UNECE and partners launch project to support transboundary water cooperation in the Horn of Africa
Transboundary water cooperation often brings many more benefits than expected, but they are frequently not fully perceived by and not appropriately communicated to policy-makers. The Policy Guidance on Identifying, Assessing and Communicating Benefits of Transboundary water Cooperation, developed under the UNECE Water Convention in 2013-2015 can support water experts to highlight and communicate these benefits and thereby to unlock political and financial support for transboundary water cooperation.
The Guidance Note is already being applied in several shared basins worldwide, notably in the Okavongo-Cubango and Drina. In 2015, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in the Horn of Africa requested support from the Water Convention secretariat to apply the Guidance in one transboundary basin in the region.
On 14-16 December, the IGAD, UNECE and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) organized a workshop in Nairobi to launch the new project titled “Strengthening Transboundary Water Governance and Cooperation in the IGAD Region” which will enable, among others, highlighting benefits of cooperation based on the approach described in the Guidance Note in combination with the approach of IUCN’s Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) project on fostering dialogue around benefits enhancement through cooperation. .
The objectives of the project are to strengthen regional and basin level institutional frameworks for cooperation on trans-boundary water resources, and to facilitate conflict mitigation, negotiation, and problem solving through joint dialogue. The project will also further build capacity in hydro-diplomacy, international water law, negotiation skills of the IGAD Member States officials in charge of water affairs. The ultimate goal is to improve the capacity for and practice of trans-boundary water governance and cooperation both at regional level and in a demonstration basin.
As an outcome of the workshop, the Sio-Malaba-Malakisi basin, shared by Kenya and Uganda, was selected as demonstration basin for the project. In 2017-2018, in this basin, benefits of transboundary water cooperation will be assessed, future development scenarios will be evaluated in a participatory process and a possible institutional setup for future cooperation will be developped.
This workshop gathered members of the IGAD Member countries, IGAD Secretariat staff with technical support provided by the IUCN’s Global Water Programme and Environmental Law Centre and UNECE, and financial and technical support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) of the United States Department of State. Representatives of the Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM) and Estonia shared their good practices and lessons learnt.
The Executive Secretary of IGAD, Mr. Amb (Eng) Mahboub Maalim stressed that considering the frequent droughts in the region, water and food security are among the highest priorities of IGAD and thus, this project comes at a right time.
The Director of the IGAD Agriculture and Environment Division, Mohamed Moussa, welcomed participants to the workshop and thanked the partners for the support provided. “We are in the process of translating into action the IGAD Water Policy Framework that was endorsed by Ministers in January 2015 in Addis Ababa”, he said.