An Overview Of Our Solution
This project aims to bring together Israeli and Jordanian environmentalists, all living on the Gulf of Aqaba, together to reduce harm to marine life and biodiversity by preventing waste, particularly plastic waste, from reaching the Red Sea. Over the course of a year, youth and young professionals work cooperatively to create various community projects raising awareness and promoting behavioural change among residents, tourists, and businesses in their own communities, and to lobby their local governments to adopt successful initiatives and allocate a permanent budget to this issue.
- Population Impacted 200,000
- Continent: Asia
Shared by Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf of Aqaba is home to a unique coral and marine life ecosystem. These reefs are remarkably heat resistant, surviving warming waters and ocean acidification that cause severe bleaching or kill most corals elsewhere, making a coral refuge. However, tons of waste end up every day in the Red Sea, with the Gulf most impacted by Eilat and Aqaba’s extensive tourism industry, where more than 8 million tourists visit annually. One of the biggest problems is disposable plastic waste, which causes physical changes to habitats that particularly impact coral reefs and the endangered species that live there. Previous cooperation between Jordan and Israel, outlined in the 1994 Oslo Peace Accord, saw cooperation grow and then decrease as political tensions mounted. However, increasing awareness of environmental issues have raised the will to cooperate once again.
Describe the technical solution you wanted the target audience to adopt
Goal: To reduce harm to marine life and biodiversity by preventing waste, particularly plastic waste, from reaching the Red Sea.
To achieve this, 90 participants (30 youth supported by 12 teachers, and 48 young professionals; at least 50% of participants are female) will study advocacy and community action at 20 trainings and meeting sessions. Students and teachers create 12 community projects (6 each in Israel and Jordan) working with communities, schoolchildren and their families, and local businesses, while young professionals organize 20 projects (5 per country per cycle), including at least 2 regional projects, focused on lobbying municipalities to strengthen regulation and enforcement and promote the need for earmarked funding specifically to reduce waste at its source.
This will be monitored by measuring municipal spending on clean-ups and amount of waste collected (considering other indicators that may affect quantity), and other relevant data collected by partners.
Describe your behavioral intervention.
Awareness – Participants undertake local campaigns to educate residents, tourists, businesses, and municipalities on the impact of waste on the Red Sea. Attendees of participants’ events are exposed to science-based information, practical knowledge and concrete steps they can take to help the issue.
Activism and Advocacy – The project engages local school teachers, students, and young professionals as impact multipliers to build and advocate initiatives addressing a local problem. While schoolchildren focus on groups of their peers and their families and local businesses, the young professionals are specifically trained in targeting municipalities to get broader measures passed and enforced.
Coalition building and regional cooperation – Participants in Israel and Jordan form vibrant regional networks, pooling their skills and knowledge to create a regional approach to a shared problem. The Aqaba (Jordan) and Eilat (Israel) municipalities are also encouraged to work together, with the aim to include Saudi Arabia and Egypt at a later date, to create a fully regional governmental approach.
Behavioral Levers Utilized
As needed, please explain how you utilized the lever(s) in more detail.
Information, Emotional Appeals, Social Influences: The initiatives created by the students and young professionals include campaigns highlighting the problem and providing concrete steps on how to reduce waste production and encourage sustainable behaviour. Experience has shown the efficacy of tapping into a sense of local pride, and responsibility of residents to preserve their local treasures and cultural heritage. Working in groups and building regional networks also helps to foster new friendships and cooperation, so that each group member feels responsible to the others and proud of their combined work.
Rules & Regulations, Choice Architecture: The young professionals, who are lobbying municipalities, work to promote good legislation and effective enforcement of existing rules. They further aim to get greater funding devoted to the plastic waste problem, in order to enable long term planning and goal setting, and implement systems which make sustainable behaviour the default.
Describe your implementation
- Recruitment of partners (schools, organizations, initiatives)
- Curriculum development
- Recruitment of 12 young professionals, 6 teachers, and 30 students in Jordan and Israel
- Collection of baseline indicators
- 10 Trainings of young professionals, and 10 trainings of teachers on community action, awareness raising, and advocacy
- Regional (Israel and Jordan) meetings of young professionals and teachers
- Creation of projects: 5 for young professionals and 6 for youth taught by teachers. Each project includes up to 10 activities
- Project implementation period: 6 months
- Project review and assessment
- Outreach to potential partners in Egypt and Saudi Arabia to expand network, including presentations of existing projects
- Selection and beginning of new cycle with a new group of participants, incorporating key learnings.
The project builds off EcoPeace’s existing Good Water Neighbours program, which encourages young people to become knowledgeable about the transboundary nature of environmental challenges and opportunities in our region, develop innovative thinking about ways to resolve local and regional environmental problems, and use tools such as diplomacy, citizen engagement in participatory governance, and technology to implement hands-on projects. Good Water Neighbours has 2 main components: 1) National School Programs in Israel, Jordan, and Palestine, as part of the regular school curriculum, with EcoPeace developing lesson plans, providing teacher training, tours, summit days and support for student projects; and 2) Regional leadership programs that engage select groups of youth, young professionals and entrepreneurs in regional cross-border activities to create knowledgeable, empowered and regionally sensitive young leaders who forge vibrant cross-border networks to advance regional water and environment solutions. EcoPeace has 25 years experience working with goverments to raise environmental awareness and promote policy change.
Describe the leadership for your solution. Who is leading the implementation?
The project is led locally in each country by a community organiser and a logistics coordinator, responsible for the overall running of the program including selection and training of participants, coordination with EcoPeace offices, and the management of plans and budgets. The two community organizers work closely together, especially on regional projects and activities.
