A conference entitled “Building Cross-border Environmental Agreements between Israel, Jordan and Palestine”, held September 7-8,brought together over 50 participants who formed working groups and plan to take action in the coming year on critical environmental needs across the region. The Institute hosted this conference as an inaugural step towards the fulfillment of its mission to advance cross-border environmental discourse.
The conference began with a video greeting from President Reuven Rivlin and an opening keynote address about the future for environmental cooperation between Israel, Jordan and Palestine from Dr. Yousef Abu Safieh, former Chairman of Environmental Authority, Palestine.
Participants then formed three working round tables on the topics of climate change, wastewater treatment and re-use, and renewable energy. Through these discussions, committed working groups were formed to identify pragmatic issues and problems in each specific area, and begin formulating creative suggestions on how to facilitate steps towards change. By the end of the conference, each group drafted a list of practical key action points for the coming year. Issues the groups wished to address include: the challenges of wastewater in regards to Gaza; challenges of solar project in the West Bank; an Arava Valley Israel-Jordan energy water swap proposal; the drafting of a regional adaption plan to climate change based on the respective national plans.
The evening keynote speaker was Dr. Yossi Beilin, former Minister of Justice, Israel, answering the question – Is cooperation feasible in the current political environment? Dr. Beilin stressed the scarcity of jointly agreed upon workable proposals and plans on issues of environment and water for use in future negotiations and peace talks, encouraging conference members to fill this gap.
The cross-border environmental cooperation conference will be an annual event promoting dialogue between policy makers, professionals, and other stake holders, and enable them to meet on a regular basis in a secure environment; the ultimate aim being to create agreements between the countries of the region on the sustainable management of joint environmental resources.