Water Security in the Middle East (Blue Peace)

Project completed

In the Middle East, the increasingly precarious situation of water resources demands stronger regional cooperation than ever before. Set against this background, the Blue Peace approach aims at contributing to peace building through combined political and technical dialogues, which are substantiated in concrete regional projects and direct impact activities on the ground. Together with the Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) and local partners from academia, international organisations, civil society and private sector, SDC is able to promote policy and concrete solutions for sustainable development serving those threatened by water scarcity and conflict.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Near East
Agriculture & food security
Vocational training
Agricultural water resources
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
Water diplomacy and security
Water resources conservation
Water sector policy
Vocational training
01.04.2016 - 31.03.2021
CHF  4’392’137

The Middle East is the most water scarce region in the world with only around 1,200 m3/person/year of available water. Water plays a central role in the region’s conflicts and in defining priorities with regard to the sustainable development agenda. Aggravating this situation, practically all rivers and aquifers straddle two or more different countries – all of which claiming their part. Other important challenges include the need for more sustainable water use, access to more reliable water services (particularly in countries suffering directly and indirectly from conflict), and improved water governance for national and transboundary surface water and groundwater resources.

As water problems in the region and their impacts are often transboundary, regional solutions are required, which can encourage regional cooperation


The overall goal of the program is to enhance regional water management, empowering the broader underpinning for peace in the region.

Target groups

PA 1: Primary target group are influential policy makers in the region that are capable of convincing their leaders and governments of the importance of a Cooperation Council.

PA 2-7: Target group ranges from government employees in the water sector, as well as academics, civil society groups, entrepreneurs, media representatives, network members of Syrian refugees and other displaced people in the region. Indirect target groups are the populations threatened by conflicts or water scarcity, and the dare need for access to water and sanitation.

Medium-term outcomes

PA 1 (Cooperation Council): Establishment of a Cooperation Council for Water Resources in the Middle East for Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey by 2018 as inter-governmental body.

PA 2-7: Activities on the ground in the two transboundary basins (Tigris, Yarmouk) support the political tracks (under PA1) and lead to closing the knowledge gap with regard to reliable data about surface and groundwater resources and ensuring efficient water management. Regional capacity building measures will create start-up opportunities for the regional water sector. A training programme for the Blue Peace media network and a new generation of journalists will draw attention to the Blue Peace process and its necessity, and communicate more accurately and effectively about water.


Expected results:  

PA 1: Cooperation Council and bilateral tracks. Creation of Cooperation Council by governments; establishment of intergovernmental mechanism between Iraq and Turkey for data harmonisation between designated monitoring stations; improvement of living conditions of poor people in the Palestine due to fast track implementation of water projects on the ground.

PA 2 and 3: Shared basins 1: Tigris. Installation and calibration of monitoring equipment and appropriate data management systems; closing the hydrogeological survey gap of UNESCO ASHRI-II for two border regions; capacities in standard groundwater exploration techniques and best practices’ based data processing and information management.

PA 4 and 5: Shared basins 2: Yarmouk. Public series of images showing changes in water use from 1915 to 2015; data rescuing; at least two articles in highly-cited peer-review journals; two small intervention projects around replacing open irrigation canals; building pools for storage and loss reduction.

PA 6 and 7: Capacity building: Water & Media

A total of 45 start-ups created; existing SMEs empowered; a region-wide network developed; employment opportunities created, about 300 practitioners trained. Comprehensive media training on water developed and continuously provided to over 100 journalists, editors and bloggers. 

PA 8 and 9: Professional support for the entire program (NPO in the field and backstopping of SDC’s headquarters).

Results from previous phases:  

At a time when the Middle East has been caught up in crisis, the Blue Peace community has emerged as the only soft infrastructure of dialogue. In the framework of the Blue Peace Media network, more than 500 articles, media reports and television programmes have put attention on important water issues in the region and appeared advocating the Blue Peace approach. In a rough estimate, these media activities have reached more than 25 million people in the region.

The process has led to a creation of a political umbrella under which operational projects could made progress on targeting the sharing of hydrological and meteorological data (project of the World Meteorological Organization) and prepare for a coordinated and sustainable management of the Orontes basin.

The Blue Peace concept has spread beyond the Middle East to Central Asia.  

Directorate/federal office responsible SDC
Credit area Development cooperation
Project partners Contract partner
Foreign academic and research organisation
International or foreign NGO
Private sector
Foreign state institution
Swiss Non-profit Organisation
United Nations Organization (UNO)
  • Central State of South East
  • Other Academic Research North
  • Other Swiss Non-profit Organisation
  • Foreign private sector North
  • Foreign private sector South/East
  • Swiss Private Sector
  • SDC Field Office
  • Schweizerische UNESCO-Kommiss
  • Strategic Foresight Group (SFG, PA 1), UNESCO office for Iraq (UoI, PA 3), University of East Anglia (UEA, PA 4), Ministry of Water Resources Jordan (MWI, PA 5), Cewas Middle East (PA 7), to be selected through tender procedure (PA 2, PA 6, PA 9).

Other partners

Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources (MoAWR) and Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) in Iraq (PA 3), University of Jordan (PA 4), American University Beirut (AUB, PA 7), Arab Country Water Utility Association (ACWUA), to be selected through tender procedure (PA 5).

Coordination with other projects and actors

Global Blue Peace, Blue Peace Central Asia.

Budget Current phase Swiss budget CHF    4’392’137 Swiss disbursement to date CHF    4’359’761 Total project since first phase Swiss budget CHF   5’938’000 Budget inclusive project partner CHF   12’000’000
Project phases Phase 4 01.02.2019 - 31.12.2021   (Current phase)

Phase 3 01.04.2016 - 31.03.2021   (Completed)

Phase 2 01.12.2013 - 30.06.2016   (Completed) Phase 1 01.10.2010 - 31.12.2013   (Completed)