Deepening understanding and commitment for implementation of global water Conventions in Francophone Africa

With 90% of water resources in Africa located in 63 transboundary basins, water management requires strong transboundary cooperation. This cooperation can bring multiple benefits in terms of human health, sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, ecosystem protection, peace and security. The two global water conventions, namely the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention, which is serviced by UNECE) and the 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Watercourses Convention) facilitate such cooperation.

The importance of such transboundary water cooperation has been emphasized at the regional level by the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW) and at the global level in the Sustainable Development Goals and by the UN Security Council. The European Union Council conclusions on water diplomacy in 2018 specifically noted that cooperation on shared water resources is vital to securing lasting peace and sustainable development and encouraged countries to accede to both global water Conventions.  

In addition, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has encouraged countries to accede to and implement both Conventions. He has also called on the United Nations system to support countries in acceding to and implementing the two Conventions.

On 18-19 June 2019 in Dakar, Senegal, the workshop entitled ‘Practitioner to Practitioner: Regional Training on Promoting Implementation to Two Global Water Conventions’ brought together a diverse range of trainees from countries, basin commissions and other agencies across francophone Africa. A common understanding on the practical benefits of implementing and acceding to the global water conventions were the key outcomes from the two-day training.

This workshop was organized by the Secretariat of the Water Convention, with the financial support of the European Union and held in partnership with the Government of Senegal, Organisation pour la mise en valeur du fleuve Sénégal, the Geneva Water Hub, International Union for the Conservation Nature, and the Global Water Partnership.

The training enabled regional professionals to share their own practical experiences of water cooperation in order to find ways to work more effectively and in closer partnership to promote, implement and accede to the two global framework Conventions.

The workshop further builds on the regional momentum of Chad and Senegal becoming the first two African countries to accede to the Water Convention in 2018. A session on how to promote and accede to the Conventions saw both countries share the motivations behind, and practical implementation of, their respective accession processes.

The global water Conventions articulate the main principles of international water law and offer crucial legal frameworks that can support the formation of basin and bilateral treaties for water governance or strengthen those already in existence. Taken together, both Conventions are totally complementary and mutually reinforcing in both their content and practical implementation.

Over 35 participants whose work relates to transboundary water cooperation attended the training, including national delegates from countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and representatives from the European Union delegations, United Nations agencies, African Development Bank, river basin organizations, technical and financial partners as well as regional and sub-regional institutions. The diversity of practitioners was unique. The regional partners encouraged countries to accede and indicated their support.