By Moez Allaoui, WaterLex |

In collaboration with the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the African Network for Basins Organization (ANBO) on 11 September 2014, WaterLex organized a regional workshop on the topic of cooperative relationships among transboundary water-management institutions in North Africa.

The management and protection of water resources in North Africa are significant issues in the cooperative relationships between the region’s states because the area’s arid and semi-arid climates impose severe natural constraints. Indeed, rainfall is often insufficient during certain seasons and in some areas. Year-to-year irregularities of rainy periods can generate lengthy cycles of drought. This natural instability has an impact on access to shared water resources.

Moreover, the situation is aggravated by human-induced phenomena such as climate change. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized the impact of climate change on water resources and the risk of water scarcity. Factors which have an impact on the availability of water include warmer temperatures as well as reduced rainfall in some areas (for instance north of the Atlas Mountain or along the Algerian and Tunisian Mediterranean coasts). In addition to these aspects, the IPCC report mentions population growth, urbanisation, increased use of water resources to meet food demands, and changes in territorial management.

North African states have demonstrated the willingness to cooperate on transboundary water resources and have established joint mechanisms on some basins. Their mandate focuses primarily on exchanging and sharing information. One example of this is the Consultation Mechanism for the North-Western Sahara Aquifer System (SASS) established in 2002 by Algeria, Libya and Tunisia with the support of the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (SSO). Another important source of water is the Nubian Aquifer, particularly in Western Egypt. The Terms of Reference for the Monitoring and Exchange of Groundwater Information of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, adopted by Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan in 2000, provides for the exchange of information.

Several transboundary watercourses, however, lack mechanisms for institutional cooperation, such as the Medjerda River shared by Algeria and Tunisia. For this there is only a joint technical commission, the “Algero-Tunisian technical Commission on Water and the Environment,” created in 1984 to address issues related to assessing shared water resources, controlling pollution and exchanging information on water development programs. This Commission meets on an ad hoc basis.

The need to find common principles for the management and protection of transboundary water resources is acknowledged in universally applicable instruments, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses of 1997 (the 1997 New York Convention) and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes of 1992 (the 1992 Helsinki Convention), adopted under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). This convention has been open to all member states of the UN since February 2013. The Draft articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, adopted by the International Law Commission in 2008, and the 2012 Model Provisions on Transboundary Groundwaters of the UNECE provide for the creation of joint transboundary groundwater bodies to facilitate their integrated management with surface waters. Libya, Morocco and Tunisia are parties to the 1997 New York Convention.

In order to reinforce cooperation on transboundary water basins, the European Union launched the project “Strengthening Institutions for Transboundary Water Management in Africa” (SITWA) in 2012. Hosted by the Organisation for the Development of the Senegal River (OMVS), SITWA aims to support the development of a holistic approach to water management. Collaborative management of these resources should advance the socio-economic development of African populations by taking into account local knowledge. More specifically, SITWA is to further the consolidation of ANBO into a sustainable and influential organisation that will become a pillar of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). Its program should be implemented and its technical assistance provided through the Regional Economic Communities (REC).

A first project within the strategic framework (vision, mission, objectives) was discussed during the meeting of ANBO’s Coordination Bureau, which took place in Abuja on 16 April 2014. A second project was discussed at a meeting of the SITWA project’s Steering Committee, which took place in Dakar on 29 May 2014.

It was decided that the elaboration of this strategy would be supported by regional consultations to be held in the five African regions. These consultations will focus on the participatory design of the detailed five-year action plan. The workshop of 11 September 2014 constituted the consultation for North Africa.

The workshop was intended for representatives of river basin organisations, national authorities of the ministries responsible for the management and protection of water resources in North Africa, and members of the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). Representatives of regional economic commissions and regional organisations, as well as experts and professionals involved in the management and protection of transboundary freshwater resources in North Africa, also attended.

The workshop aimed at supporting the governance of the ANBO by elaborating its 10-year strategy and its detailed five-year action plan. More specifically, the workshop sought to identify priority actions to be undertaken in the North Africa region in order to establish and strengthen institutional mechanisms for the management of shared water resources in the four following strategic areas:

  • Area 1: Strengthening the ANBO’s institutional capacity, capacity to mobilise resources, technical capacity, and knowledge-sharing capacity;
  • Area 2: Strengthening the institutional framework of basin organisations;
  • Area 3: Strengthening basin organisations’ planning capacity, capacity to mobilise resources, and implementation capacity;
  • Area 4: Strengthening the capacity of basin organisations to manage data, information and knowledge.

These actions will be used to design a five-year action plan for ANBO that will take into consideration the specific characteristics of the North Africa region.

Photo above, left to right: Dr. Nehal Adel (MWRI- Egypt), Lutfi Ali Madi (General Executive Director of NSAS), Iakovos Ganoulis (UNESCO), Hayet Ben Mansour ( DGRE- Tunisia), Ghofran Trabelsi (WWF), Khaled Abu Zeid (CEDARE).

Moez Allaoui is Legal Desk Senior Advisor at WaterLex. Photos by Moez Allaoui.

WL Tunis Workshop 3

Left to right: Dr. Anthi Brouma (GWP-Med), Dr. Nehal Adel (MWRI- Egypt), Lutfi Ali Madi (General Executive Director of NSAS).

WL Tunis Workshop 1

Right to left: Arezki Ould Amara (ANRH- Algeria), Abdelkader Dodo (OSS), Khalil Bahri (SASS), Khatim Kharaz (Executive Secretary of OSS), Sidi Mohamed Hachemi (Morrocco).

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WaterLex is an international public interest development organization and membership association based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a UN-Water Partner with UN ECOSOC special consultative status. Its mission is to develop sustainable solutions based on human rights to improve water governance worldwide, particularly in regard to consistent water law and policy frameworks. It works with an alliance of interested parties to improve water-governance frameworks, bringing them in line with country obligations under international human rights law. The interested parties are individuals and groups working in government (diplomatic missions), academia (professors of law, researchers), bilateral cooperation (water management advisors), the judiciary (high/supreme courts judges), the UN system (UN-Water family members), and civil society (NGOs that work on water issues). WaterLex works in partnership with 13 universities to continuously enrich the content of the WaterLex Legal Database. The organisation is funded by grants and project financing from public agencies, foundations, private gifts, and in-kind contributions. Established in 2010, when the human right to water was recognised by the UN, the organisation has a secretariat in Geneva with nine staff members, a supervisory board of directors, and a large pool of members and expert advisors. It is an official partner of the Global Water Partnership, UNDP Cap-Net, UNDP GWS, UNEP Global Wastewater Initiative, and UNECE, and a member of the board of the Swiss Water Partnership.