CROSSING BORDERS THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION Civil Society and Environmental Peacebuilding in the lower part of the Jordan River, the case of EcoPeace Middle East between 1994 and 2020
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This research project examines how the environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) EcoPeace Middle East (EcoPeace) defined its role as a non-state environmental peacebuilder over the Jordan River through the employment of a constructivist framework. More precisely, this thesis offers a new interpretation of environmental peacebuilding over the lower part of the Jordan River by analysing both the evolution of the NGO from 1994 to 2020 and the projects carried out by the nonstate actor in this conflictual region of the Middle East. Much of the current literature on environmental peacemaking on the Jordan Basin underlines that this practice is predicated upon the depoliticization of natural problems, a strategy that downplays the political implications of water issues, emphasizing their technical management. According to this perspective, the depoliticization of environmental problems strengthens the status quo of water diplomacy on the Jordan Basin, thus supporting the bilateral management of natural resources favouring Israel at the expenses of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Jordan and local communities. Instead, this thesis argues that while the depoliticization of water issues played a key role in the definition of EcoPeace’s ideas and practices, it did not entail a confirmation of the status quo. In fact, EcoPeace’s emphasis on the amelioration of environmental conditions contributed to the advancement of new forms of water management built on the regional collaboration of different actors. In this way, the NGO set off an initial form of cooperation among Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. Therefore, this thesis fosters a better understanding of environmental peacemaking, and the role played in it by civil society, looking closer at the activity realized by the non-state actor EcoPeace.