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Organization: Friends of the Earth Middle East, EcoPeace
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) works in a region of mistrust and ongoing violence, however, we believe we have seen progress – at least in our work - toward a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the decade.  

A good example is where in 2001, in the midst of the current hostilities in the region, FoEME launched a new project called "Good Water Makes Good Neighbors".  This project was created to advance a reconciliation initiative based on the fact that Israeli and Palestinian neighboring communities share a common water resource, being either a stream/river or shared groundwater. The communities involved included both the Arab-Palestinian minority in Israel and both Gaza and West Bank Palestinian communities. In the four years since the launch of the project, concrete and practical reconciliation actions on the ground took place implemented by volunteer youth water trustees created by the project in each community based on the common water and environment issues that they share.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

The Middle East has been a region of conflict for many years, but the last 4 years of violence has been unprecedented.  With the use of suicide bombers on the one side and military action on the other, there is no question that these hostilities have prevented progress towards peace and stability, have severely damaged any trust that might have been built up in previous years and have hampered peace efforts in general.

Friends of the Earth Middle East has managed to work together in this region despite the violence, but we have had our own setbacks as well.  The problem of advertising our work with Palestinian partners is very problematic.  Although we are very proud of the dialogue that we have created between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, especially in this time of regional unrest, we are often wary of publicity of these successes for fear of our Palestinian partners being viewed as "collaborators".  This is most unfortunate since the media seems to be more interested in the region's violence and bombings while we would prefer to highlight the fact that there does exist dialogue, cooperation and joint activities between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians.
In addition, FoEME often needs to gather people together for meetings, conferences and activities from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Israel.  This requires issuance of permits for the Palestinians and visas for the Jordanians, neither of which should be taken for granted.  There are occasional refusals to grant permits for Palestinians and visas for Jordanians and this obstacle unfortunately impacts our degree of success in our work.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists.  Our primary objective is the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage. In so doing, we seek to advance both sustainable regional development and the creation of necessary conditions for lasting peace in our region.

All of Friends of the Earth Middle East's activities deal with trans-boundary environmental issues that necessitates the cooperation of all parties involved, as described in our activities below:  

a. GOOD WATER NEIGHBORS PROJECT
The key purpose of the Good Water Neighbors project is to identify pilot communities in Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to raise awareness through youth activities at the community level as to their own water reality and promote more sustainable water management at the municipal/household level; advance trans-boundary cooperation between the neighboring Israeli/Jordanian/Palestinian water trustees created in order to exchange information concerning each other’s water reality and seek to advance specific cooperation on common water problem solving issues; and to utilize the results and experience gained at the pilot community and partnering community level for a region-wide public awareness program on wise water use and water equity issues.

FoEME established a group of Water Trustees in each pilot community as the local advocates/activists for change. A public building in each community was transformed to a model water wise building, with thousands of additional water wise devices employed community wide. 15,000 signatures were collected for a common petition on local water issues presented by youth to their respective water authorities and workshops were held on the community level about wise water use targeting different stakeholders.  Site visits for dignitaries and media are constantly being undertaken and significant public interest has been obtained in the partnering community program.

FoEME is the lead organization in the project, consisting of three FoEME project coordinators and 11 field researchers based in each community. The project is managed by a FoEME project director, with support from an international advisory committee of European and American water experts.


b. PROTECTING THE MOUNTAIN AQUIFER
The Mountain Aquifer is an underground trans-boundary water reservoir, providing a primary source of drinking water for Israelis and Palestinians alike. However, poor environmental practices, such as raw sewage and seepage from unsanitary landfills, which take place above the Mountain Aquifer by both Palestinian villages and Israeli settlements, directly threaten the aquifer’s water quality. The main object of the project is to detail the sources of pollution to the Mountain Aquifer through: interviews with all stakeholders; roundtable discussions with Israeli, Palestinian and international decision-makers and experts; and publishing a report and utilizing it as the basis of an advocacy campaign.

FoEME has developed strong relationships with Israeli and Palestinian municipalities, water authorities and donor states where common sewage and solid waste issues are concerned. Since the start of this project all sides publicly declared this issue to be a priority and moved forward on both Tulkarem and Hebron facilities. FoEME is conducting a second phase of the project to focus on solid waste issues and the need to continue to keep pressure on each individual commitment made to ensure project fruition takes place in a timely manner. The expected result is a declared timetable agreed upon by the joint Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee, with the support of donor countries, for the building of sewage treatment facilities above the Mountain Aquifer.  

c. MIDDLE EAST ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS PROGRAMME: THE GULF OF AQABA AND THE DEAD SEA BASIN
The overall objective was to promote peace through environmental awareness by focusing on the shared ecosystems of the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba. For the Dead Sea, the main focus was to raise awareness of the unique environment and current threats facing the Dead Sea and educate decision makers to adopt a regional strategy for the sustainable management of the Dead Sea basin. For the Gulf of Aqaba, the main focus was to educate the tourism industry to adopt sustainable tourism practices and raise awareness for tourists (foreign and local) and the local communities of the need to protect together the Gulf of Aqaba.

