Sierra Leone shares four major rivers with the neighbouring countries of Guinea and Liberia, including the Great Scarcies, Little Scarcies and Moa shared with Guinea, and Mano River shared with Liberia. All provide crucial freshwater that sustains ecosystems, livelihoods and the well-being of communities.
In this context, Sierra Leone has confirmed its intention to accelerate the accession process to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) which constitutes a unique global legal and intergovernmental framework for the sustainable management of transboundary water resources, serviced by UNECE. Along with the formulation of a road map to finalize the accession process by Sierra Leone, a high-level commitment for Sierra Leone’s accession was the main outcome of the National workshop organized on 23-24 January 2024 by the Ministry of Water Resources and Sanitation through the National Water Resources Management Agency (NWRMA) in partnership with the Water Convention Secretariat.
The National Workshop detailed the obligations under the Convention, the benefits that Sierra Leone can derive from its accession and possible challenges, as well as the next steps in the process. Funded by the European Union, it brought together over 70 participants from different ministries, multi-sectoral technical committees in charge of natural resources management, representatives of the local transboundary committees, the members of parliament responsible for water and the environment, regional organizations, academia and civil society, among others.
As illustrated by the result of the reporting exercise measuring progress to achieve SDG indicator 6.5.2 on transboundary cooperation, Sierra Leone made important progress over the last few years, with tangible evidence like the creation of transboundary water committees, with support from the Mano River Union. But much more is needed to operationalize cooperation over shared basins. Sonja Koeppel, Secretary of the Water Convention, said: “The Water Convention can help in this regard. The Water Convention is an effective global legal and intergovernmental framework and platform aimed to support cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters, including groundwaters. Accession can enable Sierra Leone to benefit support by the community of Parties”
According to the Minister of Water Resources and Sanitation, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Dr. Sao-Kpato Hannah Max-Kyne, Sierra Leone has made significant efforts in water resources management, and accession to the UN Water Conventions would demonstrate the country’s commitment for furthering its efforts in line with the international best practices.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Mr. Jiwoh Abdulai, stressed the importance of transboundary water cooperation for biodiversity and ecosystems protection. As such, accession to the global Water Conventions will support the country’s objective in climate change resilience and ecosystem restoration.
The First Counsellor of the Delegation of the European Union to Sierra Leone, Mr. Holger Rommen, acknowledged Sierra Leone’s initiative to join the global Water Conventions to enhance transboundary water cooperation and highlighted the importance given by the EU to transboundary water cooperation as a tool for peace, security and stability.
United Nations Resident Coordinator for Sierra Leone, Ms. Seraphine Wakana, stated that “as we navigate the challenges posed by climate change and increasing demands on water resources, it is imperative that we work collaboratively to implement the principles and objectives outlined in the Convention. With the Convention, we can create a foundation for lasting peace and stability in our region by fostering cooperation and mutual understanding”.
The national workshop followed the approval by the Government cabinet of accession to the Water Convention in April 2023.