World news story

UK hosts rare Israeli-Arab conference on water innovation

Israeli and Palestinian researchers came together to discuss water challenges, at a unique conference organised by the UK this week.

Wilton Park
Wilton Park

The conference, a rare platform for cross-border dialogue, focused on innovations that can benefit water-scarce communities. It was attended by around 70 experts, including many from Israel, Jordan, the OPT, and the UK. Other participants came from Bahrain, Morocco, and Oman, as well as the United States and European nations.

The four-day event was held at Wilton Park, south of London, in association with the British Council, the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy and the UK government’s Science and Innovation Network. Wilton Park is an executive agency of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office which specializes in convening and facilitating high level foreign policy dialogues.

The event was held against the backdrop of increased scientific co-operation on water between British and Middle Eastern researchers. Most recently, the UK-funded STREAM programme was launched, which will support joint water research by British, Israeli and Middle Eastern scientists.

The current round of applications for STREAM, which is funded by the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy and the British Council, is open until 30 September. The programme was discussed last week in London, at a meeting between Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, and Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister for Public Security and Public Diplomacy.

Prof Eilon Adar of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University, who spoke at the conference and participated in a pilot STREAM research project, said:

by cooperating with colleagues from the UK and the Middle East, we’re able to explore better management of municipal wastewater and contaminated groundwater. This week at Wilton Park, we witnessed the huge potential for more partnerships such as this.

Nader Khateeb, Palestinian Director of EcoPeace Middle East, an organisation that promotes environmental collaboration between Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis, said of the event:

ensuring reliable water supply and water quality is a universal duty all of us share; we owe it to ourselves and to the next generation. At Wilton Park, we had a productive time discussing water innovation and how we can overcome the water challenges of our region.

Suleiman Halasah, Chief Executive of Jordanian environmental organisation i.GREENs and a speaker at the conference, said:

The conference and the STREAM programme enable us to exchange knowledge and technologies, with the aim of trying to solve the water problems of the Middle East. Our project allows us to modify and fine-tune proposed solutions to account for the differences in location, needs and local knowledge.

Among the issues discussed at the conference were new water technologies and partnerships; their effects on regional stability; financing of water innovation; and how water issues affect women.

For additional information

Please contact Sagi Or, Communications Officer, at the British Embassy.

Published 14 September 2016