Encouraging transboundary water cooperation

Friday, August 27, 2021
Encouraging transboundary water cooperation

INTERVIEW : Komlan Sangbana, Water Convention Secretariat, UNECE

What is the importance of the Dakar Forum for you and your organisation ?

Senegal was among the first Africans countries to join the Water Convention in 2018, following its global opening in 2016. UNECE's commitment for the Forum is part of the organisation's support to Senegal in its efforts to promote sustainable and peaceful water resources management, notably through transboundary cooperation. Transboundary water cooperation is vital for peace and security, sustainable development, economic integration, poverty reduction, and economic growth.

 However, a majority of basins are not yet covered by an operational arrangement for water cooperation. For example, the 2020 monitoring exercise for SDG 6.5.2, conducted jointly by the UNECE and UNESCO as co-custodian agencies at the global level, in which 129 of the 153 countries sharing transboundary waters submitted a response, shows that only 24 of these countries have all their transboundary basins covered by operational arrangements. 

Achieving the goal of having all transboundary basins covered by operational arrangements by 2030 therefore requires additional efforts. The Dakar Forum therefore offers the opportunity to mobilise all stakeholders to accelerate actions for the implementation of sustainable development objectives in the field of integrated water resources management, in particular in the field of transboundary cooperation.

What is your involvement in the working groups, your impressions on the results of the first stage and the next steps ?

The UNECE, as a UN agency, is actively involved in the preparations for the Forum. In particular, the Executive Secretariat of the 9th World Water Forum and the UNECE have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the preparation of the Forum. Under this MoU, the UNECE, through the Water Convention secretariat, supports the Executive Secretariat in the organisation of the Forum as a strategic partner for the "cooperation" priority, which is one of the four priorities identified by the Forum organisers. The UNECE, together with several other strategic partners such as the Organisation pour la mise en valeur du fleuve Sénégal and the International Network of Basin Organisations, is leading the preparatory process for the cooperation priority, through the organisation of step meetings in Africa and the provision of a framework for exchanges on the margins of its global and regional workshops. In this respect, we are a member of the Pilot Group on Cooperation and coordinate the Action Group 3.B "Implementing transboundary cooperation for peace and conflict prevention". 

To date, the results are satisfactory and show a clear interest of the stakeholders involved in the transboundary cooperation area. In the framework of Action Group 3.B, together with the members of this group, we have identified three concrete actions to meet the objectives of the thematic of the action group, namely 

ACTION 1: Preventing conflicts by facilitating dialogue and cooperation over transboundary water resources;

ACTION 2: Promoting transboundary governance by building capacity and sustainable institutions to peacefully manage water resource; 

ACTION 3: Promoting knowledge and tools for collaboration and benefit-sharing on transboundary water resources.

More than 30 projects have been proposed by both Action Group members and participants in the consultative process to address the issues identified by these three actions. Currently the validation process is underway, our Action Group 3B has submitted to the Pilot Group, its list of projects as well as a draft of political messages based on the proposals received. Once the proposals are validated, we will focus on the organisation of the sessions related to the actions during the Forum. 

How do you think the Forum will contribute in accelerating access to water and sanitation worldwide ?

As I said earlier, the Dakar Forum offers a unique opportunity to advance the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly its target 6.5, with the support of all relevant actors. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the links between water cooperation and health; whilst also offering an opportunity to ensure the post-COVID recovery capitalises upon the catalytic role that transboundary water cooperation can play in advancing the SDGs.

 The Forum thus provides an opportunity to significantly strengthen efforts to promote transboundary cooperation for greater peace and development. For example, promoting accession to global UN conventions, including the Water Convention to support the implementation of international water law at the universal level is an important aspect. The 9th World Water Forum is actively supporting advocacy for accession to these global UN Water Conventions in Africa and around the world. Several initiatives under the Forum also touch on the development of basin agreements and the establishment of operational joint bodies, in which respect the Forum provides a platform to encourage the exchange of experiences around the world on this topic, including those of the OMVS and OMVG which are major success. 

The Forum will also contribute to providing options and tools, on diverse thematic such as adaptation to climate change, financing cooperation, data exchange, to accelerate the development of resilient and operational arrangements for sustainable quantitative and qualitative management of transboundary water resources. 

About Komlan Sangbana

Komlan Sangbana is a Togolese national, and works as a Legal Officer at the Secretariat of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (hereafter Water Convention), serviced by the UNECE. In particular, he coordinates the Convention's global opening programme, especially for the African region (Central and West Africa) and thematically is responsible for the sub-programme on the development of transboundary basin agreements.

Established in 1947, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of the five regional commissions of the United Nations. It is part of the UN Secretariat and reports to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The UNECE brings together 56 countries from the continents of North America, Europe and Asia (including Central Asia).