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«Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water Security in the Levantine Middle East Mari Luomi (editor) Managing Blue Gold New Perspectives on Water ...»

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Given the momentous external pressures and drivers that will affect water sector development in the MENA countries in the next few decades, various aspects that call for water sector reform are equally diverse. At present, the attention is shifting simultaneously on many levels (see below). While the scale of relevance and importance of these identified factors varies by country, they appear to be generally applicable within the region’s countries. Typical is the

unhurried progress in almost every country 231:

• Towards stronger enforcement of laws and policies • From rural to urban • From centrally planned to market-oriented • From low-value uses to high-value uses • From public sector to inclusion of private sector and civil society • From centralization to decentralization 227 World Bank, Making the Most of Scarcity.

228 World Bank, MENA 2007 Economic Developments and Prospects.

229 Rached and Brooks, ‘Water Governance in the MENA’.

230 O. Varis, ‘Right to Water: The Millennium Development Goals and Water in the MENA Region’. International Journal of Water Resources Development, 23 (2007), pp. 243-266.

231 InWEnt, Water Governance in the MENA Region; Varis and Tortajada, From Analysis to Action.

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Tackling these shifts successfully is challenging, particularly due to technological shortcomings, insufficient data and information, especially in terms of reliability, accessibility and sharing, and the lack of public awareness and political will. In this respect, the capacity-building requirements are enormous.

Are power structures and societal rules evolving to allowmodernization?

Water-related challenges are not only painfully evident but also rapidly increasing in the region’s countries. Obviously, a thoroughgoing water sector reform is called for: institutions and organizations need extensive reform, and organizations and their staff should function in an efficient, adaptive and coordinated manner. But how ready are the societies to change?

It is crucial to recognize that a governance system is not synonymous with a government. The water sector governance system includes the entire society with various stakeholders, administration units, individuals, households, traditional communities, and business corporations. The civil society in the region is underdeveloped, and cannot exert development pressure on the state in any of the MENA countries232, so this aspect deserves particular attention.

Along with the rapid urbanization process and the parallel shift from a traditional agrarian society to modern occupations, the entire MENA region is undergoing a profound societal transition. This has 232 B.S. Al-Najjar, ‘Civil Society in the Arab World: A Reality That Needs Reforming’. Contemporary Arab Affairs, 1 (2008), pp. 43-54.

92 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 its implications for the prevailing societal rules, consisting of ethical and moral codes, laws, customary laws, commitments, and so forth.

Power structures are also undergoing change in this transition.233 The growing emphasis on issues such as participation, stakeholder involvement, open information flows, decentralization, a smaller role for the government, from top-down management to strategic policy development, are some indicators of this. As Olli Varis and Cecilia Tortajada argue, ‘training has to be looked at as a right to further develop the capacities of a person to perform better and to advance in his/her professional career rather than as a patronistic reward mechanism’.234 In his model on organizations and cultures, Geert Hofstede235 distinguishes between ‘high power distance’ and ‘low power distance’ types of behaviour (see Table 2). The characteristics of the former are very common to contemporary water sector organizations in the MENA countries, whereas the reform processes and vision exercises call for the prevalence of the latter, as shown above.

Whether the societies are ready to accept and carry out such a very profound paradigm shift is a big and open question.

Table 2. Differences between societies characterized by high and low power distance

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Equally open and big is the question of the willingness of traditional collectivist societies to adapt to essentially more individualistic values. The individualist vs. collectivist dimension of Hofstede (see Table 3) is thus of particular interest within the process for modernization of the MENA countries. He defines this dimension in

the following way:

233 Varis and Tortajada, From Analysis to Action.

234 Varis and Tortajada, Critical Issues and the Way Forward.

235 Hofstede, Cultures and Organizations.

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Cultures in different parts of the world differ considerably along this axis, but typically, traditional societies are regarded as being dominated by collectivist behaviour whereas wealthier and more educated societies tend to behave more in the individualistic manner.237 The traditional Arab society has very strong collectivist values238 and presumably this cultural feature is reflected within the contemporary institutional set-up of governments in the MENA region.

Table 3. Differences between collectivist and individualist societies

–  –  –

236 Neumann, Mikel, Home Groups for Urban Cultures (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1999), pp. 32-33.


R. Veenhoven, ‘Quality-of-life in individualistic society’. Social Indicator Research, 48:2

(1999), pp. 159-188; V Miroshnik, ‘Culture and International Management: A Review’. Journal.

of Management Development, 21:7 (2002), pp. 521-544; K. Hutchings and D. Weir, ‘Understanding Networking in China and the Arab World: Lessons for International Managers’.

Journal of European Industrial Training, 30:4 (2006), pp. 272-290.

238 E. Feghali, ‘Arab Cultural Communication Patterns’. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 21:3 (1997), pp. 345-378; M. I. Ayish, ‘Beyond Western-Oriented Communication Theories: A Normative Arab-Islamic Perspective’. The Public, 10:2 (2003), pp. 79-92.

