Gathered today in Valetta (Malta) for a meeting hosted by the Maltese Government, the ministers in charge of Water from the 43 members of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) agreed to develop a UfM Water Agenda to further enhance regional cooperation on water. Ministers recalled the unique features of the Mediterranean region, which makes it particularly vulnerable to water scarcity and climate change. The UfM Water agenda is expected to lead to a consensual regional water policy framework that offers a means for substantial and measurable positive impact towards sustainable livelihood in the region. It will also contribute to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and targets, in particular SDG 6 on Water, as well as address the adverse effects of climate change in the region.
The meeting was co-chaired by the EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, the Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, Hazim El-Naser and the Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean for Water and Environment, Miguel García-Herraiz. Ministers agreed that the new policy framework will help UfM Member States to implement sustainable and integrated water resources management in a comprehensive manner, thus promoting progressive integration, synergies and coordination among the water and other inter-linked sectors.
The UfM Water Agenda will be elaborated by the UfM Water Expert Working Group (WEG) under the leadership of the UfM Co-Presidency and the support of the UfM Secretariat, and will include:
- A Work Programme to provide a suite of recommendations, proposals and initiatives helping UfM members to apply Integrated Water Resources Management approaches and to ensure a better coordination with other sectors in the UfM region.
- A Financial Strategy to support the implementation of the UfM Water Agenda, promote the progressive deployment of financial resources and facilitate access to the existing financial resources across the UfM region.
Ministers recalled that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a fundamental human right, key to sustainable social and economic development and has a crucial role in human health. They highlighted the importance of supporting comprehensive plans and projects in UfM countries that are suffering from water scarcity, which in some cases is exacerbated by refugee and migrant influxes as well as other emerging factors.
EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella said: “Water scarcity is a growing problem around the Mediterranean. To improve the situation cooperation between countries is essential. That is why I am so pleased to help the Union for the Mediterranean agree this Declaration on water. It provides a vision for a regional work programme on integrated water resources management. I am confident that improved access to clean, sustainable and efficient use of water will be the result”.
Minister Hazim El-Naser said: “Water should be considered as a priority sector to donors considering the expensive development of water unit cost. Technology and knowledge transfer, innovation and regional solutions to leverage water efficiency. Energy efficiency and renewable energy should continue to be a major policy to reduce cost and save the environment .We should promote Regional cooperation for development of regional water projects to utilize economies of scale (Red dead conveyance project). I am looking forward today to agree on the UfM Water Agenda to further enhance regional cooperation on water”.
UfM Deputy Secretary General Miguel García-Herraiz said: “The adoption by the Ministers of today’s Declaration demonstrates the common will of UfM countries to work together in this vital area in order to provide citizens across the region with sustainable access to quality water and job opportunities in the sector”.