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The Middle East peace process and its bilateral track began with the Madrid Conference of October 1991.

Subsequently, peace process partners agreed to establish a multilateral track, which began with an organizational meeting in Moscow in January 1992. The broad goal of the multilateral track is to focus on issues of common interest and importance throughout the region that can best be addressed on a regional basis. The multilateral track consists of five working groups:

1. Working Group on Water Resources

2. Working Group on the Environment

3. Working Group on Regional Economic Development

4. Working Group on Refugees

5. Working Group on Arms Control and Regional Security.

For the Middle East, most of which has semi-arid to arid climatic conditions, the water problems are myriad. The Working Group on Water Resources (WGWR), for which the United States serves as Gavelholder and Japan and the European Union serve as coorganizers, established the following four broad agenda items to address some of the critical water issues.

  • enhancement of water data availability
  • water management practices, including
  • conservation
  • enhancement of water supply
  • concepts of regional water management and cooperation.

Since its inception, the WGWR has been implementing a variety of projects under its four agenda items. Each project enjoys the support, both technical and financial, of one or more of the WGWR’s extra-regional donor delegations. The multilateral framework has been a successful mechanism for addressing regional problems. The WGWR in particular has been successful in developing a cadre of high-level water decision-makers that now can effectively work together on regional water issues. The WGWR projects continue to provide important benefits to its participating regional parties.

Regional Water Data Banks Project

The Implementation Plan of the Regional Water Data Banks Project was approved in November 1994. Regional participants met with representatives from the United States, European Union, Canada, and France (Donor Parties) in January 1995 to initiate the project.

The first action was to form a committee to manage, coordinate, and promote project implementation. The committee formed during the meeting is known as the Executive Action Team (EXACT) and is composed of two members from each regional party and two representatives from each Donor Party.

EXACT has since met twice every year to plan, coordinate, and direct project implementation. The Regional Water Data Banks Project is organized to improve the availability and applicability of water data information. The project is implementing 39 recommendations applicable to all of the regional participants, plus Work Package A, which is designed to help establish a Palestinian water data bank.
These activities and Work Package A will upgrade existing data banks while creating one for the Palestinians in order to assure that all of the systems can function effectively in a regional setting. The project goal is to enable the exchange of consistent, compatible, and reliable water data and information to support decision making at both local and regional scales. The basic approach adopted for the project is that water data collection and dissemination programs are compatible and will meet the specific needs of the regional participants. Through this process and approach, regional sharing and exchange of relevant water information will be promoted and enhanced.

4th Mediterranean Water Forum