Developing, managing, and sharing knowledge on natural resources, conflict, and peacebuilding
Library / Gidon Bromberg on Environmental Peacebuilding in t...
Source: Environmental Change and Security Program and Maternal Health Initiative, 2014
Author(s): Gidon Bromberg
Countries: Israel, Jordan, Palestine
Topics: Cooperation, Renewable Resources
“When you turn on the tap in any community in Israel, water will always flow. That’s not the case in Palestine, and it’s not always the case in Jordan either,” says Gidon Bromberg, Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East, in this week’s podcast. Water-related disparities, including quality and quantity, lurk behind many of the seemingly intractable conflicts in the Middle East. EcoPeace Middle East, which Bromberg says is the only organization jointly run by Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis, strives to advance peace along the Jordan River by bringing communities together around their shared water resource.
Convincing opposing leaders to work together can be difficult, he says, but a combination of top-down research and advocacy and bottom-up community engagement can create political will for change.
“Anywhere in the world – and certainly in the Middle East – no one survives without water,” Bromberg says. “So working together on water speaks to the self-interest of each side. It’s effective when we advance mutual interest and there’s mutual gain.” Some of the organization’s successes include the implementation of sewage treatment facilities, environmental education initiatives, and the release of fresh water into the river. In the Palestinian village of Battir, joint efforts by Israelis and Palestinians prevented the construction of an Israeli separation barrier that threatened a historic area, which later became a UNESCO World Heritage site. At the grassroots level, the Good Water Neighbors initiative promotes transboundary environmental stewardship and facilitates direct interaction between youth, adults, and government officials from 28 communities across the region. EcoPeace hopes to build on these efforts by partnering with Sister Cities International and Citizen Diplomacy Initiatives to link communities in the Middle East with counterparts in the United States.
Building trust around water is just the beginning, says Bromberg. “There’s no limitation as to where that trust can take you.”
Whatever the pretext, people-to-people interaction is critical for peacebuilding, he says.
“It’s that bottom-up effort that creates the absolutely necessary constituencies – in your communities, in our communities – to get to that signing ceremony, to get to the peace that we all so desperately desire.”