Global Agenda 2013: Water, Energy, and the Arab Awakening

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A massive 180 km pipeline-canal megaproject to bring water from the Red Sea could prevent the Dead Sea from disappearing while improving the regions environmental, energy and peace prospects, according to a book of insights into major global topics launched by the InterAction Council and United Nations University.

Commissioned from leading experts on issues of universal concern, the authors include former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdel Salam Majali and Moneef R. Zoubi, respectively the President and Director General of the Islamic World Academy of Sciences, who say the innovative Red-Dead Canal offers the potential to secure human well-being while promoting regional stability.

For years, Israel, Syria and Jordan have diverted more than 90 percent of the southward flow of the River Jordan to agricultural and industrial purposes, choking the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, causing severe negative consequences on the ecosystem, industry, and wildlife in the area,” says Dr. Zoubi. Due to gradual water loss, the sea has split into two separate lakes and its coastline has receded significantly. The River Jordan is a shadow of its former glorious self.”

The Red-Dead Canal, as envisioned by Jordan, is a 180-kilometre, partially covered pipeline across Wadi Araba a dry plateau stretching from the Gulf of Aqaba in the south to the Dead Sea in the north. It would carry around 1.5 billion cubic meters of water per year, pumped first to an altitude of 150 metres above sea level before flowing down a 580-metre decline.

Not only would the three-party project (Jordan-Israel-the Palestinians) restore most of the Dead Sea water level over time, it would generate hydroelectricity to power large desalination plants, relieving chronic freshwater shortages and helping to meet energy needs.

Says Dr. Majali, Prime Minister of Jordan from 1993 to 1995 and 1997-98: As a decision-maker, I think that this project is innovative, forward looking and a potential peace asset that can contribute to regional interdependence and security.”

In addition to Dr. Majali, the former leaders of Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, New Zealand and Singapore are contributors to the wide-ranging book launched in the UK by the InterAction Council (IAC), a 32-year-old association created to pool the expertise of former world leaders and to speak out on issues of vital importance to the world community and current leaders alike.

Published by UN Universitys Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health and co-edited by its Director, Zafar Adeel and IAC Secretary-General Thomas S. Axworthy, the new book offers authoritative views on topics ranging from the Middle East and denuclearization of Korea to the water crisis and the future of energy.

Says Dr. Adeel: We have a new understanding and appreciation of the deep interconnections between water, energy and peace.  This tight nexus of global interests have driven the creation of this book and UNU-INWEH, the United Nations think tank on water, is proud of its association with the IAC and with this book.”   

Atmospheric rivers rising

Among other contributors, Robert Sandford, the IACs Senior Water Advisor, describes the consequence of increasingly saturated atmospheric rivers ”¦ corridors of intense winds and moist air” 400 to 500 kilometres across, and thousands of kilometres long that can carry the equivalent of 7 to 14 times the average daily discharge of the Mississippi River.”

Perhaps the best-known atmospheric river in North America is what we call the Pineapple Express (which) begins as a narrow stream of hurricane strength wind. As it crosses the warm Pacific, that atmospheric river fills with water vapour. We now surmise that some 42 atmospheric rivers deluged California between 1997 and 2006.”

As global temperatures and evaporation rise, sending more moisture into the air, these heavily-laden atmospheric rivers are producing flooding of the magnitude we saw in Australia and Pakistan in 2010, and possibly in parts of the Central Great Plains region of North America in 2011. Research is now being conducted to determine if an atmospheric river played a role in initiating the largest single natural disaster in the history of the Canadian province of Alberta in June, 2013.”

His paper, Come Hell and High Water: Hydro-Climatic Change and its Consequences,” Sandford says predicted rises in temperatures of between 2 degrees Celsius and 6 degrees Celsius would result in further amplification of the hydrological cycle by 15 to 40 percent or more. This game change is not going to go away.”

Researchers are concerned that the kinds of storms we will have in the future may be fundamentally different in character than what we are used to experiencing. At a recent international conference in Canada, it was demonstrated that many of our recent floods were similar in a number of ways. Each involved rotating low pressure systems that remained in the same place for an unusual period of time bringing continuous precipitation up from the south, resulting in long duration, heavy rainfall events that covered very large areas.”

While exhibiting all these characteristics, another major flood in Colorado in 2013 was different, in that it occurred in September. Researchers are also examining other anomalies. The behaviour of the storms suggests that its precipitation may have been generated by processes of raindrop formation more typical of the tropical region where the storms originated, than local temperate conditions. The Colorado State climatologist Nolan Doeskan, noted that the storms shattered all records for the most water vapour in the atmosphere.’”

From this we might surmise that the floods of 2013 offer us a glimpse into the wild weather we might expect in a warmer world.”

Says Dr. Sandford: The loss of ice and snow in the Arctic will not only impact northern nations, cultures, and development subject to the immediate effects of this loss, but will also impact human well-being and prosperity further south in ways that will likely impact national water security, and will almost certainly affect agricultural productivity, human health, and economic sustainability at mid-latitudes.”

Says the Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister Of Canada and IACs co-chair: The InterAction Council selects issues and develops proposals for action within these areas and communicates these proposals directly to government leaders, other national decision-makers, heads of international organizations and influential individuals around the world.”

This latest publication makes an important and timely contribution to public dialogue and understanding of two of the worlds most pressing issue areas peace and the environment.”

