The GWN programme’s success in generating political will for transboundary cooperation has provided a powerful foundation for EcoPeace’s advocacy efforts vis a vis the region’s national leaders and political institutions
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Overall, EcoPeace has helped leverage over half a billion USD for cross border water and sanitation projects in the GWN communities.
In the Jordan Valley, for example, these projects include the advancement of waste water treatment plants that are already removing major pollution sources from the Lower Jordan River. In 2013, after a decade of successful public advocacy for the rehabilitation of the river, to which GWN mayors and residents in the Jordan Valley contributed significantly, the Israeli Government decided to release fresh water from the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret) into the Lower Jordan River for the first time in 49 years. In addition, the Israeli Water Authority has committed to increase this allocation from 9 million cubic meters (MCM) to 30 MCM.
EcoPeace, with support from GWN mayors and communities, continues to advocate for the rehabilitation of the river, and in June 2015, released the first ever Regional Master Plan for Sustainable Development of the Jordan Valley, which has already gained support of government officials in the region.
Creating political will:
The GWN programme’s success in generating political will for transboundary cooperation has provided a powerful foundation for EcoPeace’s advocacy efforts vis a vis the region’s national leaders and political institutions: in the past year, EcoPeace has created consensus among many decision makers in the region that shared water issues are solvable; fostered regional political pressure in Israel to double its allocation of water to Gaza and approve water supply to the new Palestinian city of Rawabi in the West Bank; helped achieve institutional change through the creation of a sub-committee in the Israeli-Jordanian Joint Water Committee to rehabilitate the Jordan River; and created large public recognition that the diversion of waters from the Jordan River and industry use of the Dead Sea water are the driving forces for the sea’s decline.
Furthermore, this last year, EcoPeace has successfully prevented the demise of an ancient terraced agricultural landscape in and around the Palestinian town of Battir by thwarting the building of the proposed Israel-West Bank separation barrier. EcoPeace submitted a petition to the High Court with expert opinions on environmental preservation, cultural heritage, and engineering. Both Palestinian and Israeli residents were mobilized to support the petition. In June 2014, the Palestinian Authority successfully submitted a formal request for Battir to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Danger – a request which EcoPeace contributed support to. In January 2015, following two years of deliberations, the Israeli High Court refused the request of the military to build the separation wall near Battir.
In an external evaluation of the “Good Water Neighbors” program, the Butterfly Effect concluded that “The GWN’s strategy of long-term deep work in the communities, sustaining a cross-border communication network, and insisting on addressing practical tangible results and interests, rather than just peace or cooperation in general, bears fruits. It changes the discourse of those involved with the project and many have adopted the narrative of environmental peacebuilding / cross-border cooperation that the GWN project advances into their professional and personal lives.”
In a New York Times article published in October 2014, Thomas Friedman recognized EcoPeace as a model for peacebuilding in the region, noting that relationships of trust between neighbors (such as those built through EcoPeace’s efforts) “are the hardest things to build, but also the hardest things to break once in place”.
EcoPeace Middle East is also proud to be one of the organizations profiled in this research study “Intractable Peacebuilding: Innovation and Perseverance in the Israeli-Palestinian Context” undertaken by Ned Lazarus, Visiting Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. The paper profiles initiatives that have established models and strategies for peacebuilding in a hostile context, which can serve as points of reference and inspiration to people engaged in similar struggles around the world.