Speech by HRH Prince Hassan
15th-16th February, 2010, Geneva, Switzerland
May I thank our moderator for his generous remarks. Before speaking, he said that he was a ‘water’ man and has never done this before. I said, “Please go with the flow”.
In Arabic, the whole issue of global warning is translated into (الانحباس الحراري) which means the imprisonment of heat. When Al Gore and I, together with five others, received the UNEP prize, Al Gore spoke of global warming and I spoke of human warning. On that basis I think the problem is not (الانحباس الحراري) the imprisonment of heat, but (الانحباس الفكري) the imprisonment of thought.
I have a point of difference with the Strategic Foresight Group Report, Cost of Conflict in the Middle East . Dr. Sundeep Waslekar said that it is a preliminary study. I thank the core group, including Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, Qatar and the Arab League. What is important to me and to my wife, who incidentally was born in Calcutta during the Partition of India and I was born in Jordan during the Partition, is to note that within this arc of crisis, the concept of sectarian fragmentation and the concept of the conflict between the rich and very rich and the poor and very poor, is summarised today in the word ‘globalisation’. To understand how we address the subject of how regional commons meet global commons and indeed how this international facilitation can help regional collaboration which is the subject of your discussion tomorrow and the day after, we have to be precise about which region we are addressing. This crisis ellipse (Map A below), incorporates what Campbell-Bannerman, the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom referred to when, in 1907, he met with his colleagues, the then Imperial powers and came to the conclusion that the peoples in Asia and Africa neighbouring strategic waterways [and let me remind you of the chokepoints – Suez Canal/Sumed Pipeline, Bab el-Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz], and neighbouring mineral resources, should remain divided and poor. This was ten years before the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
You say in your report, that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been going for 60 years, but in reality if you go back to the Balfour Declaration, we are talking about 90 years. In the presence of Grand Rabbin Sirat, born in Naba, Algeria, I would emphasise that Territoriality, Immigration and Migration (Movement) (TIM) are the underlying crises that we face in our region. The concept of stabilising population was referred to in the Global Humanitarian Forum Human Impact Report on climate change chaired by Kofi Annan and held in hospitable Geneva. It is a heavy burden to bear. My friend António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, says and I agree with him, “…that it will become increasingly difficult to categorise people as displaced by conflict, economic, environmental or climate change or other factors”. These peoples are consumers of essentials. My friend, Prof. Manfred Max-Neef from Chile, has coined the term ECOSON – ecological person. The footprint of the ecological person in snow-clad Switzerland is rather different from the footprint of the ecological person in our arid region.
It is for that reason that the first point of departure in our conversations with our Israeli interlocutors after Madrid and Oslo was to focus on a supranational concept on how to develop the Jordan Rift Valley (JRV). In October 1994, the Israelis, the Jordanians and the Americans presented a concept paper on the Integrated Development of the JRV. I recall Dennis Ross commenting that it was the only report with ‘meat’ on it. The JRV runs from the Gulf of Aqaba right up to Tiberias. As Professor Waslekar rightly said, it is an extension of the Great African Rift which goes from the Taurus Mountains all the way into East Africa. Years ago, I asked President Turgut Özal, God rest his soul, why it was that he joined the coalition in 1991. He said, “My friend, the history of Turkey has told us that when there is a peace conference it was better to be on the table than on the menu”. If we continue to discuss the problems of the region on the basis of an ad hoc focus: the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with all due respect, is the issue of today; the issue of tomorrow could be Lebanon; after tomorrow Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen – the list would be endless. So in the context of East meets West, I would rather refer to my Western interlocutors as my EFTA interlocutors and whilst EFTA may be a thing of the past and Non-Alignment also a thing of the past, at least with Non-Alignment, one assumed a degree of independent thinking. Switzerland hosts the most migrants from the West Asian and South Asian regions in the EFTA group.
