Data Sharing as a Building Block for Water Negotiations
Regional water experts at a high-level workshop on water diplomacy, peace-building and conflict management on 28 February 2022 stressed the importance of joint scientific research and knowledge sharing in the Middle East region.
The event was held as part of the Blue Peace Days at the Swiss Pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020. It was organised by the Water Diplomacy Centre (WDC), a research and training facility established at the end of 2019 at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and in cooperation with the University of East Anglia, as part of the Blue Peace Middle East (BPME) initiative.
Dr. Hussam Hussein, a lecturer at the Oxford University, discussed how water scarcity in Jordan is framed by different actors, with the government and official media emphasising a water insufficiency narrative and externalising the blame, while donors, NGOs and international organisations tend to focus more on a water mismanagement narrative. He argued that in order to capture the full complexity of the water issue it should be contextualised within the political economy as part of interdisciplinary research.
Maisam Otoum, the Jordan country manager of the Swiss NGO cewas Middle East, said media could be used as a tool to promote water innovation. He pointed out that coverage of water issues is often negative, overly focused on government efforts and too country specific, adding that the media could play a more constructive role in highlighting the work of young entrepreneurs in the region.
Documentary film maker Mariam Shahin’s presentation looked at how the rapid changes in media, particularly the widespread use of social media channels, affect strategies to communicate around water. She argued that in order to reach a wider, more diverse and younger audience, journalists should consider a multi-pronged approach, combining in-depth coverage of water issues with shorter, snappier content for social media like TikTok and Snapchat. The use of vivid images, short videos and the involvement of social media influencers are also effective ways of reaching a wider audience, she added.
The Blue Peace Media Lab is part of the Blue Peace Middle East initiative. It is a project of MiCt and cewas Middle East and is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.