark the most “water-stressed” regions, with 83% of people exposed to extremely high stress and Bahrain, Cyprus, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, and Qatar topping the list of most critical countries. 
    • Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Tunisia, Iraq, and Syria were all included in the top 25. 
    • Iran is also among the countries experiencing the shortage most acutely, which is said to have already inspired protests. 
    • A country experiences “extreme water stress” when it uses at least 80% of its available water supply. 
    • 100% of MENA’s population is projected to experience extremely high water stress by 2050. 
  • Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and severity of water scarcity and exacerbate the tensions arising from it. 

Water Conflict

  • The report noted that two-thirds of the freshwater resources in the Arab region are transboundary, and fostering cooperation can be challenging due to “lack of data on water resources (especially groundwater) and competing demands for limited water resources among riparian states.”
  • Only a fifth of the world’s countries have cross-border agreements to manage transboundary water resources equitably. 
    • Conflict in the Arab region, specifically, “has had wide-ranging implications for water supply, infrastructure, and potential cooperation on water-related issues.”

Identifying Solutions in MENA

  • The report advocates that states “boost international cooperation and transboundary agreements” over shared water resources. 
  • The North-Western Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS) between Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia and the Saq-Ram/Disi agreement between Saudi and Jordan were cited as examples of transboundary cooperation that improved sustainable management of water resources. 
  • Regarding the creation and implementation of transboundary agreements, international water law “has developed principles and norms that provide the basis for transboundary water cooperation, which can help solve disputes and contribute to stability and peace.”
  • Further, both UN water conventions, the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) and the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Watercourses Convention), outline provisions for the peaceful settlement of water conflicts. 
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