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UNECE Water Convention could offer solutions to African countries for shared water resource management

The forthcoming global opening of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) offers an opportunity to African countries to benefit from the experience acquired in the 20 years of implementation of the Convention.

Increasing awareness and understanding of the Water Convention and its work in Africa was the objective of the second Africa-Targeted Workshop for Global Environment Facility International Waters Projects, which took place from 12 to 14 November 2012 at the United Nations Convention Centre in Addis Ababa.

Transboundary basins cover 64 per cent of Africa’s surface and are home to 77 per cent of its population. Transboundary water resources constitute more than 80 per cent of Africa’s freshwater resources. A number of international agreements and transboundary river and lake commissions have been established to facilitate the cooperative management of these shared resources and to minimize conflicts between riparian States, including agreements on the Senegal River, the Niger River, Lake Chad and the Orange-Senqu and Limpopo Rivers. In addition, the founding of the African Ministers’ Council on Water has established a continent-wide cooperation context that has placed transboundary water cooperation high on its agenda. However, there are still many challenges to be tackled and there is a general need for knowledge and experience sharing.

“There are very significant areas of relevance on which African countries, lake and river basin organizations could work with the Water Convention to inform the ongoing evolution and development of transboundary water resource management, in the context of a community of common interests” concluded Daniel Adom, Chair of UN-Water Africa and Chief Technical Adviser at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.

In particular, participants agreed that African countries should take advantage of the global platform on water and adaptation to climate change established under the Water Convention to advocate the importance of water for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The UNECE Water Convention is currently the only international legal framework in force governing the management of transboundary water resources. The implementation of the Convention has made a great difference on the ground in the pan-European region and has led to significant improvement in transboundary water management. Workshop participants expressed great interest in such concrete implementation experience and revealed the need for further capacity-building activities to allow African countries to take an informed decision on their possible future accession to the Convention.

The workshop was jointly organized by the International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network (IW:LEARN), a GEF project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

For further information, please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/water/

or contact:

Ms. Francesca Bernardini
UNECE Water Convention Secretariat
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2463
E-mail: francesca.bernardini@unece.org

Note to editors:

The GEF IW:LEARN is a programme that promotes experience sharing and learning among GEF International Waters projects and the country officials, agencies, and partners working on them. Its goal is to strengthen transboundary waters management by facilitating portfolio learning and information management among GEF IW projects and partners. IW:LEARN is working together with the secretariat of the UNECE Water Convention to raise awareness about the Convention and its potential global expansion.

Over the past 20 years, the UNECE Water Convention has provided a sound overarching legal framework and an active intergovernmental platform for the promotion of transboundary water cooperation and the sustainable management of water resources in the pan-European region. It has served as a powerful model to strengthen cooperation for the protection and sustainable use of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters, in different economic, social and environmental conditions, also exerting influence beyond the UNECE region.