FoEME's activities at the Dead Sea Basin brought: the Palestinian Minister of the Environment to formally express their support in writing for Dead Sea World Heritage registration; an inter-ministerial committee established in Israel in March 2001 (including informally a representative from FoEME) to consider the future of the Dead Sea; an announcement by the King of Jordan in December 2001 that the Dead Sea is of national interest to Jordan; Israeli and Jordanian governments jointly declare at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) the need to implement a joint strategy to protect the Dead Sea; and the Israeli Government passes a decision in January 2003 to prepare a government policy on the future of the Dead Sea allocating 2 million NIS for the purpose. At the public level, hundreds of Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis participated in public awareness activities concerning the Dead Sea, and a photo competition of the Dead Sea launched in Jordan and Israel received extensive media coverage highlighting the importance of the Dead Sea as a natural resource and not a wasteland.

For the Gulf of Aqaba, the project resulted in a Jordanian law in Aqaba banning the sale of plastic bags less then a certain thickness in order to protect the coral reefs and general environment; the Eilat Port Authority purchased equipment for safe feeding of phosphate into ships at Eilat port; a proposed airport terminal originally designed for the border area of Aqaba and Eilat at the spot of a declared nature reserve was moved north of the reserve; thousands of residents and local tourists in Aqaba and Eilat participated in public awareness activities of various sorts to protect the shared Gulf of Aqaba; the planning authorities in Israel refused to accept fish cages as part of the coastal master plan of Eilat; and both the Jordanian and Israel media recognized the issue of fish cages in open waters and the pollution that they cause as an international issue of common concern.


d. RAISING AWARENESS FOR THE RIVER JORDAN'S SHARED HERITAGE AND PROTECTION
Despite its historical, geographic and cultural importance, the Lower River Jordan has been turned into little more than an open sewer. The sewage of all the communities along the Jordan River Valley, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian, are directed untreated towards the River. Fresh water coming from the Sea of Galilee or the Yarmouk River have been diverted or dammed so that the Jordan River’s flow is today less then ten percent of its historic volume and that volume constitutes mostly of sewage and diverted saline springs from the Sea of Galilee.

The objective of this new project was to prepare a concept document for potential UNESCO biosphere and or World Heritage Registration of the River Jordan by the three parties, Palestine, Jordan and Israel, and use this document to launch an advocacy campaign to rehabilitate this important river, promoting pride and prosperity to the people that live along its banks.  A large, international conference took place this spring, where we brought our ideas for rehabilitation and sustainable development out to the public. These include plans for eco-tourism, sustainable agriculture, and reviving cultural events in the area.

We hope to raise the awareness of this mostly unknown environmental crisis to the residents of the 3 countries residing along the river, the general public and the stakeholders in the region.  We can then progress towards suggesting viable solutions to bring water and life back to the Jordan Valley, directly benefiting the inhabitants of the area.

FoEME is a leading organization in this project, utilizing Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli researches and planners to gather information about the ecological and cultural uniqueness as well as the challenges facing the Jordan River today.


e. RED SEA – DEAD SEA CONDUIT
Friends of the Earth Middle East received a $500,000 USAID research project to be undertaken by 3 co-partners:  WEDO (Water and Environment Development Organization – a Palestinian NGO), the Geological Society of Israel and the Jordanian Royal Scientific Society.  The aim is to study the ecological, geological, hydrological and economic impact that this proposed conduit would have on the region.


ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

FoEME has many recommendations mostly relating to the little tapped potential of environmental peacemaking particularly as regards transboundary water issues.
These include:
• Because of interdependence water can be a bridge towards peace building.
• On water supply issues generally good government to government cooperation often due to immediate benefits seen.
• On pollution prevention and habitat protection benefits are long term – therefore cooperation requires 3rd party support.
• Donor states and organizations such as the UN should support an integrated approach - water supply, sewage treatment and habitat protection.
• Intervention needed at national level but no less at community level.
• In conflict areas different model required to contribute to both development and peace building.
• Assistance should incorporate conflict prevention / peace building (CP/PB) & identify peace dividend for all interventions made.
• Call for proposals should encourage and help identify CP/PB opportunities
• Donors need to coordinate closely with all sides in a given conflict
• Donor and UN aid staff need specific training on how to support CP/PB .
• Donors need to recognize that conflict related costs are legitimate and can be minimized by better coordination

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

- Friends of the Earth International
- Paths to Sustainability
- Life and Environment
- Global Nature Fund

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

-  continuation of "Good Water Neighbors" project with new activities
-  promoting eco-tourism in the Jordan River Valley
-  promoting organic agriculture in the Jordan River Valley
-  work towards empowering local residents & civil society in the Jordan River Valley
-  check the feasibility of the IJC model for the shared lakes between US & Canada for use as a Dead Sea management body
-  assess results of the Red Sea Dead Sea conduit research outcomes
-  continue cooperation on Mountain Aquifer research and suggestions for action

Postal address of organization

Friends of the Earth Middle East
85 Nahalat Binyamin Street
Tel Aviv, 66102  ISRAEL

E-mail address of organization

info@foeme.org

Website address of organization

www.foeme.org

Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Sustainable Development

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

International Peace and Security

Highest priority country of action (or international)

Regional – Middle East

Second priority country of action (or international)

Israel, Palestine and Jordan
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Organization: Friends of the Earth Middle East, EcoPeace

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