Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | June 14, 2012

“Water does not recognize borders” – Interview with FoEME staff Malek Abulfailat

You already know about our mission.  Now it’s time to meet the men and women behind the curtain.  This is the first post in a series of interviews of FoEME staff and affiliates.  We hope you enjoy getting to know us better!

Malak’s Tour in Battir

Community work, participation, improving water economy, rehabilitation through strategic planning, as well as making water rights more equitable without pointing fingers.… these are just a few of the ideas that inspire Malek Abulfailat’s work at FoEME.

So, Malek, tell us a bit about your background, about the work you have done that has led you to work with FoEME.

I grew up in North Hebron. After finishing High School I went on to study Applied Physics at Hebron University. On finishing my Bachelors degree I decided to focus my studies on water and environmental issues. Whilst working on my Master’s thesis at Birzeit University I also worked with the Palestinian Water Authority as a field researcher.

What kind of field research were you involved in?

I worked with a number of stone cutting factories in the Hebron district, collecting data on waste water discharge from these industries. As a result of my involvement with the Palestinian Water Authority I was granted a full Masters scholarship that enabled me to pursue my own research into the “Feasibility of pre-treatment of liquid waste discharges”. Meanwhile I also published two scientific papers about leather industry waste water.

The MoU signing ceremony in Tel Aviv

How did your research lead you directly to working with FoEME?

Well, first of all I was nominated by the PWA to be board member of the Jordan River National Council through FoEME’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, which increased my understanding of FoEME’s work in the neighboring countries. I began to realize that cooperation is necessary in water management, that water doesn´t recognize borders. I was able to apply knowledge about these issues that I had acquired whilst volunteering for the Partners for Sustainable Development organization (PSD) as well putting my theoretical background from my Conflict Resolution and Management studies into practice.

When did you formally join FoEME, and in what capacity?

I am one of the newest members of the FoEME family. I joined 6 months ago as the Palestinian Project Coordinator of the new Protecting Groundwater Project (PGW).

What has been the most important aspect of your work with FoEME, have there been any memorable or unique moments?

Yes, my work at FoEME has been invaluable. I have been able to coordinate the Projects’ advancement from its very inception, from initial ideas on the drawing board to its fruition. One of the most memorable moments was my first regional staff meeting in which I presented the seeds of the project, since then I have adopted it as my baby.

Next, the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding at the FoEME Eco-center in Auja, on May, 9th 2012. For me this was a major milestone for the project. The ceremony saw a lot of support, there was a large press presence as well as EU representation.

I would like to thank all those involved including Lena Siedentopp, a student from Germany currently interning with FoEME on the PGW project who oversaw all the preparation for its signing over the last 5 months. She approached the project from a new perspective, which was refreshing.

Are there any difficulties with this sort of transboundary cooperation and how does it benefit the project?

When different nationalities and different cultures come together it is inevitable that difficulties arise. It takes time to get to know one another and appreciate these differences. That perhaps, has been the most amazing aspect of my work, because we have a common goal these cultural issues are of secondary importance. What has become most important is our shared aspiration to improve the situation for our people and make water an equal and undeniable right.

This post was written by FoEME intern Lena Siedentopp. Lena is based in FoEME´s Bethlehem office.

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