First UfM Member States meeting of 2023 approves support to Smart DESERT project, fighting water scarcity in Jordan

First UfM Member States meeting of 2023 approves support to Smart DESERT project, fighting water scarcity in Jordan
  • The first meeting of the UfM Member States’ Senior Officials of 2023 took place today in Barcelona. In this occasion, the main priorities and strategic orientations for the year were discussed. UfM support for the project Smart DESERT, addressing water scarcity in Jordan while fostering the economic empowerment of the vulnerable local and refugee populations, was also endorsed by granting it the UfM label.
  • 2023 will see a variety of important initiatives taking place: from multiple ministerial meetings and regional conferences to the launch of two grant schemes to fund green jobs and trade-related projects, the presentation of the UfM’s Youth Action Plan, and the launch of the Mediterranean Capitals of Culture initiative in the framework of the Day of the Mediterranean, amongst others.

Barcelona, 28 February 2023. The Senior Officials of the Union for the Mediterranean held today their first meeting of the year to discuss the main actions planned for 2023, and unanimously endorsed a new cooperation project. Smart DESERT is implemented in Jordan, a country burdened by extreme water scarcity, where the related challenges have been aggravated by an increasing influx of refugees since the year 2011. The population’s growth has caused additional demand for water, resulting in local shortages and, ultimately, enormous pressures on the sewage network and wastewater treatment plants.

Striving for the economic empowerment of vulnerable populations (including the refugee communities from Syria and Palestine, as well as Jordanians in need) in the agricultural sector, the Smart DESERT project is designed to achieve two key objectives within the next 36 months: increased year-round income, and improved working conditions for those involved in farming-related activities in the northern highlands, proofing the concept of sustainable agriculture. Funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) for a total cost of 10.6 million €, the project proves a high potential replicability to other countries of the region.  

Additionally, Senior Officials were briefed on the 2023 priorities and activities of the UfM Secretariat in several key sectors, notably the upcoming launch of two grant schemes to fund projects on green jobs and trade, the presentation of the UfM Youth Action Plan and the holding of regional conferences and working groups on key issues such as energy and climate change, food security, disability, civil protection, youth entrepreneurship, digitalization or social economy, among others. They also discussed the upcoming ministerial meetings on Urban Development (Croatia, May), Trade (Spain, October), Higher Education (Morocco, November), additionally to the one on Transport (which took place online on February 9th).  

The UfM Secretary General, Nasser Kamel, emphasized: “In 2023, protecting our populations and building their resilience will continue to be our top priority. Amidst the current regional context, civil protection and food security remain high on our agenda, while we strive to leave no one behind, through an inclusive growth with particular focus on vulnerable populations such as youth, women, and people with disabilities. In parallel, we will continue promoting sustainability and leading regional efforts in the fight against climate change and the environmental crisis, ensuring that our region tackles not only the challenges of today, but is also well prepared to address those of tomorrow”.

He also briefed the Senior Officials on the ongoing work to launch the Mediterranean Capitals of Culture initiative within the framework of the next edition of the Day of the Mediterranean.