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Back from Dakar: An update on CIWA’s expanding and deepening program

Gustavo Saltiel's picture
After a successful set of consultations around Africa’s pre-eminent gathering of water experts, policy makers, and civil society, the Cooperation in International Waters (CIWA) program is back from the 5th Annual Water Week (AWW) convened by the African Ministers’ Council on Water in Dakar in late May.

CIWA had an ambitious agenda for Dakar. As CIWA expands its program in West Africa and the Sahel (an engagement with the Volta Basin Authority being its first in the region), one of its foremost objectives in Dakar was to tap into new and existing partnerships for guidance on CIWA’s strategy and priorities in the region. CIWA’s overall program objective is to strengthen cooperative management and development of international waters in Sub-Saharan Africa to unlock the potential for sustainable, climate-resilient growth.

Home to the OMVS (Organisation pour la Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal  or Senegal River Basin Development Authority), one of the most effective international river basin organizations in the world, there could be no better place for CIWA to learn and cross pollinate lessons. Delivering the keynote address for CIWA’s 3rd Consultative Group meeting held at AWW, the High Commissioner of OMVS described how the largely successful West African river basin organization is the fruit of a long maturation process that was seeded back in the 19th century. Cooperation in the Senegal River Basin was motivated by intense need stemming from the 1970s droughts in the Sahel and the vulnerability that characterized riparian economies. The waters of the Senegal River had the power to grant the countries much needed resilience. However, financing and regulatory requirements for building and operating any riverine infrastructure were so substantial that the countries were compelled to act jointly.  It was this need to capture benefits beyond the river that fueled the political will to establish and finance a strong river basin organization that would lead a regional approach to cooperative management and development of the Senegal River. The High Commissioner’s words struck at the heart of CIWA’s objective to deliver growth – as the end-goal for cooperation – and resonated strongly with lessons shared by other regional organizations.

The Volta Basin Authority (VBA), the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) elaborated that while sustainable growth motivates cooperative action, key entry-points that provide opportunity for countries to come together are institutional strengthening, adopting a benefit sharing approach, prioritizing ecosystem services, and building regional and national level capacity to implement IWRM practices. As these regional organizations navigate complex geographical, governance, and financial landscapes that characterize the playing field, CIWA reaffirmed its commitment to support strengthening of analytic, consultative, and investment preparatory work which facilitates cooperation focused on growth in West Africa and the Sahel.  

As a testament to this commitment, the CIWA Advisory Committee – comprised of the fund’s contributing development partners and the World Bank – endorsed the Niger River Basin Management Project in the same week in Dakar. The project targets strengthening of the Niger Basin Authority and creation of an upstream environment that enables sustainable preparation and development of the Fomi Dam with enhanced regional benefits and reduced social and environmental impacts.

CIWA also used its presence in Dakar to visit an ongoing analytic exercise – the development of a political economy analysis framework – that is being conducted in partnership with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). While the framework will be a public good that serves as a useful tool to approach this complex and dynamic aspect that holds the reigns to the success of any development intervention, CIWA will apply it to basins in which it engages or considers engaging in to inform basin-specific priorities and strategies.  The framework is one among a number of tools CIWA is developing to understand and manage risks and increase program effectiveness.

With deepened partnerships and the addition of new projects on the CIWA agenda, the CIWA team has much work awaiting us post-Dakar. But all the conversations and enthusiasm on the ground have invigorated our spirits and reinforced our belief in CIWA’s mission – we look forward to a busy summer.

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