What is required of this meeting is a shift from consultation and concept-building mode to a new concept for the development of a Master Plan for water for the region. Yes, I know that my Arab friends will ask me why we do not talk about the Arab nation. Let us look at the conflict between Algeria and Morocco and recognise the facts that this conflict would make it very difficult for Maghreb cooperation to proceed. At the last meeting on water held under auspices of the European Union, I remember my Maghreb friends asking what they would get in return. We could ask the same of the DESERTEC project which will take solar energy across North Africa to Europe – what will we get in return? I do not want to be asked about issues of Maghreb particularity because I am not qualified to reply. Libya has its own status yet to be defined in terms of African identity or North African identity. Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, has mined water to the point where it cannot hope to continue unless a solution can be found. This great heritage site is about to be deserted just as Moin Jaddara and Fatehpur Sikri in India were deserted for lack of water.
Regional cooperation has been proposed time and again by organisations such as IEMed, Barcelona. But, I would like to point out that focus on initiatives in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea region is not given equal time. So I come back to the concept of a Master Plan for the region. How do we, with the problems we face in terms of being lower riparian, formulate an integrated development plan which can at least take into consideration the juxtaposition of water resources in the Nile Valley, which needs the equivalent of five Nile Rivers, not one depleted Nile River? Israel and Palestine are also lower riparian. I remember Professor Yehuda Elkana, himself a survivor of the holocaust and former head of the Central European University in Budapest, asking the Israeli Minister of Water if they were using 40% of Palestinian aquifer water to export Jaffa oranges and if they were interested, by extension, in a brand name or if in fact they were interested in peace. Professor Elkana also asked if they were interested in that equity to which they referred. Of course our region includes five distinctive geographic sections: the Jordan River Valley including Lake Tiberias north of the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea itself and its rugged eastern and western escarpments, the Southern Ghors south of the Dead Sea coastline area with the towns of Aqaba and Eilat. The JRV has extensive areas below sea level, including the Dead Sea whose surface is the lowest point on earth.
There has been much talk of projects. The Dead Sea discussions started with the Med-Dead Sea Canal and then proceeded to discussions on the Red-Dead Sea Canal. Currently there is an environmental impact assessment study underway on the proposed Red-Dead Sea Canal sponsored by the World Bank, which is supposed to be completed in the early part of 2011. But personally, and I take the responsibility for my personal observation, I wonder how an industrial mole is going to dig on top of tectonic plates for a distance of over 200 kilometers. (If you recall, the St. Gotthard Pass was 70 miles long.) One of the basic problems on issues of water is that it is not me in this room who counts; it is the millions of people who are living there on the ground who count. What access do they have to public hearings? Indeed, even the technicians in this room are not representative of the inter-disciplinary context of technicians related to EWE – Environment, Water and Energy.
Water and energy are synonyms and it is for this reason that for several years and most recently in the lifespan of the West Asia–North Africa (WANA) region, we tried to focus on the importance of a supranational water and energy community for the WANA region. Incidentally West Asia-North Africa is a coinage that the Indian Foreign Ministry has used for many, many years. If you were Chinese or Japanese you would not refer to the Middle East, you would call it the Middle West.
For many years I have proposed the possibility of creating the equivalent to an Arctic Council or an Antarctic Council for water and energy for the region. The Fertile Crescent has seen successive wars as stated in the study (Cost of Conflict in the Middle East). As a result of these wars, it is now rapidly becoming a futile crescent. We have no intraindependence between the oil-producing region in situ and the human-resource region of the hinterland. The Japanese Diet said very clearly in 1988 that there can be no stability for the oil states unless there is stability for the hinterland, whether in the Caucasus, Central Asia or in the Gulf region.
