Who owns the water?

Cooperation over Water Resources as a Tool for Desecuritisation: the Israeli – Palestinian Environmental NGOs as Desecuritising Actor

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Gershon Baskin stated that, even if the conflict goes on, civil society continues cooperating, despite the temporary freeze in official Israeli dialogue with the Palestinian Authority, including the work of Joint Water Committee.

This article discusses the role of the Israeli and Palestinian environmental NGOs as desecuritising actors who have attempted to initiate a desecuritisation process. In this regard, the article first reviews the Copenhagen School’s securitisation theory with a particular focus on the concept of desecuritisation and desecuritising actor. Based on the notion of desecuritisation, an analytical framework for analysis will be suggested here to integrate Israeli-Palestinian environmental NGOs’ water management efforts as contributions in desecuritisation of relations between Israelis and Palestinians with wider conflict resolution efforts.

Gershon Baskin, Israeli co-director of the IPCRI, pointed out that a number of Israeli-Palestinian joint projects were initiated following the conference. In this sense, the conference was extremely successful in terms of the continuation of work in the transboundary water management area. Baskin stated that, even if the conflict goes on, civil society continues cooperating, as was the case during the Hamas government’s administration. He gave the example of Israeli army personals’ dialogue with Palestinian municipalities regarding water-related emergencies despite the temporary freeze in official Israeli dialogue with the Palestinian Authority, including the work of Joint Water Committee.

IPCRI’s Water and Environment Programme almost exclusively focuses on the role of water in peace-building. As stated in IPCRI’s web site the Environment and Water Programme of IPCRI is working to promote effective cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians in the field of environment with a special emphasis on water issues. Compared to FoEME, IPCRI operates at the institutional rather than the implementation level, with participants from environmental NGOs, business leaders and ministries from both sides. Besides its participation in regional water management projects such as the Glowa Jordan River Project and the OPTIMA (Optimisation of Sustainable Water Management) Project, IPCRI is serving to create lasting institutional and personal ties between Israeli and Palestinian water experts and activists through organising regular conferences and workshops. Given the restrictions on movement to/from areas under the Palestinian Authority’s control, these conferences and workshops seem to be unique platforms for face-to-face meetings between Israelis and Palestinians dealing with water management. As was declared in the Joint Statement of the Participants of IPCRI’s Conference on Water for Life, held in October 2004, both Israeli and Palestinian participants continue to work together to deal with the acute water problems of the region.

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Bezen Balamir Coskun

Bezen Balamir Coskun is an expert in Turkish Middle Eastern relations and teaches at the Zirve University in Gaziantep, Turkey. She specializes in Foreign Policy, International Relations, International History and Politics. Prof. Coskun won theInaugural Routledge Global Change, Peace & Security award for her research in Analysing Desecuritisations: Prospects & Problems for Israeli-!Palestinian Reconciliation.