The IALC is sponsoring research that will make arid lands more productive. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Jewish National Fund, an innovative program headquartered at the University of Arizona is addressing many of the issues that stand in the way of Middle East peace.
The International Arid Lands Consortium was founded in 1989 by scientists and researchers from JNF, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, New Mexico State University, Texas A&M University – Kingsville and South Dakota State University as a mechanism for supporting multilateral research focusing on water, land and climate change in the southwest United States and the Middle East – two remarkably similar regions.
JNF provided seed funding for the IALC and, more importantly, shared the practical experience it has gained from its century of experience in reclaiming the lands of Israel. Research bodies from Jordan and Egypt, along with the Desert Research Institute-Nevada, have since joined the IALC.
Congress recognized and funded the IALC for these purposes beginning in 1990 with the leadership of Sen. Tom Daschle, former Cong. Morris Udall, former Sen. Dennis DeConcini, Cong. Jim Kolbe, Cong. Ed Pastor and Cong. Joe Skeen. As that program has grown and expanded, the IALC has undertaken critical work affecting the prospects for a sustainable peace and economic cooperation between Israel and her neighbors.
By sponsoring cooperative research between scientists from Israel, Jordan, Egypt and the United States, the IALC has made important contributions to the body of knowledge affecting water supply, desalination, use of range lands, and desert agriculture while bringing Arab and Israeli minds together in an atmosphere of peaceful cooperation.
Most of the IALC’s achievements have come despite the frustrating “stop and start” nature of Middle East peace efforts. Important scientific cooperation continues despite tensions in the Middle East through academic and educational channels. Building human bridges and networks for communication outside politics is the IALC’s most important accomplishment. It is those connections that will be the basis for cooperation on water, land and natural resource issues that are essential to a peaceful future for the region.
The IALC’s impact continues to expand during its second decade. As a result of IALC relationships, the University of Arizona recently recognized King Abdullah of Jordan with an honorary degree to be conferred at a future commencement, and JNF has honored most of the IALC’s congressional supporters with its prestigious Tree of Life Award.
Additionally, Congress, through the leadership of Cong. Kolbe, has directed the Agency for International Development to make $2.5 million available for the IALC’s work on water and energy problems in the Middle East. The extra resources will help the IALC expand its Middle East research and collaboration.
Fundamental issues affecting the quality of life form the basic building blocks of peace in the region. A reliable and plentiful supply of clean water; sustainable, agriculturally viable land for food production; education; and public health are necessary ingredients in any formula for peace. Water quality and supply, land management and resource allocation are all shrouded in complex historical issues that challenge the understanding of the outside world.
Compared with areas of the world with more plentiful and reliable sources of water and productive farmland, economic development in the region has been slow and inconsistent. Israel’s economic development has far outpaced that of its neighbors due, in significant part, to the infrastructure developed by JNF.
The IALC has demonstrated both the capability and the commitment necessary to address these key issues through more than ten years of increasingly powerful research and technical assistance.
Since its inception, the IALC has funded and implemented 87 research and development, demonstration, and special initiative projects, allocating more than $5.5 million in federal funds. IALC special initiatives have also improved and strengthened important regional institutions. Still others were used to create a technical training course on mitigation of risk to conservation and sustainable use of water.
Additionally, international management training workshops and symposia on sustainable land and water use management and ecological practices organized by JNF were held in Jordan and Israel and included participants from more than forty countries and arid regions. Some of the countries participating had never before sent representatives to Israel.
Each project funded by the IALC has strengthened the capability of regional inhabitants to address and resolve critical arid land issues and has added important and vital information to the region’s scientific and technical knowledge base.
Finally, the IALC has sown the seeds for future peace development by providing undergraduate and graduate students, from both the U.S. and Middle East, fellowships to travel abroad and conduct research or other special study under the tutelage of IALC scientists. The educational enrichment and acculturation gained from this experience will aid these students in their professional development and will make them potential ambassadors of peace and goodwill.