Water Forum Mission & Identity

Identity of the Mesopotamian Water Forum

The Forum provides a space for open and public dialogue about the status and access of bodies of water in the Mesopotamian region, with particular emphasis on the issue of water rights in the Mesopotamian context. The Forum proposes a framework for a water policy which is based on participation, sustainability and other social and ecological principles. We want to foster public debate and encourage broad involvement in initiatives that might be implemented to transform water into an instrument for solidarity and peace, making it a model for the just and fair sharing of resources. We reject the use of water as a tool for oppression, used to entrench inequitable power dynamics that perpetuate ongoing conflicts.

The Mesopotamian Water Forum is an important tool to promote a society-wide coalition for transboundary water cooperation that includes all relevant actors in the region. Civil society organizations, activists, researchers, academics, journalists, local community representatives and local authorities who share our values and are involved in the struggle for sustainable and participatory water management methods, who support our conviction that water is a tool for solidarity and sustainable peace, can take part in the discussions and actions of this Forum.

We believe the preservation and equal sharing of water resources requires cooperation across Mesopotamia and on global levels. Thus it is crucial to share local knowledge with different parts of the world, and to gain from each other’s experiences within the Mesopotamia region and outside. Such as diverse group will allow us to come up with effective plans which build on and incorporate different perspectives. This in turn will facilitate actions promoting water as a force for peace among the nations of the Mesopotamian region.

Mesopotamia faces the following water challenges

A. Lack of democratic decision-making processes and water-sharing management at local and regional levels and the privatization of water resources and water infrastructure, which hinder access to water.

The United Nations General Assembly recognized access to water as a human right in 2010. However, this human right is under threat in many places around the world. The Mesopotamian region, traversed by the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, is one example of an area where people face problems accessing clean and sufficient water. One of its main causes is the lack of transparency and the exclusion of key stakeholders from decision-making processes.  Often communities are not taken into account by policy-makers. All relevant actors, which include activists, civil society organizations, social movements, local communities, academics/researchers, municipalities and regional administrations should come together to decide on a better sustainable approach to water sharing.

In addition, water resources and water infrastructure such as dams and irrigation schemes have been privatized, resulting in practices that entrench social injustices and breed resentment among water users. We believe sustainable and equitable use of water should be possible for all people living in the Tigris-Euphrates basin.

B. Construction of large dams and other water infrastructure on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and their tributaries which respect neither the rights of people, nor international standards, hereby threatening the cultural and natural heritage of the Tigris-Euphrates Basin. This is exacerbated by the use of water infrastructure as weapon and a tool for achieving political hegemony in regional conflicts.

Construction of large dams on the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers causes permanent damage to the cultural and natural heritage of local communities.  While the lifetime of dams can be less than 50 years, the region’s heritage dates back more than 12,000 years! Indigenous communities are severely impacted; some are forced to leave their homelands. The process of constructing dams is often in direct contradiction to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), as well as to environmental conventions such as the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). In recent years, dams and water infrastructures have been used as weapons in regional conflicts and wars. We believe in the alternative: water should be a force for peace and catalyst for cooperation among all the countries and peoples of Tigris-Euphrates Basin.

C. Destruction of the rivers’ ecosystem, including water pollution, unsustainable management of water resources and impact of global climate change.

Unsustainable management of transboundary water resources influences the hydrology system of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and causes harm to the marine ecosystem of their tributaries. Agriculture productivity in the Mesopotamian region has decreased as a result of water pollution, and the negative effects of climate change on the water resources of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are becoming more apparent. Reduced precipitation and the increased demand for water is an urgent concern for this semi-arid region. The water ecosystem in the Tigris and Euphrates basin should be protected from all types of pollution with support from local communities.

Following these challenges, our goals are

A. To share and use water resources respecting the principles of equity, effectiveness, participatory decision-making, sustainability and accountability.

B. To ensure that watercourses are tools for sustainable peace among all communities in Mesopotamia.

C. To promote sustainable management of our rivers, their ecosystems, biodiversity and our cultural and natural heritage.

Topics we discuss

  • Current status of shared rivers and groundwater in order to understand the environmental context in Mesopotamia
  • Local and international law on transboundary waters
  • Dam construction in the region and its negative impacts
  • Impact of current conflicts over water resources
  • Local water struggles and activism
  • Local mechanisms for the resolution of water conflicts in the region
  • Other regional and local water-cooperation initiatives outside of Mesopotamia which can act as an example for the region
  • Strategies to promote water as a force for peace instead of a source of conflict
  • Possible transboundary projects for cooperation and how to follow-up on these
  • Effective facilitation and intermediation between communities, governments, international institutions