The environmental consequences of War and Water are brilliantly summarised in the study : First Gulf War: 1990-1991; Second Gulf War: 2003 and Israel-Hezbollah War: 2006, which implicitly was a water war. The figure of “USD12 trillion represents lost opportunities” in the Middle East since Oslo and Madrid. These losses do not include the total loss on issues of health: stunted growth; the 80% anaemia of Iraqi children, not to forget the current health situation in the Gaza Strip. “This means that every citizen has lost. An average Israeli, Saudi, Jordanian, Palestinian or Lebanese would have enjoyed double the income level whereas an average Iraqi would have been four times richer” . I, for one, have been asking for many years why we cannot establish a plant for solar desalination and electrification of Gaza on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border. The Egyptian side might ask if this would encourage out-migration. I believe, on the contrary, that it would encourage the will to stay.
I am happy to say that Jordanians have patented Multiple-element Magnetic Nanoparticles (MMN) and its use for fast detection and removal of pathogenic bacteria from water resources. Our national nanotechnology centre has to network, I believe, with others in developing MMN in health and environment and medicine, and on producing nanoclay using domestic resources, i.e., Bentonite and treated waste water, to convert sandy desert into farmland.
So I ask myself when we speak on the subject of war and water, when in Henri Dunant’s Switzerland, can we start talking not in Henri Dunant’s terminology, with all due respect, which was applicable to a particular phase of human conflict, when he asked, “How to make war more humane?” But how do we take the first step towards creating an international law of peace?
In the West Asia-North Africa debates, we have looked at the issue of not only one of juridical and historical background, but we have addressed the subject of the Euphrates, the Orontes, the Yarmouk and the Nile with its ten African states. It is said that it would be the end of days if the Euphrates dried up. Well, it is drying up as we speak. In this respect, I have the greatest admiration for the Danube, the Rhine Commission and the Mekong Commission and I think I should still include the Indus Commission.
War does not make additional water. Decades ago in Jordan for example, we called for a national water company in which every individual has a share.
What does this region need at the moment? There is an urgent need for developed countries to provide discreet and effective technical assistance in developing a concept to save and stabilise this West-Asian region.
Here I would like to point to the oil and gas reserves and productions of the Gulf States and Iran – 60% of the world’s reserves and 30% of production. You have rich countries, which are water poor and you have energy-rich countries which have to export energy while stinting on the consumption of energy for their own population. As far as the figures are concerned, the Turkish Straits oil flow is 2.4 million bbl/d; the Suez Canal/Sumed Pipeline has a flow of 4.5 million bbl/d; Bab el-Mandeb 3.3 million bbl/d, the Strait of Hormuz 16.5 million bbl/d and the Straits of Malacca 15 million bbl/d. (Map B below)
So, in controlling the world oil transit chokepoints, the price of oil of course is controlled by the politics of each sub region, so my question to you here in this context is, how do we develop an equivalent to the European Economics Community call for a community of coal and steel? Why can’t we call this community a community of water and energy?
I want to show you the Caspian Region Oil and Gas Pipelines (Map C below). The Caspian Pipeline Consortium first stage – 560 thousand barrels a day and the Baku-T’bilsi-Ceyhan – 1 million bbl/d. The Baku-T’bilsi-Ceyhan pipeline is extremely interesting. I think that as far as Ceyhan and the region are concerned, it is very clear that a similar pipeline could well be continued into the region. Of course it might be one of the longest pipelines in the world if it was to be extended into the region, but I do think that this could be a continuation of the dream of developing regional infrastructure. Here I am talking of oil pipelines, but I do think that it is important to bear in mind that water could be equally addressed.
Going back to the broader picture, can we draw up a land management map for the whole region based on empirical fact? In this report, it is stated that there are no facts available for Iraq. Nothing is mentioned about Iraq here because there is no base of empirical fact. It reminds me of the story that four days before the allied intervention in Iraq, the British Museum was phoned by the Pentagon to ask, “What is archaeologically significant about Mesopotamia?” The answer from the British Museum was, “Everything”.
In the study , agriculture is also mentioned and the need for the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon to import food. In Iraq, the loss of marshlands and the loss of palm trees led to the loss of bio-diversity. There was no significant follow-up in terms of a dynamic database on the question of how Iraq complements the region.
