The first edition of AMWAJ Forum on Sustainability and Enternship in MENA and the Mediterranean held in Jordan in 2016 - Photo Courtesy of Revolve Water The first edition of AMWAJ Forum on Sustainability and Enternship in MENA and the Mediterranean held in Jordan in 2016 - Photo Courtesy of Revolve Water

Waves of Sustainability

Wed, Sep. 26, 2018
CAIRO - 26 September 2018: With the MENA region facing pressing development challenges, water crises and energy shortages, Revolve Water is taking its annual AMWAJ summit to Barcelona this October, aiming to bring together hundreds of young journalists and professional entrepreneurs to debate the media’s role in covering water, energy, climate and technology issues.

From water scarcity to energy shortages, the Mid- dle East continues to work toward maintaining an ecological balance and preserving natural resources amid several political and economic challenges. But while development programs are in full swing across the region not only to overcome the present crises, but also to ensure the ability of future generations to meet their needs is not compromised, awareness cam- paigns are still needed to communicate the value of re- sources and the importance of preserving them.

In line with the 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015, aiming to end poverty, protect the planet and en- sure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, Revolve Water organizes its annual AMWAJ forum on water and journalism for sustainable development in the Mediterranean. Meaning ‘waves’ in Arabic, AMWAJ, which aims to communicate accurately and effectively the value of water and constructively influence policy-making on energy usage, was launched in 2016. The first edition, held in Amman, saw more than 250 attendees meet to exchange knowledge on ways to advance the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This year, Revolve Water is taking AMWAJ to Barcelona from October 29 to 30, aiming to bring together hundreds of young journalists and professional entrepreneurs from the 43 countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM). Over two days, the forum will host representatives from public and private sectors, leaders in environmental sustain- ability, corporate sponsors, foundations, ministries, and municipalities. Successive sessions are planned to cover the interconnected issues of water and energy, climate and agriculture, innovation and technology, management and governance, among other topics.

1
The first edition of AMWAJ Forum on Sustainability and Enternship in MENA and the Mediterranean held in Jordan in 2016 - Photo Courtesy of Revolve Water

“We are very excited to organize the second edition of AMWAJ Forum in Barcelona in partnership with the Government of Cataluña,” says project manager Patricia Carbonell, who reveals the nonprofit association dedicated to advancing environmental sustainability by identifying, encouraging and implementing innovative solutions for citizens, companies and cities to become more sustainable in their water and energy usage, will be coming to Egypt next. “The AMWAJ journey will continue in Egypt in 2019 given the water scarcity context and the emerging young talent [behind] innovative start-ups with game-changing potential, to enhance environmental sustainability in the region,” Carbonell adds.

According to Carbonell, the AMWAJ community “helps integrate and connect fragmented regions, ideas and projects, and allows citizens, companies and cities to acquire long-term skills to communicate more accurately and effectively the value of natural resources.” In their professional capacity journalists can help raise awareness of conservation and the forum is a “valuable opportunity” for them “to improve their reporting skills, as well as enhance communication skills of young entrepreneurs,” says Carbonell.

Bringing together journalism and science

In 2010, Scientific American monthly magazine defined journalism as the communication of ‘what’s new,’ and science as the communication of ‘how the world works.’ When it comes to science journalism, however, both parties view the other with wariness. Journalists generally feel scientists, despite their deep knowledge, cannot communicate valuable information to the public. Journalists, on the other hand, are often regarded as underestimating science by running after ‘catchy’ news. Science pitches come at the tail end of most media institution’s priorities, with journalists finding it a challenge turning science into exciting content. Today many media outlets count on various visual storytelling tools and inter- active maps to convey the scientific message in an interesting way.

“Human beings deal with science in day-to-day life. But people sometimes take decisions that are not based on good understanding of science,” says Ashraf Amin, head of the science section at Al-Ahram newspaper, emphasizing the importance of media’s role in educating people on science topics given the high rate of illiteracy. Amin sees science journalism as “a multitask issue based on educating, disseminating information, spreading public awareness, putting things into perspective and bridging the gap between all stakeholders who might be involved in a scientific topic of public interest.”

Asked what is missing in the science-communication relation in the Arab region, Amin cites the limited amount of scientific content produced in Arabic, and the lack of good-quality science reporting.

