Exploring opportunities to achieving water-food-energy-ecosystems Nexus in Western Balkans

UNECE NEXUS solutions

Photo: GWP-Med


May 28, 2021


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May 28, 2021


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Integrated management of water, energy, and land resources, while protecting ecosystems, remains a substantial challenge in the Western Balkans though the countries share sectoral as well as cross-cutting agendas (e.g., on water end environment, energy transition, waste management, connectivity, mobility).

The Water-Food-Energy-Ecosystems Nexus approach offers solutions that can reconcile potentially conflicting interests as they compete for the same scarce resources while capturing existing opportunities and exploring emerging ones. When successfully applied, Nexus solutions can lead to the enhancement of water, energy, and food security, while preserving ecosystems and their functions, importantly also in transboundary river basins, says a report by Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean.
A range of cross-sectoral solutions, from infrastructure to integrated strategic planning frameworks, to address resource management tradeoffs were discussed at the meeting “Nexus Solutions and Investments in the Western Balkans”, co-organized by UNECE, Global Water Partnership  Mediterranean (GWP-Med), and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Some 50 participants analyzed enabling conditions for impactful Nexus investments and explored the participatory identification of concrete Nexus applications in the Drin and Drina River Basins.
According to the report  “Solutions and investments in the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus: a synthesis of experiences in transboundary basins” presented by UNECE at the opening, transboundary cooperation ranks very high as a factor of success in the implementation of Nexus solutions, along with shared data and information, increased awareness of options and benefits for cross-sector, transboundary trade-offs, compromise and synergies, and innovative infrastructure operating rules.
River basin organizations can play a key role in facilitating a cross-sectoral dialogue that is needed to develop water investments and to develop “nexus-proofed” master plans.
Concrete opportunities for cross-sectoral action in different fields were highlighted, including sediment and erosion control, renewable energy integration, agricultural policy, information, and data management for planning and forecasting.
The fact that countries in the Western Balkans share sectoral as well as cross-cutting agendas (e.g., on water end environment, energy transition, waste management, connectivity, mobility) offers a great opportunity to leverage synergies across sectors at the regional level. These efforts need to be scaled up to tackle region-wide issues such as decarbonization and environmental degradation.
The World Bank shared experience of implementing a cross-sectoral, transboundary program in the Sava and Drina basins, and the EIB facilitated a series of interventions from international organizations about strategic agendas for sustainable development (Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, for which an action plan is coordinated by the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the EU Danube Strategy, the Water Agenda of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)), the experience of developing cross-sectoral National Adaptation Plans for climate change (in Serbia), and opportunities to complement with nexus action at transboundary level water cooperation (Global Environment Facility International Waters program ).
The SEE Nexus Project (“Promoting the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources in Southeastern Europe, through the use of the Nexus Approach”) is funded by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) and is being implemented by Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-Med) in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
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