The logistic officers will facilitate EcoPeace events locally and regionally, and provide direct support to participants with their activities. Often, young participants struggle with logistics and can find project coordination and budget management intimidating. The logistics officers will be available to assist, guide and support these activities, as well as produce the larger trainings, roundtables and regional events.
EcoPeace's educational officers will support curriculum building, join events and attend to field teams. An educational consultant will be contracted for specialized Red Sea material.
Share some of the key partners or stakeholders engaged in your solution development and implementation.
Over the course of our programs, EcoPeace works closely and has developed good relations with many local partners and stakeholders, including ASEZA, JSSD (Jordan Society for Sustainable Development), the Arava Institute, MEDSOS, JERDS, as well as local municipalities, schools, businesses, diving centers, etc. EcoPeace also cooperates with national stakeholders such as the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and with regional and international initiatives and coalitions such as the newly established Transnational Red Sea Center, based in Lausanne, which fosters regional scientific collaboration and PERSGA, an intergovernmental body headquartered in Saudi Arabia that aims to conserve the coastal and marine environments of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
As part of the conceptual design process, EcoPeace has already met with and presented the concept of this project to several of these partners, as well as to the local municipal departments of environmental protection, all of whom have responded with great interest and willingness to participate.
Who adopted the desired behavior(s) and to what degree? Include an explanation of how you measured a change in behavior.
By creating a cadre of young activists, who utilize their local knowledge and community membership to target their own communities, EcoPeace aims to create behaviour changes throughout society. Schoolchildren target other schoolchildren and their families, and the local businesses they frequent, in order to create a sustainable, grassroots level change by raising awareness and changing habits. Young Professionals, who target municipalities, seek to educate and influence local politicians to adopt and enforce effective legislation, creating a broader scale change in administration, measurement of outcomes, and encourage government cooperation to create a regional approach.
Previous EcoPeace programs have shown marked improvements among direct participants in their knowledge of environmental attitudes, skills in activism and community engagement, and attitudes toward regional cooperation.
How did you impact water pollution? Please be specific and include measurement methodology where relevant.
Each project implemented by the youth and young professionals will be measured according to their own metrics, appropriate to the goals of their initiatives and the targeted sources of pollution. Overall, the aim of the project is to measurably reduce plastic waste, stopping the problem at its source by changing the habits and practices of residents, tourists, and local businesses, and ensuring sustainable solutions with the buy-in of local government.
How has your solution impacted equity challenges (including race, gender, ethnicity, social class/income, or others)?
EcoPeace takes proactive steps to ensure that women and girls aren't only recruited into our programs in equal numbers as boys and men, but that they are able to participate in and benefit from our programs equally. The programs are designed by a mixed-gender team which takes all genders’ needs and concerns into account. Additionally, EcoPeace employs a gender officer who continuously evaluates participation in our programs, monitoring participant engagement and conducting surveys and evaluation as required to address any issues. This has resulted in greater awareness of barriers to participation, as well as fixes in real time and better planning for subsequent programs. This program includes the prominent participation and visibility of women. Women will be well-represented among the speakers and experts providing training, while the content will address the inclusion of all sectors and genders in society.
What were some social and/or community co-benefits?
This program creates regional networks, connecting Israeli and Jordanian environmentalists who are all committed to protecting our shared environmental heritage. By working to engage youth in community activism, EcoPeace harnesses youth enthusiasm for the environment, utilizing the skills and ideas of highly dedicated young people with local knowledge and the trust of their own community. Youth lead the way, equipped with the skills and resources they need to bring their own ideas to fruition.
What were some environmental co-benefits?
This program aims to stop plastic pollution at its source, by raising awareness and changing behaviours by the biggest plastic polluters: Residents, tourists, and businesses, with the support of municipal governments to make the most effective programs sustainable. The program can be expected to significantly reduce plastic pollution into the Red Sea and therefor protect the unique ecosystem there, and provide long term benefits by encouraging joint regional planning and a set municipal budget.
What were some sustainable development co-benefits?
By introducing youth to community activism, this project improves citizens’ skills to hold the government accountable, make their voices heard, and channel their efforts in a constructive manner. Such activism getting results increases public trust in institutions and community cohesion, and people from various walks of life come together over a common concern. Such democratic accountability and effective civil society is crucial for sustainable development.
Sustainability: Describe the economic sustainability of your solution.
A major goal of this program is to encourage municipalities to take responsibility for plastic waste, allocating a specific budget to the problem and engaging in joint regional planning.
Furthermore, the project aims to expand by September 2022 to potentially include Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as the network of existing trained activists and partner organizations. EcoPeace has already attracted significant support from various donors, including private donors and philanthropic organizations. However, we are greatly helped by the support of well-known donors with stature and influence, whose support often encourages private donors to match funds, cost share, or donate in-kind in order to expand the project.
Return on investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?
The overall project is budgeted at just under $600,000 USD, with the majority being funded by the Swedish International Development Agency in Jordan, and Israeli portion covered by cost share by various private donors. The return on investment is expected to be multi-fold, particularly once municipal governments allocate a specific portion of their budget to ensure continuation of effective activities addressing the problem. As a general rule in public administration, funds invested in preventative action are far more cost effective than the funds needed to fix an existing problem.
How could we successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?
EcoPeace’s model of community engagement (bottom-up) combined with research and advocacy (top-down) to promote change has been implemented in our region for over 25 years, and is well-suited to scaling and adaptation to other contexts. EcoPeace’s Program on Water Security does exactly this: offering a model for regional peacebuilding which builds on the capacity of local actors, to help establish relationships of cooperation and trust over shared work on water and the environment. EcoPeace has previously shared our knowledge and experience with organizations working in shared watersheds in the Lake Chad Basin, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in India and Pakistan. These organizations adapted EcoPeace’s programs to their local contexts; in Bosnia-Herzegovina, local organizations implemented their own version of EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbours program, to remarkable success.