In another major contribution, Tolerance: An Under-Appreciated Virtue in our Sectarian Age,” IAC Secretary-General Thomas S. Axworthy, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Canadas Munk School of Global Affairs, cites the history of sectarianism in Europe to suggest ways to promote tolerance today. The fires of European sectarianism, he says, only began to subside when 16th-Century thinkers won the war of ideas through the promotion of tolerance.

Ahmad Moussalli, Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies, American University of Beirut, meanwhile, assesses the interests of Russia, the United States, France, Israel, Iran, and the Gulf States in the Syrian crisis.  The Middle East is headed towards a difficult phase that needs world attention to stop deterioration,” he writes, because time now seems to favour extremism and rise of conflicts.”

Among other highlights:

Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister Of Canada (1993-2003):

Members of the InterAction Council still remain hopeful, as we stated in The Hiroshima Declaration, that not only will nuclear weapons be eliminated in (the Middle East) region, but eventually in the world as a whole. It may be a tall order, but in 2013 diplomacy showed that it still has some power.”

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Andrés Pastrana, President Of Colombia (1998-2002):

The Red Sea-Dead Sea agreement on water supply and distribution, the successfully negotiated Arms Trade Treaty, the September 2013 Russia-U.S. brokered agreement with the Assad Regime to fulfill the UN security council resolution to destroy Syrias entire arsenal of chemical weapons, and the November 2013 interim agreement with Iran and the Western powers on a Joint Action Plan to freeze Irans development of potentially destabilizing nuclear capacity, demonstrate that diplomacy still has a role in trying to make the world a safer place.”

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Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore (1990-2004):

The world is in fact undergoing a profound transition of power and ideas ... when President Barack Obama announced at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009, that the G20 would replace the G8, he was in effect acknowledging the end of the post-World War II era.”

The last decade has shown that the U.S. cannot effectively exercise power alone. It must negotiate coalitions, such as the G20, to manage the international economy. It is widely recognised that the G20 had coordinated a global response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and helped avert a global economic depression. The current G20 is by no means the final or only possible configuration. But it is clear that there is no going back to G8 to solve the worlds problems.”

* * * * *

George Vassiliou, President, Republic Of Cyprus (1988-1993): the opposite of tolerance, which is a willingness to admit the validity of seemingly contradictory viewpoints...Ultimately, sectarianism will only be diminished if people of good will take a stand.”

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James Bolger, Prime Minister Of New Zealand (1990-1997):

Recognizing that water, energy, and food are highly connected systems, and that population growth is putting pressure on all three, we will only make progress by assessing the three components together. Trade-offs between them will be inevitable. This will not be easy but that is what global political leadership should be all about.”

Chapter summary:



Andrés Pastrana, Former President of Colombia


1. Water Overuse and Debt as Challenges to Sustainability

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman, Nestlé SA

2. Present State of the World

Goh Chok Tong, Former Prime Minister of Singapore

3. Uprisings in the Arab World: The Reality Beyond the Failure of Politics and Policies

Abdel Salam Majali, Former Prime Minister of Jordan, and

Moneef R. Zou’bi, Director General, Islamic World Academy of Sciences

4. Conventional Arms and the Arms Trade Treaty

Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, Costa Rica

5. The Arab Pseudo-Spring? A Snapshot of the Underlying Politics and Economics, and the Challenge of Water Insecurity

Moneef R. Zou’bi, Director General, Islamic World Academy of Sciences



James Bolger, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand

6. Energy in the Twenty-First Century: Challenges and Opportunities

Majid A. Al-Moneef, Secretary-General, Supreme Economic Council

7. Water, Energy, and Food: The Ultimate Nexus

Rabi H. Mohtar, TEES Endowed Professor, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, and Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University

Bassel Daher, Research Analyst, Strategic Projects Office, Qatar Foundation

8. Energy and Climate Security: Then and Now

Carole Nakhle, Energy Economist, Surrey Energy Economics Centre

9. Come Hell and High Water: Hydro-Climatic Change and its Consequences

Robert Sandford, InterAction Council Senior Water Advisor; EPCOR Chair, Canadian Partnership Initiative, United Nations ‘Water for Life’ Decade

10. Bridging Science and Policy in the Management of Water Resources

Henry Vaux Jr., Chair, Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy; Professor Emeritus, University of California, and

Daniel Dooley, Senior Vice President, University of California System



George Vassiliou, Former President of Cyprus

11. Dialogue Versus Sectarian Strife

Gholamali Khoshroo, Former Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs, Islamic Republic of Iran

12. Tolerance: An Underappreciated Virtue in our Sectarian Age

Thomas S. Axworthy, Secretary-General of the InterAction Council; Distinguished Senior Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs

13. The Risks of Sectarianism

Nicholas Fogg, Former Head of Religious Studies, Marlborough College

14. The Dynamics of Arab Uprisings and Middle Eastern Geopolitics

Ahmad Moussalli, Professor of Political Science and Islamic Studies, American University of Beirut



Jean Chrétien, Former Prime Minister of Canada; Co-Chair, InterAction Council

15. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula: A New Perspective

Nobuyasu Abe, Vice Chairman, Japan Atomic Energy Commission; Former Director, Centre for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-proliferation, Japan Institute of International Affairs

16. The Necessity to Reduce and Eliminate Nuclear Threats and Weapons in the Middle East and Internationally

Rebecca Johnson, Executive Director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy

17. The Nuclear Problem on the Korean Peninsula: Searching for Solutions

Alexander Zhebin, Director, Centre for Korean Studies, Institute for Far Eastern Studies