The University of Bahrain (UoB), in cooperation with the Future Earth MENA Regional Centre (FEMRC), is organizing a conference (FEMRC-UOB 2020) on water issues that will have a distinct focus on the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) titled “Water in the MENA Region: Preparing for a Changing World”. This conference will be held at the University of Bahrain, February 2 to 4, 2020, which will be followed by a two-day workshop (February 5 - 6) for young professionals and graduate students that will address the theme “Climate Change Impacts on Water Availability and Adaptation Strategies in the MENA Region”. For more information about the conference, please visit the following website: http://femrc2019.uob.edu.bh/.

The President of the University of Bahrain, Prof. Riyad Hamzah explained that: “this conference aims to bring together leading professionals, specialists, practitioners and researchers involved in some of the most current topics of relevance in water management and water security specific to the MENA region in our very rapidly changing world”. Through the discussions of research findings and the exchange of experiences during the conference, the objective will be to identify practical, problem-solving measures in order to find commonalities of purpose that can contribute to maintaining water security in the MENA Region on the local and regional levels”.

On this occasion; the co-organization and hosting of this Water Conference, Prof. Riyad Hamzah announced that the University of Bahrain is also launching a program entitled “A YEAR OF WATER” that begins in July of 2019. This initiative will consist of an ongoing series of water-themed events, public projects and water-related exhibitions, which will be organized both by the University and also in partnership with other collaborators in Bahrain. The aim of this program is to broaden the mission and scope of the February 2020 conference. It is hoped that it will bring attention to important local and regional water issues, and likewise engage all areas of society in a conversation on a subject that is highly relevant today.

The FEMRC-UOB 2020 local organizing committee coordinator, Prof. Mohammad El-Hilo, Dean of the College of Science, UoB, announced that the University’s first event: “Water and Our Youth” marks the inauguration of the “YEAR OF WATER” in Bahrain. This event was held under the patronage of H.E. Jameel Bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan, Minister of Labor & Social Development and H.E. Prof. Riyad Yousif Hamzah, President of the University of Bahrain. It took place on the 11th of July at the Sharifa Alawadhi Children and Youth Club and was organized to reach the younger citizens of Bahrain. At this activity, the Assistant Undersecretary for Community Development at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, Mr. Khalid Ishaq Al-Kooheji, said that he sensed the extent to which the new generation of children and young people were aware of the problem of water scarcity in the region.

Melina Nicolaides, member of the Regional Advisory Board of the FEMRC, and Director of the environmentally-engaged contemporary arts organization ACTIVATE, explained that of all the resource challenges faced by the MENA region today, water scarcity is one of the most critical. She added that: “it is crucial that we appreciate the interconnected nature of our region’s growing challenges and that only a truly collaborative approach will enable us to find creative solutions that are relevant and appropriate to our part of the world. Moreover, these issues should without question be brought to the public so that they may share and contribute to the discussion of present realities and future solutions for our communities”.

Ms. Nicolaides explained that the objective of “Water and Our Youth” was to create a participatory art event in which the younger generation of Bahrain could think about the subject of water and create original artwork around three proposed topics, which will also be addressed in the conference: Water and the Home; Water and the Environment; and Sharing Water. The hope is that at a date close to the University of Bahrain-Future Earth conference of February 2020, the artworks will be exhibited in a new location in Bahrain and additionally, that they will be incorporated into banners for public spaces as part of the conference’s water awareness campaign.

The head of incubators and child development at the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, Mrs. Amal Mubarak Al-Buflasa, expressed her happiness about the involvement of nearly 100 of the children and youth of Sharifa Al-Awadhi Children and Youth Club, who ranged between the ages of 7 and 15, in the launching of the water year. She added that this event parallels the club's goals to include and promote children in scientific and national events.

Finally, the conference local organizing committee co-coordinator at the University of Bahrain, Dr. Hanan Al-Buflasa, pointed out that within the series of events, which will take place during the YEAR OF WATER, there will also be a large on-campus exhibition that will be part of the February conference and which will be designed for an audience that will consist of the invited conference delegates, university students, and visitors from across the community of Bahrain.