I would like to mention here the recommendations of the independent Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor and I thank the Swiss Government for their support. The Report was launched in June 2008 and I am happy to say that the Arabic version will soon be launched Jordan. Of course no Arab country likes to talk about the legal empowerment of the poor because we don’t have any poor! Remember the imprisonment of thought. Our citizens do not know that they have the right and the responsibility to pursue: Access to Justice and the Rule of Law; Property Rights, Labour Rights and Business Rights. These rights are exercised by exporting councils and by agricultural councils, but even in our official statistics and I think I can speak of Palestine as well as Jordan where these statistics do not include farmers. Agricultural labour is included in official statistics because we import Asian labour and we abuse their rights, so actually in terms of complementarity between South Asia and West Asia, it is at best condescending.
I also thank the Swiss delegation for having emphasised the importance of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and that it should be exercised under all conditions. I thank Professor Cherif Bassiouni at De Paul University in Chicago who tells us that the combined loss of life worldwide in wars that have succeeded the first and second world wars totals over 90 million people which is the equivalent of more than the casualties of the first and second world wars combined. Less than 1% of these war criminals have actually been brought to trial.
To talk of our youth – young men and women – let me remind you that GDP has to be understood in per capita terms. Unfortunately, GDP is understood in Bretton Woods-friendly terminology which means the package of globalization and privatization. I was particularly struck by the words of Ann Pettifor, the head of Advocacy International, who called for an Asian monetary fund or an Asian monetary window with Asian drawing rights. I also pay tribute to Paul Volcker, who in his time called for a regional development bank which would be asymmetrical – accountable and transparent and would focus on the empowerment of the poor. Of course, we are told about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), but I think that the Global Humanitarian Forum here in Geneva made it very clear in their The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis , earlier mentioned, that today we should be looking at the anatomy of the crises of the silenced. In this regard I think that global social responsibility and corporate social responsibility are not exercised on the basis of a plan because there are those of us who believe that the age of planning ended with globalization and privatization. I think that this is absurd. You might agree with me that every individual and every family has priorities. If you don’t agree with me, I think that the Islamist parties certainly recognise that nature hates a vacuum. They don’t ask for collateral. They ask for children’s lives and money is issued on that basis. So, today we find Iraqis planting opium because nobody is interested in consuming Iraqi vegetables. Certainly the coalition forces bring their food with them.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The desert is a potential carbon sink which can only be achieved through the greening of the desert and of the arid land provided that aridity doesn’t remain in our minds. Carbon dioxide emissions in North Africa and the Middle East are increasing faster than any other region in the world except for South Asia and East Asia. The Arab region is one of the least responsible for the green-house effect. However, the region is also the nearest to becoming a direct victim of climate change. One metre rise in sea levels can create millions of refugees over eight Nile Basin countries.
Our host, the Strategic Foresight Group, has emphasised the importance of not only talking of long-term planning, but talking of carrying capacity and recovery capacity. Carrying capacity and recovery capacity have to be based not only on good intentions but on clear policy recommendations such as a conference for security and cooperation in the Middle East region, or whatever other title you may wish to use as well as an empirical database for the issues that you are discussing within the purview of your further studies. When reforming the education plan in Jordan I said that education is more important than the Ministry of Education. Water, with due respect, is more important than water experts. I think what is important today is to recommend that peace is only possible if it is comprehensive.
I conclude by saying that we have had enough of living on an ad hoc basis – our peoples are bewildered, anxious, intimidated and apathetic. When I worked with a group of eminent persons representing 29 nationalities on the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, our purpose was principally to rescue hope from the dismal, complex and increasingly confusing environment in which we live. In our Report, we concluded by saying that, “The recognition of the fundamental worth of the human person and the ethical values shared by all societies must be the sustaining force behind common action for common good.
Ladies and gentlemen, West Asia is not barrels of oil and terrorists. West Asia is millions of people who are looking for a better future for their children and their grandchildren. Help them to achieve that hope. Thank you.