Gender, Water Security and Peacebuilding Nexus in the Arab Region


For the first time, the Dublin Principles (1992) clearly recognized that women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. They also duly recognized the pivotal role of women as providers and users of water and guardians of the living environment. This approach has led to adoption of numerous positive policies to address women’s specific needs and to equip and empower women to participate in all aspects of water security, including decision-making and implementation, in ways defined by them. In 2000, Resolution 1325, adopted by the UN Security Council, recognized for the first time the disproportionate impact of conflicts and disasters on women and girls. 

Today, women in many Arab countries are identified as the most vulnerable group in respect of water insecurity and the impact of violent conflicts, particularly female refugees and refugee households headed by women who, while securing water, are also exposed to harassment, intimidation and violence. Governments must be reminded that women play a vital role as agents of development and that realization of gender equality is crucial to progress across all SDGs and targets. Without that realization, women and girls will continue to be denied the full realization of their human rights and equal opportunities. Systematically addressing persistent gender gaps in the response to gender and water security and peace is one of the most effective mechanisms for building resilience.

Symposium on Women and Water Security for Peacebuilding in the Arab Region

In May of 2018, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in collaboration with United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and SFU's PWRC, organized the Symposium on Women and Water Security for Peacebuilding in the Arab Region, aiming to review and advance the emerging water security gender nexus in the Arab region.

Included below is a discussion paper developed by the Pacific Water Research Centre for this symposium, a summary of this paper as well as a policy brief.

Action Undertaken:

Gendered dynamics of water security underscore the close interlinkages between poverty, gender, water security, and sustainable development. The challenge is to continue to explore ways and means to bridge the gap between conceptual comprehension of gender issues and everyday grassroots realities of differential access to, and use of, water, particularly in the context of conflicts and disasters.

As a joint partnership, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the Pacific Water Research Centre (Simon Fraser University, Canada), and the country teams in the Arab States (UNCTs) collaborated with other partners – including UNESCWA and UNICEF – to undertake expert consultations aiming at exploring the water security-gender-peace nexus in the Arab region and strengthening the national capacities in integrating water security and gender approaches into their respective development plans pertaining to the Sustainable Development Goals. Specifically, the project addressed the following issues:

  • From “empowerment” to participatory ownership, recognizing the role of women as local water suppliers & resource managers and identifying social relations of women within their communities.
  • Development of in-situ integration of gender issues, leading to women becoming active players instead of a ‘target group.’
  • Overcoming gender norms and creating support structures/institutions.
  • Creating awareness at community level, using cultural tools (theatre, role-playing) and engaging community leaders (incentivize).


This project helped in achieving the following policy-relevant outcomes:

  • Developing ways in which women can be recognized as agents of change; this includes approaches that help overcome stereotypes of women’s role in water security and faciliate bring true behavioral change
  • Community mobilization, with the aim of achieving positive health outcomes through improved knowledge and implementation of better hygiene practices
  • Modeling inclusion of women to serve as interlocutors in times of conflicts and in transboundary conflicts, as well as in enhancing conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction capacities