Addressing an explosive nexus in the Mediterranean: Water-Employment-Migration

The Water-Employment-Migration nexus triggers a multi-faceted crisis posing major socio-political, economic and environmental risks in several regions (Africa, Asia, Europe), with the Mediterranean been in the eye of the cyclone.

Read on related challenges and responding GWP-Med action in pages 66-75 of the recent Revolve Magazine No 22 (Winter 2016/2017):

Contributing in developing this agenda, the 1st Regional Consultation Roundtable on Water-Employment-Migration was held on 7 December 2016, in Tunis, under the lead of GWP-Med and the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean, with the support by GWP and in the framework of the Sida-supported ‘Making Water Cooperation Happen in the Mediterranean’ Project.

 More than 25 distinguished participants from 13 institutions and organisations across 10 countries gathered to elaborate on the linkages among water insecurity, enduring unemployment and increasing migration in the Mediterranean, emphasising also on youth and gender challenges.

 The Mediterranean is not only among the most arid regions in the world. Parts of the region face a persistent economic crisis, socio-political instability, conflicts and large-scale migratory movements, often under dramatic conditions, putting further stress on the available water resources.

The Regional Roundtable highlighted several pressing facts, such as the eagerness of 25% of the youth population in the MENA to migrate and seek for a better future away from home. Youth unemployment in the region is at a global high, and it is the main driver for both males and females to migrate. However, female youth is in an even more disadvantaged position suffering the triple burden of gender, age and skills mismatch.

 As the 2016 UN-WWAP Report on “Water & Jobs” claims that “three out four jobs are water depended”, there is a huge opportunity to create jobs, through a water-energy-food-ecosystems nexus approach, and train people to get them. Therefore, investing in water should mean investing in jobs, supporting young professionals, and promoting green technology transfer and utilization, building on the potential of creating new green/blue markets.

 The Roundtable discussions also made evident that education is strongly correlated with employment and the MENA youth do not have the skills desired for employers. Designing tailored training programs to bridge this gap can gradually help decrease the unemployment ratio in the region, and improve female employability. Such training and educational programs will be among areas of focus in the development of the regional program on Water-Employment-Migration.

 Furthermore, the need to assist national and regional authorities in setting the needed institutional and regulatory ground for related successful measures, was pinpointed. Development of strategies and action plans and/or operational mainstreaming of related considerations in existing national processes should assist in addressing the root causes of unemployment and migration and effectively contribute to water security in the Mediterranean. Synergies should be sought with neighboring regions/countries that are migration-origins (in Africa, Asia) as well as destination countries (in Europe).

 Discussions brought forward best practices, practical ways forward and possible synergies. Importantly, actual commitments for collaboration by a number of institutions and organisations were presented and will be followed up towards building a collaborative initiative and a programme of action.