By Sankara Bassonon Begnakiré Sandrine - The World Water Forum is the world’s most important conference on water related projects, ideas and plans for the future. A week dedicated to the reflection on a delicate subject that has significant consequences for everyone's life and that should be approached with caution.
As Programme Officer, Regional Water and Wetlands Programme, West and Central Africa Regional Office I went to the Forum with my suitcase full of experiences to be shared, with many questions in my head and with a great desire to engage myself actively and publicly in water conservation.
During the Forum I had the opportunity to share with a wide and specialised audience the experience of the BRIDGE project in the Mano River Union. The perfect spot to showcase our work, and an important opportunity to get an up-to-date overview of the existing challenges and issues related to water usage and management in some transboundary basins or regions. I left the debate with the idea that it could be interesting to start including into the BRIDGE modules, the added value offered by knowledge sharing in the field of cooperation, the prevention of conflicts and the increase of inter-basin solidarity.
During the Forum I also took part in the Panel “Multi-stakeholder platforms and practices as a solution to SDG 6’ shared challenges” which included, among others, the USA IRC, the Brazilian National Water Agency and the Ministry of water in Burkina, etc. The lectures focused on the different ways of dealing with collective water related issues, according to the context, the strategies in place and those to be put in place for the development of consensus. At the end of the session it clearly emerged that the necessity to establish platforms able to lead to results benefit everyone, while taking into account the difficulty of integrating the different sectorial policies into water management.
With the intention to get an update on fundraising dynamics, I participated in the session “Enhancing Africa's Capacity for Financing water security in Africa”organized by the African Development Bank Group and GIZ. This session allowed me to appreciate some innovative mechanisms donors use to help countries to secure sustainable financing for water management. GIZ, for example, shared an interesting experience of a private sector mechanism in the field of drinking water and sanitation which included training opportunities in the field of climate finance. By focusing on the concepts of participation and inclusion, the African Water Facility has shown the importance of identifying and involving private sector actors from the early stages of project conceptualization and preliminary studies. The importance of defininig the role of the African Water Facility and governments was also stressed to ensure durability of the investment, even beyond projects.
The importance of sharing information was the main topic of the session entitled “Monitoring, assessment, data and knowledge sharing in transboundary basins” held with the participation of, among others, USAID, IOWater,and the CICOS. The International Office of Water showcased its support in Basin countries and organizations and the challenges related to the collection of data at the transboundary basin scale, even when there is a management body. Almost all the speakers focused part of their speech on the necessity of sharing information and knowledge in order to establish an effective joint management of shared resources.
I also had the possibility to participate in the session ”Managing water across sectors and borders: Institutional frameworks and approaches for efficient transboundary basin organizations”, with the participation of the International Basin Commission in Congo-Oubangui-Sangha (CICOS), IUCN and the Mekong River Commission (MRC). During this session, the Mekong experience illustrated the difficulties of mobilizing riparian countries, the issues of joint management of shared resources and also self-financing difficulties of basin organizations (90% of funds come from donors). It is clear that, in order to reach their objectives, countries need to implement methodologies and policies and eventually adhere to a regional development plan. This shows that the management tools (Commission, Authorities, etc.) which are set up at the cross-border level by countries with shared water resources, must be based on a clear strategy of sustainable financing with specific actions in investment and operations.
All these themes, treated in the different sessions, may seem at first sight to have nothing to do with the topic of water management or seem to concern only some aspects of it. Yet, we realize that the local scale is the fil rouge of all these reflections and actions seeking to strengthen or improve the quality and availability of water. The local scale indeed, is where the resource is and it is at this level that it must be managed if we want to take sustainable actions.
Supporting local actors to set up spaces for dialogue, strengthen their capacity to negotiate, to apply the principles of governance, to cooperate, to share the benefits of water, etc., these are the big challenges for the countries, for the basin organizations, and for the partners involved in the development process. In this context of climate change, only by addressing these issues will we be able to conserve and preserve water for the generations of today and those in the future.
These sessions supported my feeling that in the field of water management we must work at the same time on multiple scales to carry out the appropriate actions at the relevant levels, while ensuring the connectivity between these different levels is permanent and productive
This is what makes IUCN's BRIDGE project so relevant. It is located in different parts of the world, including the West and Central Africa region where we are working with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), with local actions in the Chari Logone transboundary sub-basin and with the Mano River Union (MRU) where local actions are carried out in the transboundary basins of Mano and Moa / Makona.
It was a very interesting week during which I’ve learned, talked and reflected a lot. I went back home with the conviction that only the combination between social, environmental, economic and good governance can be the basis for equitable and sustainable water management. Of course, I’m talking about strategic interventions in watersheds that cannot be done without the participation of communities and especially of women, who are at the center of local water use, and without training, awareness raising, communication and information-sharing in a climate of trust among the stakeholders involved.
I am also convinced that it is necessary to train the countries on the need for capacity building and on the benefits of cooperation and that IUCN's accompanying actions through projects or programs could be an example of information and knowledge sharing. IUCN can continue to support the actors involved at all levels to generate reliable knowledge in order to engage or strengthen the dialogue and capitalize on good practices to ensure the development of joint actions and sustainability in the use of shared natural resources.
Sankara Bassonon Begnakiré Sandrine is IUCN programme Officer, Regional Water and Wetlands Programme, West and Central Africa Regional Office, she can be reached via email at Sandrine.firstname.lastname@example.org