Mohammad Al-Saidi at ICSEWEN23

How to mainstream water-energy-food nexus in policy-making?


Nexus is a debate..

In 2011, one of the most influential environmental policy paradigms was born on a conference on the Water-Energy-Food Security Nexus (WEF Nexus) in Bonn, Germany. Naturally, many of the ideas behind WEF Nexus were already formulated earlier. However, WEF Nexus was promoted to become a very powerful debate on the interlinkages between the three vital resources. Yes, it is not a concrete concept, rather a debate, and this is – in my view – good. WEF Nexus allows for experimentation, new ideas and increased attention on the necessity for looking beyond sectoral policies. Much of my research focuses on policy implications of this new paradigm. 


In October 2023, I was invited by Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar’s Environment and Energy Research Institute to deliver a keynote within the Environmental Policy Session of the ICSEWEN2023 conference – a really good one. I focus on a difficult proposition, how can we integrate WEF nexus into policymaking. Here are some short insights:


  • WEF nexus is a “salad bowl” of ideas, a debate that is accessible to different stakeholders. It can be understood using a “bird-eye-view” in national planning, from “inside-out” by focusing on selected interlinks in policy coordination or through the “prism” of sectoral managers. 
  • In national policymaking, WEF Nexus is not a policy objective or a desirable planning outcome per se. It is rather embedded through “primers” such as resilience, circular economy, sustainable development etc. Countries can plan for these objectives, while WEF Nexus issues of integration and cross-sectoral resource security are then considered. 
  • Policy coordination is the most difficult task in mainstreaming WEF Nexus since it touches on institutional legacies and capacities. However, there are many good practices for tackling such a coordination, e.g., through concrete laws of cross-sectoral coordination (in Germany for example) or platforms for participation (e.g., concepts such as collective decision makings, participatory planning or public participation). 
  • In sectoral management, those WEF Nexus issues are chosen by water, food and energy management which are most relevant for them. Such managers address linkages to other sectors through their own sectoral policies. Nowadays, issues such as solar energy use in agriculture, agroforestry, district cooling are good examples of WEF Nexus policy issues in arid regions. 

Below, I share few links to pertinent publications from our WEF Nexus research. If you interested in more, contact me.

Understanding the Nexus

An essential read into understanding the different understandings of the WEF nexus, and what they mean for policymaking.

Nexus after 10 years

Introduction into a special issue we produced on the WEF Nexus.

WEF Nexus in the Nile

A broader look at the WEF nexus in a vital transboundary river.

Nexus cases, country profiles from around the world

A report with Nexus research from Latin America, the Middle East and beyond.

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