FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Technical Expertise

Advancing Water Action for Food and Climate Security

inter-Regional Technical Platform on Water Scarcity (iRTP-WS)


Tags: Agrifood Systems Climate Change Nexus Smart Agriculture Water And Sanitation Water Resources Management Water Saving Water Scarcity
HEBA AL-HARIRY - 09 Aug 2023

Water is one of the most vital resources on the planet. It is critical to agriculture, which accounts for 72% of worldwide freshwater withdrawals, as well as to other economic sectors, and is essential to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Land degradation, drought, and water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, are jeopardising agricultural productivity and increasing poverty. More than 3 billion people live in agricultural areas with severe water deficits or scarcity, with 1.2 billion living in severely water-constrained agricultural areas.

In 2021, UN Secretary General António Guterres issued a statement in which he called the latest UN climate report "a code red for humanity" and emphasised the importance of non-structural interventions, such as early warning systems, in conjunction with infrastructural development advancements, in reducing the human costs of Climate change.  Similarly the COP27 (Sharm El Sheikh, 6-20 November 2022) final declaration also underscored the potential of maladaptation if cross-sectoral interactions were not adequately considered.

Sufficient, clean, and accessible water is thus critical not just for strengthening the climate resilience of people, ecosystems, and numerous economic sectors, but also for achieving sustainable development. A strong, coherent and explicit integration and prioritization of water security considerations into national sustainable development strategies, policies and investment plans is highly needed, to ensure that water resources are efficiently allocated and utilized across multiple sectors to achieve countries’ social, economic and environmental goals. 

On the other side, technical, governonce and managerial innovation should be targeted to address development priorities and accelerate the required transformation.

In June, 2022, FAO launched the interregional Water Scarcity Platform (iRTP-WS)  as a "Centre of Excellence" that brings together experts and stakeholders from various regions, drawing on their collective knowledge, in an action and result-oriented partnership to accelerate the achievement of water, food and climate security, as well as sustainable development in the various regions.

The inauguration of the platform witnessed a message from FAO Director-General QU Dongyu who called for a Scale up in Water-related actions and inclusive land and Water governance through country-led water dialogues and advancement of inter-regional and inter-sectoral collaboration lead by the NENA region, being one of the most water scarce regions in the world.

In an attempt to direct agriculture support and investments towards social and environmental gains derived from land and water management, the iRTP-WS started its operations as a hub for partnerships, exchange, and  learnings, that contributes to the development and dissemination of appropriate approaches, methods, and tools to address water, food and climate security challenges and address systemic risks.

"The platform now includes a wide variety of interactive tabs and components, such as a tab on Knowledge that extracts and stores more than 200 knowledge products and best practices on innovative approaches and technologies from the FAO and contributing partners" mentioned Mohamed Al Hamdi, the Delivery Manager of the Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity for the Near East and North Africa (WSI).

The platform also has other interesting features including  BlogsE-learningsWebinarsProfessional Network and links to various Communities of Practices (CoP)s, and Discussion Forums

Since the operationalization in June 2022, the iRTP-WS has been promoting the use of technology and innovation through its interactive user interface, which enables the use of various knowledge products and the demonstration of best practices on Climate-Smart Agriculture; Water, Energy, and Food nexus; Nature-based Solutions (NBS); Climate Resilience, Water Productivity Tools among other topics.

The Platform currently includes multiple products from recognized development partners - such as The League of Arab States (LAS), the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), UNICEF, ICARDA, The Arab Water Council(AWC), and the Union of the Mediterranean -  to assist in unpacking emerging topics such as: non-conventional water resource use, water accounting, sustainable finance for the water sector, inclusive land and water governance, climate security, digital transformation, gender transformative approaches in the water sector, and public-private partnerships.

Last year, the platform supported in the staging of inter-regional technical sessions during Cairo Water Week, as well as during the African Young Water Professional Forum, which was held in Cairo in September 2022.

Given its significance in advancing inter-regional collaboration and coordination in the water sector, the platform attracted the attention of a diverse range of actors and members, including individual practitioners and partners from the private sector, academia, governments, and NGOs who contribute to its activities and products on a regular basis. Moreover, it was featured in multiple news and media platforms including in THE WATER DIPLOMATAl-Ghad and others.



Heba Alhariry

Water Scarcity Advisor- interregional Technical Platform on Water Scarcity (iRTP-WS)