Middle East and Northern Africa

For this region, several regional programmes on groundwater are carried out by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN/ ESCWA, Beirut), the Arab Center for the Study of Arid and Dry Lands (ACSAD, Damascus), l'Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS, headquarters in Paris) and the Arab Networks on Groundwater, usually in cooperation with the Cairo office of UNESCO/IHP. More agriculturally oriented regional organizations with keen interest in water resources are the Centre for Environmental Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE, Cairo) and the International Centre for Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA, Aleppo).

The OSS, with headquarters in Paris (UNESCO building), is working under the theme 'Fight against Desertification' (Earth Summit in Rio, Agenda 21) with its main objectives:

• consolidating and improving observational programmes (including equipment, standards and info systems);

• increasing knowledge on shared resources;

• optimizing local management of natural resources (e.g. by databases and exchange of experience and know-how);

• sustaining the fight against desertification in Africa.

Its membership includes five East African countries, nine West African countries, five North African countries, four European countries and several subregional, civil society and international organizations. Its website is: www. unesco.org/oss.

ACSAD's scope of activities includes water resources, soil science, plant studies, animal studies and economics. Its website is: www.acsad.org. A very relevant groundwater-related coproduction in this region is the Hydrogeological Map of the Arab Region and Adjacent Areas (UNESCO/ACSAD, 1988). Furthermore, attention is being paid in the region to shared aquifers and to non-renewable groundwater resources.

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