The event is co-organised by the Permanent Representation of Senegal to the United Nations Office in Geneva, the Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the UN and other International Organisations in Geneva and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
One hundred and fifty-three countries share transboundary waters, which account for more than 60% of the world's freshwater flow. In Africa, 90% of the water is located in sixty-three transboundary basins on the continent. International cooperation in the management of shared water resources, whether surface or groundwater, is therefore essential to ensure the economic and social development of the countries bordering the region's shared basins and to help prevent conflicts.
However, the majority of transboundary basins are not covered by an operational water cooperation arrangement. The 2020 monitoring exercise for SDG indicator 6.5.2, carried out by UNECE and UNESCO as the lead agencies, shows that only 24 of the 153 countries sharing transboundary waters have all their transboundary basins covered by operational arrangements.
The fundamental role of transboundary water cooperation for peace and sustainable development has been reaffirmed both at global and regional level, including in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by the UN Security Council, in the African Ministers' Council on Water Strategy 2018-2030, and in the EU Council Conclusions on Water in EU External Action adopted in 2021.
The 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) provides a unique intergovernmental framework under the United Nations to support cooperative development and prevent conflicts over shared waters. Since the global opening of the Water Convention in 2016, five African countries including Chad, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Togo have joined the Water Convention. Several other states have officially expressed their interest in becoming members and are engaged in the process. The EU fully supports such an extension of the Water Convention.
The momentum towards accession to the Water Convention in Africa is a very promising step towards the UN Water Conference in 2023. Indeed, the UN Water Conference will provide an opportunity to mobilise all relevant actors to accelerate actions for the implementation of sustainable development goals in the field of integrated water resources management, particularly in the area of transboundary cooperation. However, the role of transboundary cooperation in the 2023 Conference still needs clarification.
Moreover, cooperation was one of the four priorities of the ninth World Water Forum, which was held from 21 to 26 March 2022 in Dakar. Organised for the first time in sub-Saharan Africa, the World Water Forum was recognised by the UN General Assembly as a preparatory stage for the UN Water Conference in 2023. The Dakar Declaration reaffirmed the urgency of stepping up water diplomacy efforts to promote cooperation and achieve SDG 6.
The overall objective of the event is to promote transboundary cooperation and raise awareness on the Water Convention in Africa and the opportunities offered in view of the 2023 UN Water Conference. The event will also provide an opportunity to discuss the outcomes of the Dakar World Water Forum.
The specific objectives are as follows:
- Promote good practice experiences in Africa and Europe regarding cross-border cooperation;
- To discuss the instruments offered by the Water Convention on promoting cooperation on transboundary waters;
- Present the results of the World Water Forum in Dakar;
- Discuss how to promote transboundary cooperation in view of the 2023 UN Water Conference