Syrian Refugees, Water Scarcity, and Dynamic Policies: How Do the New Refugee Discourses Impact Water Governance Debates in Lebanon and Jordan?

24 February 2020


Hussam Hussein, Alberto Natta, Abed Al Kareem Yehya and Baha Hamadna


Since the Syrian crisis and the so-called “Arab Spring”, new discourses have been created, sparking the discursive water governance debates around water scarcity and hydropolitics. In Lebanon and Jordan—where most water resources are transboundary, and where most Syrian refugees have flown in—new discourses of climate change and especially of Syrian refugees as exacerbating water scarcity are emerging, shaping water governance debates. The aim of this paper is to engage in comparative discourse analysis about narratives of water crises and refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. This study is novel because of the focus on the new discourse of refugees in relation to water governance debates in both Lebanon and Jordan. This paper finds that in both countries the new discourses of refugees do not replace previous and existing discourses of water crisis and scarcity, but rather they build on and reinforce them. This paper finds that the impact these discourses had on the governance debates is that in Lebanon the resources mobilized focused on humanitarian interventions, while Jordan focused on development projects to strengthen the resilience of its water infrastructure and its overall water governance system.