“We need to prepare numbers of dedicated science journalists, and we have very limited qualified science journalists in Egypt and even in the Middle East,” he says. My assumption is that there are around 10 to 15 journalists who do cover science policies and have this level of education awareness about topics they are covering.”

One more thing that makes science reporting a hard task is the scientific jargon that pops up in the media, which Amin says should be translated into “simple terms in Arabic to be useful for journalists who will be using it.”

Mohamed Yehia, president of the World Federation for Science Journalists (WFSJ), agrees with Amin, explaining that uninteresting coverage makes people reluctant to read about science, so media outlets decrease their science coverage. “This cycle needs to be broken. If there is any [breaking story] picked up by the media, [journalists] can [relate] it to science somehow when [they] present it to readers, and this is a good angle for journalists covering science,” Yehia explains, citing the Renaissance dam in Ethiopia as an example for his approach, given Egypt’s concerns on its impact on its water shortage. “There are so many different stories coming from Ethiopian and Egyptian media on the impact of the dam on the water share. But there is no thorough research by journalists to explore how Egypt can limit that effect.”

Yehia was one the participants of the first edition of AMWAJ forum in Jordan, where he found networking between journalists of the same field of reporting “very useful and valuable.” “Such forums give journalists the chance to directly meet with the scientists who are doing that kind of work, where scientists explain the latest developments in the field he explains. The WFSJ connects around 57 associations who are interested in science reporting from around the world. There are some 2700 science journalists who are linked to the federation.

In most Middle East countries, development expansion takes a toll on energy and water resources, and the forum allocates a ses- sion for science communication titled “How can science journalism benefi from tech to communicate complex stories?” to familiarize journalists with the techniques of addressing these shortcomings in their reports.
Media participants will also be invited to a state-of-the art sensitive journalism training and innovative approaches to communicate science stories. As part of the forum agenda, there will also be field visits for media, entrepreneurs and investors to sites in and around Barcelona, including a wastewater treatment plant.

2 The first edition of AMWAJ Forum on Sustainability and Enternship in MENA and the Mediterranean held in Jordan in 2016 - Photo Courtesy of Revolve Water

A socially responsible community

When leaders, entrepreneurs, science experts and journalists met at the first edition in Jordan, they took part in comprehensive discussions that called on them to become “agents” and “catalysts” of change. “It is not enough to be good entrepreneurs, good business managers, they should be good agents of social change,” Director of the Brookings Doha Center Tarik Yousef said at the opening session.

According to the World Bank, the Middle East and North Africa is at high risk of fl and drought, and is a global hotspot of unsustainable water use, especially of groundwater. The region also has the greatest expected economic losses from climate-related water scarcity, estimated at 6–14 percent of GDP by 2050. While total water productivity in MENA is only about half the world’s average, the region still has the world’s lowest water tariffs, as mentioned by the World Bank.

Egypt recently adopted ambitious programs addressing environmental and social sustainability, including plans to strengthen local accountability for water supply and sanitation services, end plastic use, air pollution and increase the renewable energy share in the energy mix by 2020.

AMWAJ brings together the public and private sectors, leaders in environmental sustainability, social entrepreneurs and media to create a socially responsible community, aware of the value of re- sources and their socioeconomic implications.

“Any business that does not have a social impact on the society, it is going to fail big time,” said Founder of SheFighter Lina Khalifeh during AMWAJ’s first edition. “These people who are the unprivileged society, women with disabilities and orphans, they need your service, they do not need your money, they want you to put the product or service and teach them how to use it,” Khalifeh added.

Profitability is one thing entrepreneurs look for when launching new projects, another thing is that this profit gets back to the community. “If you want to have a real social impact, you should not look to yourself just as an individual,” said Amr el-Tayeb, founder and CEO of Smart Medical Services.

Economic growth equation relies on the inclusion of more people, particularly youth, who together with experts bring prosperity and achieve sustainable development goals. However, sustainability in water and energy, the main axes of AMWAJ forums, still face challenges in many countries in terms of affordability and reliability. In Egypt, for example, the government has slashed electricity subsidies, leading to an unprecedented rise in bills. At the same time there are few citizens who can afford the price of switching to clean energy and going off the grid.

In addition to promoting knowledge exchange on water value, AMWAJ is planning to address these challenges in sessions de- signed to share the sector’s leaders’ know-how presenting innovative solutions.
 
There are no comments on this article.

Leave a comment