94 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 The water sector institutions in the MENA region seem to be under considerable pressure for a profound paradigm shift from a collectivistic organizational culture towards a more individualistic one, as the urban, better-educated and economically well-off echelons of society grow in volume and importance. A vision analysis for the region’s water sector by Varis and Tortajada argues that, ‘as a prerequisite there must be a change in philosophy and mentality at the manager’s level [so that] people with the respective capacity for a certain job are employed – not those who have good connections’. 239 The ‘collectivistic’, gigantic public sector organizations need to streamline their operations. Responsibilities should be made clear;

the level of education and organizational accountability as well as transparency should be radically improved. Corruption should be kept in check, along with the power of influential in-groups. Otherwise there is not much hope for the success of the thoroughgoing reforms which are so badly needed in the region’s water sector.

The prevailing mental and institutional landscape has deep cultural roots, and it is therefore not easy to change it through a governance reform such as the one envisaged for the water sector.

Ziad Hafez240 has pointed out the continuing importance of power struggles between factional groupings in the landscape of Arab societies. Gaining absolute power over competing groupings is seen as far more important than development or economic progress, which is a very clear collectivistic behavioural feature. Hafez argues that factionalism controls practically all aspects of Arab society, from

political to cultural, and concludes by saying:

No political and economic reform will succeed if there is no will to transform the factionalist-based political system into a participative system involving all segments of society and the rent-based economy into a production-based one where accountability and responsibility would sanction performance.

Changes are called for, but are those in power comfortable with all the insecurities and challenges that those changes will bring?

239 Varis and Tortajada, Critical Issues and the Way Forward.

240 Z. Hafez, ‘The Culture of Rent, Factionalism, and Corruption: A Political Economy of Rent in the Arab World’. Contemporary Arab Affairs, 2 (2009), pp. 458-480.

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The governance of the MENA water sector is currently labouring under the multi-dimensional pressures of a paradigm shift. At the same time, the mindsets of the people are evolving due to improving educational levels, urbanization, transformation to an increasingly dynamic and individualistic modern society, and the ongoing political and social reform processes.

The MENA region is facing some particularly interesting dilemmas

within its water sector development:

• Water is scarce, but most water is utilized for relatively low-value purposes.

• The urban population is growing rapidly, but the urban productive sector is not sufficiently addressed by water policies in comparison to agriculture, for instance.

• Notable governance shortcomings exist and they may be more significant than the physical scarcity.

• Water sector organizations are massive in terms of the number of employed people, but everybody seems to agree that human resources development and capacity-building are extremely important. Inertia is rife throughout the system and changes are difficult to carry out.

It is obvious that the mindsets of professionals, the institutional and organizational set-up, as well as the entire power structures within the countries need reconsideration if these dilemmas are to be successfully resolved.

It may happen that if the institutions are modernized too rapidly, the gap between the educated individuals in such a modern sector and the still large traditional part of the society will grow so big that the institutions will be at risk of losing their ownership among the traditional societal echelons.

Another risk is the potential dissatisfaction that emerges from unemployment and weakening social security in the event that the public sector organizations decrease their workforce due to the streamlining of organizations and the outsourcing of activities. The stagnating economy is doing nothing to help the already inflamed situation.

96 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 A third risk is that the power structures in the countries are simply too unyielding and rigid to allow any considerable changes, unless the internal or external socio-political pressure starts to challenge the stability of the country, and the subsequent changes are driven by the tactics of the powerful elite to stay in power rather than the need to solve the dilemmas outlined above.

Navigating the stormy waters between these three risks won’t be easy. Those powerful within the governance systems of the water sector in the MENA region countries should, in the author’s view, pay more attention to the continuous changes that take place in the societies as a whole as well as within the water sector itself.

The success of any long-term vision on water governance for the MENA region will thus require proper understanding of the immense modernization-related challenges and changes that are likely to be faced in the coming years.

The governments need to define the ways in which these can best be understood and addressed for the overall socio-economic benefit of the region. This will not be an easy task, but one that must be undertaken in order to avoid the further accumulation of pressures for change on the region’s societies. It remains to be seen whether the societies as well as those in power are ready for this.

FIIA REPORT 25/2010 97Laura Wickström

7 Islam and water: Islamic guiding principles on water management Islam is a recognized power both politically and socially in most of the Middle Eastern states. Of the states in the region that have written constitutions, only Lebanon and Turkey are without an established religion.241 Islamic values should therefore not be underestimated as far as the masses are concerned, especially when the contemporary trend in the Muslim world has been towards increasing historical and religious self-assuredness.242 Thus, when dealing with water questions in the region, it is also crucial to understand the Islamic guiding principles concerning water.

This chapter is divided into two parts. In the first part, general Islamic environmental aspects and water-related guiding principles, such as water priorities and water ownership, are presented. The second part illustrates the importance of Islamic values and the potential for their practical application in contemporary Muslim societies through the presentation of examples from the areas of international law and education. In the case of international law, the chapter suggests that solutions derived from Islamic principles could play a role in settling disputes. The chapter also argues for an emphasis on education and public-awareness programmes as possible methods of changing environmental attitudes and raising environmental awareness in these countries. In Islam, everyone is responsible for education, from the family level to the whole society. Due to the importance of Islamic values, it is argued that they should be better taken into account in future changes affecting Muslim societies.

241 Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong? The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002), p. 108.

242 Mawil Izzi Dien, ‘Islam and the Environment: Theory and Practice’, Journal of Beliefs & Values, 18:1 (1997), p. 54.

98 FIIA REPORT 25/2010 Islamic environmental and water philosophy Before becoming the general term for law, the Islamic law, sharia, meant ‘the law of water’. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the Quran and the hadiths contain a remarkable number of specific statements about water.

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