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Working on water across borders: Spillover benefits for the SDGs

Jonathan Kamkwalala's picture
At the heels of the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations in New York this past weekend, an operations team from the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (GP) is meeting with international development partners and African implementing partner organizations in Zambia this week as part of the fourth annual advisory committee meeting of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, with deep commitment and support from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The timing is coincidental, but symbolically significant: water management will be key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the wider global development agenda for the next 15 years. In much of the world, managing water resources means working across borders in transboundary river basins, adding complexity to realizing SDG #6, to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”

Transboundary Water Cooperation Helps Build Climate Resilience

Jacqueline Tront's picture
The World Bank at World Water Week 2015

Water does not respect geopolitical boundaries. Hydrological systems are completely oblivious of international relations. This makes life complicated for the water managers, financiers, diplomats, and most of all – the water users around the world’s approximately 276 transboundary river basins, 63 of which are in Africa. Sixty percent of the world’s freshwater flows are in transboundary rivers, and 40% of the world’s population lives in their river basins. When water cuts across borders, it poses economic, financial, logistical and political challenges for people trying to manage and develop the resource.​

Climate change is
The Zambezi River Basin in Africa is shared
by eight countries: Angola, Botswana, Malawi,
Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia,
and Zimbabwe.
Photo Credit: CIWA / World Bank
increasing uncertainty about where and​ when water will​ be available. It is affecting billions of people living in transboundary basins, and as​ often happens, the poor are the hardest hit.​ There is a long list of potential problems people will face – supply in water-stressed regions will diminish; some regions are likely to have more water than they can handle; most challenging is the fact that​ the timing and amounts of future water availability are impossible to predict with certainty. Other risks - the increasing intensity of droughts, floods, typhoons, and monsoons; uncertainties around waterborne disease; glacier melt and decreased storage in snow-pack; glacial-lake outburst floods; sea-level rise and salt-water intrusion - all pose the highest risk to poor communities that are least able to cope.

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.

Setting the Example for Cooperative Management of Transboundary Water Resources in West Africa

Kabine Komara's picture

Stretching for more than 1,800 kilometers across Guinea, Mali, Senegal and Mauritania, the Senegal River is the third longest river in Africa. In a region such as the Sahel, which is plagued by drought, poverty, and underdevelopment, access to a water resource such as the Senegal River is critical to local populations who rely on it for energy production, land irrigation, and potable water.

Destination Dakar: New Push for Managing Africa’s Shared Water Resources

Gustavo Saltiel's picture

Africa's patrimony of water resources is unparalleled – the continent has 9% of the world’s water, and only 11%of the globe’s population.  The continent is also home to some of the world’s iconic rivers. Who hasn’t heard about the Nile, the mighty Congo, or the Niger?
Under the appearance of sufficient water at the continental average, however, lies a highly uneven resource distribution, meaning that many countries and transboundary river and lake basins face increasing levels of water stress due to rapidly increasing populations and various accompaniments of economic growth. Climate change exacerbates water insecurity, and in turn, vulnerability of the poorest populations.
Next week, the African Ministers’ Council on Water will host the 5th Africa Water Week in Dakar – the continent’s pre-eminent gathering of water experts, policymakers and civil society – under the theme, “Placing Water at the Heart of the Post 2015 Development Agenda.”

I can think of no other venue more suitable for discussing sustainable management and development of Africa’s international waters openly and fruitfully, and for catalyzing new opportunities and partnerships for greater impact.

At the home ground of the OMVS (Organisation pour la mise en valeur du valeur du fleuve Sénégal or Senegal River Basin Development Authority), which has successfully applied benefit sharing principles and equitable institutional and financial arrangements to harness the benefits of basin-wide cooperation, there will be much for CIWA and our implementation partners to learn and cross pollinate in our work across Africa.
Africa’s 63 transboundary river basins cover more than 60 percent of the continent’s surface area and house more than half a billion people. As water issues and the sectors which require water such as agriculture, energy and transportation take center stage on the development agenda, there is growing recognition that sustainable management of shared water resources must become an integral part of the solutions needed to end poverty and boost shared prosperity on the continent.