Foreword by Dr. Rima Khalaf

The Arab region is one of the most arid regions in the world. The member countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) have deployed intensive efforts to ensure water security, a core element of any sustainable development agenda. This goal is particularly challenging in a region where over two-thirds of available freshwater resources are shared, crossing one or more geopolitical borders.

Intergovernmental mechanisms, including the ESCWA Committee on Water Resources established in May 1997 and the Arab Ministerial Water Council, which held its first session in June 2009, were mandated to support regional dialogue and cooperation on the integrated management of water resources. They have contributed to dealing with this challenge within institutional processes that demonstrate the commitment of Arab Governments to work collectively and regionally to address common concerns about water scarcity. Support for regional water cooperation is also manifested in the adoption, by the Arab Ministerial Water Council in 2011, of the Arab Strategy for Water Security in the Arab Region to Meet the Challenges and Future Needs for Sustainable Development (2010-2030). This Strategy primarily aims to strengthen the shared management of water resources between Arab States, as well as between Arab and non-Arab States.

The interest of ESCWA in water issues derives from its mandate in economic and social development, and regional integration. Its subsidiary Committee on Water Resources works in close collaboration with the Arab Ministerial Water Council to fulfill the needs of the region through providing continued technical assistance on the management of shared water resources. The Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia was prepared in collaboration with the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) as part of this collective effort. This Inventory provides a comprehensive catalogue of shared surface water basins and groundwater aquifer systems in Western Asia grounded in sound scientific assessments.

It is hoped that the Inventory can inform dialogue between Arab States and between Arab and non-Arab States on the most pressing socioeconomic development challenges that currently face the region, including food security, adaptation to climate change, energy security, migration and conflict. Resolving these issues largely depends upon the ability of the region to effectively manage its scarce water resources. However, Israeli occupation will continue to hamper the ability of the Palestinian people to exercise full sovereignty over their water resources.

The Inventory is the culmination of long and fruitful cooperation between ESCWA and BGR. For over two decades this cooperation has been a valuable source of technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of member countries in the integrated management of water resources according to regional circumstances and needs. By informing discussions, the Inventory offers a basis for enhancing regional cooperation, identifying integrated solutions and advancing sustainable development efforts in the Arab region. The ESCWA Secretariat expresses its deep appreciation of the support provided by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ) to this constructive partnership and to our commitment towards strengthening regional processes in this critical area for development. We hope that the release of this Inventory will foster new research in the management of shared water resources and provides a platform for incorporating these related issues in regional debates.