The Water Energy Food Nexus: An Integrated Approach to the Middle East Water Challenge

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The Middle East and North Africa region faces growing pressure on its water systems due to population growth, socio-economic development, security issues, urbanization, and environmental degradation. Some of these issues were discussed during the Hollings Center’s May 2014 dialogue conference, High and Dry: Addressing the Middle East Water Challenge. The dialogue, which was cosponsored by the University of Central Florida’s Prince Mohammad bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies (PMBF), concluded with several recommendations, namely the need for further technology and research, further supporting international cooperative agreements, improving education about water as a resource, and making critical reforms in economic sectors like agriculture.

As a follow-up to this conference, the Center adopted an integrated approach known as the ‘Water Energy Food (WEF) nexus’ to address some of the critical development challenges the MENA region faces today and in the future. Until the 2000s, water policy dialogues have evolved mostly in isolation from other development-related events. Today, the world is faced with a set of complex interrelated problems, many of which directly relate to the issues of water, energy, and food. It is estimated that worldwide energy demands will double by 2050 along with a 50 percent growth in demand for food and water. Understanding the dynamics and linkages among these three sectors is needed to understand potential opportunities, trade-offs, and synergies, and to develop integrated solutions to the growing demand for resources. The WEF approach is not without criticism, but it is increasingly being considered as a strategy to deal with issues of water, energy, and food security.

To further address the water challenge and incorporate other issues of energy and food, the Hollings Center together with PMBF and the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington convened a three-day dialogue from 19-21 May, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Read our Dialogue Snapshot to learn about the conclusions from this conference.

You can access an Arabic version of the Dialogue Snapshot by clicking here.


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A non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to fostering dialogue between the United States and countries with predominantly Muslim populations in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Eurasia and Europe


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