Todd LopezWe are honored to announce that Todd Lopez, MBBI member of the Climate Change Policy Team and the Executive Director and Chief Operations Officer of SEED, represented MBBI at the Rotary Presidential Peacebuilding Conference on Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Peace. While visiting the Middle East for the first time, Lopez discovered Lebanon, connected with MBBI’s friends, and initiate conversations on collaborations on various possible partnerships that are looming in development.  

This is the second of six Rotary International Presidential Peacebuilding Conferences being held in 2018 globally and was attended by nearly 1,000 participants. The conference opened with a gala dinner and presentations by Michel Aoun, President of Lebanon, Rotary International President Ian Risley, and The Rotary Foundation Chair Paul Netzel.

The conference lasted for three days and addressed Water and Sanitation, one of Rotary International’s (RI) six focus areas. President Risley chose Beirut due to a number of relevant factors including the presence of several RI Global Grant projects in the region. These projects focus on: improving water and sanitation; and addressing the escalating impact of climate change on freshwater resources in the Middle East which are already scarce and quickly becoming inadequate to meet regional demand. In the words of Dr. Costas Papanicolas, The Cyprus Institute nuclear and particle physicist, the Middle East, and North Africa could soon become entirely uninhabitable due to increased temperatures and decreased rainfall.

Water Conference in Lebanon - Black BGThe overarching theme was the exponentially increasing role of water in conflict regions and its exploitation as a political tool. This is due to pressures created by population increases and climate change. Initial presentations discussed the interdependence of Peace and “Hydrodiplomacy” / “Hydro-hegemony,” whereby neighboring countries would work together to preserve international water basins while simultaneously satisfying domestic water needs, protecting food security, and enhancing economic systems. Specific examples of projects such as: the Nile Basin Initiative; the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal Project; and the United Nation’s Potential Conflict to Cooperation Potential that is active in facilitating dialogues related to the management of transboundary water disputes. 

The conference also explored projects working to find solutions related to water crisis such as Hammoud Hospital, Eco Soap Bank, an incredible project that originated in Cambodia working to save, sanitize, and supply recycled hotel soap for the developing world, and RI’s “WASH in Schools” programs in addition to highlighting Patricia Shafer’s “Mothering Across Continents,” “NewGen Peacebuilders,” and NESTLE’s “water stewardship” projects.

Erica Gwynn, RI Water and Sanitation Focus Area Manager, gave a wonderful presentation on the Global Grants framework and keys to building a successful project and grant application. During a brief conversation between presentations, Gwynn stated that she was inspired by the heartening stories she had heard about MBBI from her Peace & Conflict Resolution Focus Area Manager counterpart, Rebecca Crall, and she seemed to clearly recognize the opportunities inherent in a formal partnership between MBBI and RI.   

PP Pres at the water conference in Lebanon

The conference ended with a summary of the $4.3 Billion RI has raised in its 100-year history, its six areas of focus, the Peace Fellows program, and the framework for the Global Grants programs. The Rotary Foundation’s target of raising $2.025 Billion for its endowment by 2025 to make a $100 Million in annual investments possible. 

Thank you to MBBI for sharing the opportunity for this wonderful experience with me! I continue to grow ever more honored to be a part of this extraordinary organization.