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2021 Status Report on the Implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management in the Arab Region

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Executive summary

The Arab region witnesses one of the highest rates of water scarcity globally and a very critical freshwater situation. More than 200 million people live under conditions of water scarcity and 160 million under absolute water scarcity. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 revealed that over 74 million people in the region are at high risk of contracting the virus due to the absence of basic handwashing facilities with soap and water. As the demand for water is expected to increase, Arab countries need to adapt to address the combined challenges associated with the rapidly growing population, by more than one-third by 2050, economic development, environmental considerations and climate change. Hence, there is a need to accelerate the implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM) and innovate ways to manage competing demands on this valuable resource.

In order to meet the challenges and future requirements for sustainable development, the Arab Ministerial Water Council included the advancement of the IWRM principles among the objectives of the 2010- 2030 Arab Strategy for Water Security (ASWS) as a key element in water policies in Arab States. In addition, the presence of active policies, legislation and institutional frameworks for IWRM is one of the indicators of this strategy. All Arab countries are committed to the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and most have developed strategies for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their national development plans, explicitly SDG target 6.5, thus committing to IWRM implementation as an important mechanism for achieving sustainable development and efficient management of water resources.

DG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Target 6.5: By 2030, implement IWRM at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate.

Indicator 6.5.1: Degree of IWRM implementation (0-100).

This report, a culmination of fruitful cooperation between the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and UNEP-DHI, provides a progress update on implementing IWRM in the Arab region and identifes priority areas that will help accelerate full implementation. It is based on data from 21 out of the 22 countries in the region that reported on SDG indicator 6.5.1 across 2017 and 2020. The analysis of progress towards the 2030 target is based on 15 countries that participated in this survey in 2017 and 2020.

As a comprehensive quantitative assessment of regional progress in IWRM implementation, fndings and recommendations from this report will be drawn upon to inform the Water Action Decade’s regional preparatory process and reporting, which can mobilize the needed action to achieve internationally agreed goals and targets related to water.

SDG indicator 6.5.1 is measured on a scale of 0-100, based on a country survey containing 33 questions across the four dimensions of IWRM: (1) the enabling environment of policies, laws and plans; (2) institutions and stakeholder participation; (3) management instruments; (4) fnancing for water resources management. The indicator scores are categorized as follows: