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Zimbabwe fast-tracks progress on UN Water Convention accession, aiming to accrue multiple benefits

Zimbabwe Water Convention national workshop

Zimbabwe, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, lies entirely within a total of five transboundary river basins (Buzi, Limpopo, Pungwe, Save and Zambezi) and one international lake (Kariba) while the number of transboundary aquifers is yet to be ascertained. These transboundary basins create socio-economic, environmental and political interdependencies between countries, making cooperation over them crucial.  

In this context, Zimbabwe confirmed during a national workshop its intention to accelerate the accession process to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UN Water Convention) which constitutes a unique global legal and intergovernmental framework for the sustainable management of transboundary water resources, serviced by UNECE. Zimbabwe’s Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, & Rural Development, Mr. Vangelis Peter Haritatos, reiterated the aim “to propel forward the process towards Zimbabwe’s accession to the UN global water conventions which will enable Zimbabwe to accrue multiple benefits in transboundary water resources management”. 

The national workshop, organized on 17-18 June 2024 in Harare, discussed both the UN Water Convention, adopted in 1992, and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UN Watercourses Convention) adopted in 1997, collectively referred to as the ‘UN global water conventions’. It was an opportunity for Zimbabwe to detail the obligations under both conventions, the benefits it can derive from accession, possible challenges, as well as the next steps in the process. The Deputy Minister reaffirmed “the Government’s readiness and commitment to the accession of the UN global water conventions” highlighting that “Zimbabwe intends to join both conventions on the basis of their compatibility and complementarity.” 

Bringing together over 60 participants from different ministries, basin and regional organizations, academia and civil society, among others, the national workshop unpacked how the UN Water Conventions will add value to the many existing transboundary water cooperation initiatives to which Zimbabwe is already a part of.  

Zimbabwe is a party to several basin agreements and a member State of the associated river basin organisations, including BUPUSACOM, LIMCOM, ZAMCOM, representatives of which also took part in the discussions. Zimbabwe is also a party to the 2000 Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses. The recent results of the 3rd reporting exercise measuring progress to achieve SDG indicator 6.5.2 on transboundary water cooperation (2023) further demonstrate Zimbabwe’s commitment to strengthen transboundary cooperation over increasingly scarce shared water resources, improving from having 69.90% of all its shared basins covered by operational agreements for cooperation in 2020, to 90.4% in 2023. Despite strong progress, challenges were also highlighted, especially with regards to data collection and management and groundwater management. 

The notable momentum towards accession to the UN Water Convention in Southern Africa - with Namibia as the first Party in the region following its accession in 2023; and Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania currently in accession processes and Malawi having indicated its readiness to start the process - creates the enabling conditions for other countries to join and maximize the relevance and usefulness of the Water Conventions and the related tools. As highlighted by the Deputy Minister, with its upcoming accession, “ Zimbabwe is sending a tone to other countries in the region which may help them decide on acceding to the conventions”. 

Recognised by the Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Zimbabwe, Mr. Jobst von Kirchmann, as a “milestone moment” for Zimbabwe’s initiatives in the sphere of transboundary water cooperation, highlighting also the importance given by the EU to transboundary water cooperation as a tool for peace, security and stability, the workshop paved the way for promising work to strengthen transboundary water cooperation and management at national and regional level. As such, implementing the Water Convention will build on the existing initiatives and work already undertaken by Zimbabwe and in collaboration with relevant technical and financial partners.  

In this regard, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Zimbabwe, Mr. Edward Kallon, reaffirmed the UN’s “commitment to supporting the Government in sustainable management of all water resources and active engagement in regional and transboundary initiatives that promote attainment of all SDGs.”  

The workshop was organized under the European Union project "Promoting accession to the Water Convention", which aims to support accession to and implementation of the Water Convention, thereby strengthening transboundary water cooperation and the sustainable and peaceful management of shared water resources. 

Countries: Zimbabwe

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