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Egypt turns to business, civil society in Nile water dispute

The Egyptian government has reached out to civil society and the private sector to extend its influence in Ethiopia and other Nile Basin countries.
Women wash clothes in the river Nile in Cairo May 20, 2013. Most of Egypt's population live clustered around the Nile valley and delta, and the river is both a vital resource for the country's citizens, and a potent national symbol. In a recent dispute with Ethiopia over the construction of a dam upstream, Egypt's foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr underlined the country's reliance on the river's waters: "No Nile - no Egypt," he said. Picture taken May 20, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS
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A state of controversy and conflict has been ongoing between Egypt and countries of the Nile Basin for the last four years, as politicians and experts have failed to reach a legally binding agreement for joint management of the Nile River waters. This has led to a move toward involving civil organizations and institutions to find popular alternatives to negotiations in an attempt to bridge the gaps between points of view and reduce the tensions between countries of the Nile River Basin.

To that end, a meeting was held at the beginning of December in Cairo among representatives of Egyptian, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Ethiopian and Eritrean civil society organizations, backed by UNESCO and the Arab Water Council in an attempt to guarantee the ability of civil organizations to bridge diverging viewpoints and end the dispute between countries bordering the Nile River. The meeting also aimed to reduce the effects of the various governments’ political conflict on the relations between the peoples of the Nile River Basin, find a way to maintain an open line of communication between these peoples, empower the culture of peace and minimize the effects of any official attempts to exacerbate the conflict or cause damage to any of the countries that border the Nile.

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