Since its establishment in 1987, the IPU Committee on Middle East Questions has had as its core mission to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process through political dialogue and mediation. This has been a difficult task, given the politicized environment. In response to the difficulty in achieving tangible results for peace, in recent years the Committee turned to science as an avenue for bringing parliamentarians together on issues of cooperation.
Convinced of the importance of strengthening the nexus between the scientific and parliamentary communities in support of science and peace, the IPU Secretary General and the Director-General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2016. The aim of the agreement is to promote initiatives for peace and dialogue supported by the two communities. In 2016 and 2017 the Committee held two round tables on water, producing several tangible results and demonstrating that science provided a neutral platform for dialogue, connecting individuals through scientific values in the search for solutions and demonstrating that elements of conflict could be turned into reasons for co-existence. In October 2017, during the IPU Assembly in St Petersburg, the Committee agreed to establish the Science for Peace Schools and parliamentary expert communities. These decisions provided the foundation for the establishment in May 2021 of the IPU Working Group on Science and Technology as the parliamentary focal point on issues related to science and technology.
Bridging the worlds of science and politics: Establishment of the IPU Science for Peace Schools
The IPU Science for Peace Schools were established to bridge the worlds of science and politics by initiating dialogue and to help create a community of parliamentary experts to address challenges together under the neutral umbrella of science. The Schools were the first joint activity between the IPU’s Committee on Middle East Questions and the Working Group on Science and Technology. The IPU Science for Peace Schools project is designed to encourage representatives from parliamentary secretariats from around the world to work together and experience, in person, cooperation in science. This advanced training scheme, held on a yearly basis, focuses on an evidence based approach in addressing global and regional challenges while allowing for the application of dynamic solutions without the complexity of politics, and will facilitate engagement in peace projects.
First session of the Science for Peace Schools
From 5-9 December, the IPU jointly launched with CERN the first session of the Science for Peace Schools in December 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland for twenty-four parliamentary staff from all six Geopolitical Groups, including Türkiye, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Palestine, Chad, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Algeria amongst others. Participants attended five days of lectures, workshops, and visits relating to CERN and the theme of Dealing with water scarcity: an opportunity to rebuild peace with Science. Given the vital role of water in securing life, development and peace, and considering the IPU Committee on Middle East Question’s previous activities focused on water, the first IPU Science for Peace School focused on water management and the exploration of new and renewable sources of water to increase the availability of this precious resource, which is so often a source of conflict. The School aimed to contribute to a positive environment for technical cooperation by proposing alternative technologies and modalities to lessen the tensions related to water scarcity, thus encouraging coexistence between nations.
Outcomes and follow-up
This first session of the Schools resulted in an agreement by participants on the necessity of implementing two regional collaborative projects on water in the Sahel region and in the State of Palestine. Dr. Spiro, Chair of the steering committee for the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 2022, also affirmed the steering committee’s willingness to including the Science for Peace Schools as part of the activities of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development 2022.
The first session of the Schools also served as a launch pad for the establishment of a community of parliamentary experts. Participating parliamentary staff in the Schools now form a group of alumni making up the community of parliamentary experts alongside relevant parliamentarians to ensure the sustainability and continuity of the Schools’ and the community of parliamentary experts’ peace processes and objectives. To continue implementing the outcomes and objectives of the first Science for Peace Schools, the Science for Peace Parliamentary meeting is planned to be held from 11 to 13 September 2023 at the International Centre for Interdisciplinary Science and Education in Quy Nhon, Vietnam.
Core objective: The primary objective of the IPU Science for Peace project is to realize the vision of unity through science for the purpose of peaceful coexistence and act as a platform for dialogue between parliaments on subjects related to the IPU’s core objectives.
- Sharing with participants latest scientific findings and model-based forecasts on how much water is/will be available on Earth and how is it distributed across the various regions. How big is the “water pie”?
- Creating the conditions necessary for participants to come up with a new, dynamic, informed, and creative understanding of issues related to water security by connecting legislators through cooperation based on scientific approaches and values.
- Setting the ground for a global parliamentary conference on water and food security, establishing the need for a parliamentary network on water and the establishment of a data legislation bank as a parliamentary tool for international, regional, and national legislation on water.
- Advancing water projects in two regions identified in the first session of the Science for Peace Schools: the State of Palestine and the Sahel. Identifying and address the gaps in United Nations resolutions and strategies in relation to water security.
- Exploring the content, core principles, and application of a human rights-based approach to water and sanitation, as well as the barriers in the realisation of this human right. Examining how these barriers can be overcome.