MENA Focus at the 2018 Stockholm Water Week - Spotlight on Wetlands: their services and how to best protect and valorize them through a Nexus approach

The crucial role of water ecosystems -and especially coastal wetlands- in Middle East & North Africa (MENA) and the policy options on how to best protect and valorize them through a Nexus approach were discussed at a session co-convened by the Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean (GWP-Med) and Wetlands International during the recent World Water Week in Stockholm (27-31 August 2018).


The session “MENA FOCUS - Benefits for Ecosystems and Wetlands through the Nexus”, held on Tuesday 28 August, was organised within the framework of the MAVA-funded projects ‘Communication campaign on coastal wetlands’ and ‘Capacity Building Platform on Water Management and Abstraction’ and was also supported by the Global Water Partnership Water, Climate and Development (GWP-WACDEP) programme. More than 80 World Water Week participants attended the session.


The session commenced with a brief introductory segment, moderated by Vangelis Constantianos, Executive Secretary of GWP-Med, and included opening remarks by: 

  • Mr. Luís Costa, Programme Manager for the Mediterranean Basin in the MAVA Foundation, spoke about MAVA’s long-standing commitment to conserve biodiversity globally but especially in the Mediterranean. He informed that the MAVA foundation will be closing in 2022 and puts high priority in its phase strategy to capacitating, strengthening and mobilising partners. 
  • Mr. Almotaz Abadi, Managing Director in the Water and Environment Division of the Union for the Mediterranean Secretariat underlined that the integrated management of water resources is among the central interests of UfM, also noting that the Nexus approach is one of the four Themes of UfM’s Water Agenda which is currently under development.
  • Mr. Aniss Ben Rayana, Director of the International Cooperation at the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fishery highlighted that in parallel to its efforts towards water mobilization to overcome water scarcity challenges, Tunisia pays much attention to the preservation of wetlands. Currently, Tunisia has 41 sites designated as Ramsar Wetlands with a surface area of around 850 000 hectares. M. Ben Rayana concluded the introductory segment by convening a written statement from the Minister, H.E. Samir Taieb, who due to last minute changes wasn’t able to travel to Stockholm.

 The session continued with two keynote presentations made by the co-convening organisations. Some highlights include the following:

Mr. Frank van Weert, Senior Technical Officer on Water and Climate at Wetlands International, presented some of the key wetlands in coastal areas of the Mediterranean and addressed their importance on biodiversity but especially on how people benefit from the many services and goods, which can be derived from them. He placed coastal wetlands in the wider landscape where economic development takes place. When managed well, wetlands can help achieve food, water and energy security in many ways. Presentation slides available here.

Ms. Sarra Touzi, Senior Programme Officer at GWP-Med presented the Nexus approach highlighting how this approach can benefit to the ecosystems and to the wetlands, in particular through informing multi-stakeholders dialogues to identify Nexus solutions including nature-based solutions. At the same time, she mentioned some of the challenges that may face the implementation of the Nexus approach especially the need of a strong leadership to make decisions on the compromising solutions and the trade-offs. She concluded by sharing examples from ongoing initiatives advancing the Nexus approach implementation in the Region and informing about the launching of the Policy Brief on ‘ Water, Wetlands and Nature-based Solutions in a Nexus Context in the Mediterranean’, developed in the framework of the "Off your map" campaign  Presentation slides available here.

Panel Discussion

The core segment of the session included a 45-minutes Panel Discussion among a gender-balanced, youth-sensitive and diverse group of speakers and was facilitated by Anthi Brouma, Deputy Regional Coordinator of GWP-Med and Tassos Krommydas, Senior Programme Officer at GWP-Med. Some highlights from the panelists’ interventions, including their reflections during the Q&A part,  include the following:

Ms. Kholoud Al-Ajarma, Programs Manager at the Lajee Center, Palestine and Winner of the Water Heroes Contest, started with a personal testimony from her experience growing up in a refugee camp and how this experience helped build her commitment to sustainable water services for all, while noting that in Palestine the central issue is who controls the water. She underlined the importance of awareness, advocacy and action for and by youth in the Region and the role of initiatives like the Mediterranean Youth for Water Network. She characteristically urged to not consider youth only as leaders of tomorrow but as leaders of today too.

Mr. Ger Bergkamp, CEO of the ARCOWA consultancy, stressed that for the protection and restoration of water ecosystems, coordinated investments are needed with a public-private mix and match of funds. The productive aspect of wetlands should be made more visible to attract investment opportunities, including through CSR, while the insurance sector has a large potential role too. On the Nexus approach, he elaborated on the opportunities relevant to ecosystems, agriculture and energy arising from the treatment and reuse of wastewater.

Ms. Angela Klauschen, Senior Policy Advisor at MedWet, briefly outlined how a Nexus approach can contribute towards the resilience of wetlands. She also spoke on the required policy and institutional coordination, noting the overarching importance of the SDGs and the need for inter-institutional arrangements across governmental authorities and agencies.

Mr. Job Kleijn, Focal Point on Water Affairs for the MENA region in Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, noted that the main lesson learnt is the need to engage the private sector. He underlined the importance of linking Ministries with Parliamentarians, who in turn need to be more involved in discussions and debates. Regarding the communication aspects, he noted that a main challenge is about proving to people what we, as experts, have in mind.

Ms. Lulwa Saffarini, MINARET Project Manager, spoke on the important role and added value of local authorities, which often provide services that governments cannot, including attracting investments, and therefore need assistance so as to be turned into core actors. She mentioned that lack of sensitised mentality and political will are often encountered in the Region and are among the main reasons leading to the lack of financing. She also stressed the importance of communicating effectively with people through evidence-based discussions while avoiding much jargon.

Mr. Manuel Sapiano, CEO of Malta’s Energy and Water Agency, noted that national funds are often insufficient or sometimes difficult to access and brought the positive example of EU’s Life Programme in the protection of ecosystems. Noting the importance of ensuring public engagement, he also stressed that in communication we should not disregard the social component.

Ms. Monika Weber-Fahr, Executive Secretary of GWP spoke about the importance of the gender dimension underlining that we need a “Never about them without them” principle, while also adding the importance of a bottom-up approach and of relevant strategies in mainstreaming gender.  She also noted the importance of having the Water and the Environment communities engaging in more and deeper discussions between them. Closing, she stressed the increasing significance of environmental degradation as a driver for humanitarian emergencies.


For more information on the projects that supported the organisation of the session, please visit:


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This session was the first of the two “MENA Focus” sessions during this year’s World Water Week, and this was the 3rd year that such a dedicated Focus was part of the Week’s programme, alongside the Regional Focus events for Africa, Asia and Latin America. GWP-Med has been coordinating the overall “MENA Focus” events for all these years.

This year’s other MENA Focus session was “MENA Focus- Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises” convened by the World Bank Group and the Food and Agriculture Organization. More information on that session is available here.