Outcomes from Georgetown University in Qatar’s “Sustaining the Oasis” Hiwaraat conference are poised to be a catalyst for shaping new dialogues, collaboration, and research partnerships around water security and climate change, both within the region and around the globe.
Held from Nov. 12-13, the conference was a collaboration between GU-Q and the Earth Commons Institute at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Connecting policy with science, and new technology with circular and nature-based solutions, discussions shed light on the role of water as a force to achieve greater regional cooperation and stability, while driving climate change adaptation and mitigation.
“One of the greatest values of dialogues like Hiwaraat is to kick-start important agendas for the future, to bring together people who care about common issues,” said Dean of GU-Q Dr. Safwan Masri, in his closing remarks. “This (conference) is just the beginning of a conversation between (our campuses) and how we build an environmental presence here, in an area that is just so critical,” said Dr. Peter Marra, dean of the Earth Commons Institute.
In a keynote that resonated over the two days, Malcolm Gladwell, New York Times bestselling author and journalist, stressed the need for urgency and taking greater social risks. Speakers from more than 35 organizations, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, echoed this outlook, exploring how to accelerate inclusive, sustainable solutions as climate stressors, freshwater scarcity, and regional conflicts compound water challenges.
Qatar’s water strategy was the focus of a high-level panel with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and representatives from Qatar Foundation’s environmental research centers. The country’s efforts to honor its international commitments have seen challenges evolve into opportunities for the region, speakers noted, making solutions and technologies more accessible and affordable.
The role of Gulf countries in defining a water-secure world was the focus of another panel. Speakers pointed to achievements driven by the region’s high adaptability, investments in non-conventional water sources, and wastewater reuse.
And although open access to water in the region has helped to drive development in the Gulf region, more sustainable consumption is needed. Roula Majdalani, senior climate change adviser, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, said: “The agriculture sector is where you can achieve better demand management (as) more countries in the region oscillate toward food sovereignty.” She then outlined promising water-wise solutions in agriculture including circularity, technology, precision agriculture, and heat-tolerant crops.
Bridging regional water needs and global climate goals, a high-level panel discussed actionable strategies to position water in the climate agenda at COP28.
“As the negotiations become more and more complex, we focus on solutions,” said Henk Ovink, former Dutch special envoy for international water affairs. “Water, with its interlinkages with food security, energy security, and biodiversity, will play a key role in showing that, if we want to change course in the context of climate change, water is the best driver,” he added.
“With COP28 just weeks away, (ours) is an incredibly timely dialogue and the high-level findings from this conference will be shared with the COP28 Presidency team in support of water-related efforts,” said Dr. Raha Hakimdavar, senior adviser to the Dean of GU-Q and Dean of the Earth Commons Institute.