A Need for Equity and
- Water Resources in Southern Africa are both scarce and inherently
regional. Eleven of the SADC countries (excluding the Democratic Republic of Congo) share
water from around 15 river basins and it is estimated that in 20 to 30 years, 3 to 4
countries will face a serious shortage of water if nothing is done. There are also a
number of aggravating factors that compound this problem, such as a high population and
urbanization rate, a serious imbalance in rainfall, and a region that is prone to both
droughts and flooding.
- As a result, there is a need for a coordinated approach to achieve
both equitable and reasonable utilization, as well as preservation and conservation of
this scarce resource. In response to this, SADC countries have formulated the Water
Protocol to govern the process of distributing these shared water resources.
- An important provision of the protocol concerns the equitable and
reasonable use of regional waters. This provision relates to using and developing
watercourses by the member states to attain optimal and sustainable utilization thereof
and benefits therefrom, both by taking into account the interests of other states and in
ensuring that its in line with the protection of the watercourse. Regional
cooperation is also emphasised in the protocol, particularly in reference to the exchange
of important information for decision making and protecting the water resources.
- The maintenance of ecosystems in their natural conditions as well as
preserving the water quality are two more points the protocol covers, and on an
institutional level provision is made to create the necessary monitoring institutions. In
anticipation of potential conflicts among watercourse states a mechanism for conflict
resolution was also highlighted.
- All considered, the SADC Protocol and its regulations can only be
effective if they are translated into national laws and if national policies and
legislation are harmonised at the regional level.
Projects and Institutions
- The major ongoing activity related to shared watercourses management
is the ZACPRO6 which is part of the Zambezi River Action Plan. This project, which will
serve as a pilot for the SADC in implementing the Protocol, was initially set up with the
purpose of developing the Zambezi River System sustainably. At first it concentrated on
data and information collection but later found itself expanding into in depth sector
studies, development projections, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and development of
Integrated Water Resource Management.
- Another organisation, the Global Water Partnership (GWP), is a
recently formed network of international experts on water, who concentrate on translating
emerging global consensus on principles of water management into responsive and coherent
services to its member countries. A regional Technical Advisory Committee (SATAC) has been
formed and has further stressed the need for increased regional collaboration on water
resources management and information exchange to assist the implementation of the SADC
Water Protocol. It is anticipated that SATAC will play a pivotal role in coordinating
donor activity in the region.
- At the moment there are around 17 donors and multilateral agencies
funding water projects in individual SADC countries, and it is foreseen that they will
feed into the Water Protocol implementation. For this to occur, however, there will need
to be proper coordination of all their activities, as at present information on these
projects is not well shared among donors or with stakeholders, making identification of
gaps for further funding extremely difficult. Apart from identifying gaps, coordinating
these activities will also expose successes that can be replicated elsewhere in the
The Legal Framework
- The majority of SADC countries are currently in the process of
reviewing their legislation with regard to water, making this a good opportunity to
harmonise the various national water legislations.
- In this vein the national acts could also redefine the criteria which
ensures equitable use of water resources by all user groups. Use of water permits, rather
than water rights, and standardisation of tariffs for shared river systems will result in
equitable use and sustainable management of the water. The harmonisation of water acts
could also have important environmental benefits as consistent standards for water quality
and effluent discharge will allow a regional introduction of common permits and penalties
- The regional effort to harmonise national water laws should start
with the cataloguing of these laws to identify where amendments need to be made in order
to support protocol implementation. There are certain critical elements where uniformity
will be required, such as all watercourse states adopting the same water pricing policy,
which must include environmental costs. Environmental standards will also need to be
uniform, giving for instance protection to downstream states with regard to effluent
discharges. In addition a threshold downstream flow needs to be included as a legal
requirement to preserve ecosystems downstream of development projects. Compatible EIA
bills in the region are also imperative to assess the environmental impacts of development
projects on water course or impacts from external activities. Legalising the sharing of
important information will also be necessary as Member states for competitive reasons or
negligence may not adhere to the data sharing called for by the Protocol.
The Economic Framework
- The economic framework of the protocol should essentially strive to
maximise the benefits accruing to the riparian states by utilising mechanisms like Joint
Investment, Private Sector Investment and implementation of Water Demand Management. Joint
investment on infrastructure could save the region some money, as well as assisting the
poorer countries who otherwise would not be able to afford such outlays for infrastructure
at that stage in their countrys development. On the private sector side, it is
envisaged that business may be attracted to the tradability of water, particularly with
regards to the returns on investment accruing from the costs to consumers of the
transportation of water.
- Finally, Water Demand Management (WDM) through water re-use and
recycling, water use efficiency and new water supply options will also reduce demand for
water from conventional supply systems. The costs of implementing such systems are
obviously less than building new dams, thus making it an attractive option for countries
wishing to reduce their water development costs. It should therefore be considered a duty
for all relevant institutions to disseminate information on water demand management
through various campaigns, as well as replicating the best practices from the region and
elsewhere. To bring WDM into effect though, it is essential for the true value of water to
be determined, taking into account its value to tourism and ecosystems.
- A strategy that would also facilitate the efficient use of water on a
regional basis is that of identifying each countrys competitive advantage in growing
certain crops, which apart from promoting inter-regional trade will also ensure the most
efficient use of water in achieving food security for the region.
The Political Framework
- In many respects water problems in the region may be more political
than technical, especially in the case of shared river systems. The SADC should therefore
ensure that preparedness in dealing with these political issues is high on its agenda, and
that strong economies are somehow prevented from dominating the negotiations in these
instances of conflict resolution. It is further hoped that there will be more leadership
from SADC tribunals on communications and resolution of issues, with the role of
international legal bodies left as the last resort.
- The formation of new basin commissions and the support of existing
ones should also support the implementation of the Water Protocol, as long as these
commissions have clear Terms of Reference to guide their operations.
- The SADC region is recognised as having a deficiency of trained
lawyers in water affairs. Therefore there is a need to train more up so as to increase
negotiation skills in the region and ensuring that the weak economies are not prejudiced
by the strong ones.
- An even greater problem in the region though is one of political
instability, in many instances making it extremely difficult to ensure any security of
supply. This problem calls for a concerted effort to be made in the maintenance of peace
in the region through both dialogue and direct intervention, making sure at all times that
these actions do not perpetuate dictatorships.
- On the basin level too a political framework is required, where there
is a transparent process in which all riparian states can participate in all the planning
and management activities. Following on from this, community empowerment will also help
tremendously in instilling a spirit of ownership that will result in them monitoring and
enforcing national legislation.
- Ultimately though, all of these above points hinge on the various
SADC Governments being genuinely committed to the Protocol and willing to cooperate in the
implementation of all its provisions.
- Dr. Peter Pinas Zhou
- Director, EECG, Gaborone, Bostwana
The Convention to Combat Desertification
- The Second Conference of the Parties (COP2), was held in Dakar,
Senegal, from 30 November to 11 December 1998. The aim of the Dakar Conference was to
review the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD)
and the functioning of its institutional arrangements.
- Delegates met in Plenary, the Committee of the Whole (COW) and its
three informal negotiating groups and the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) to
discuss the items of the COPs agenda.
The Committee of the Whole
- A huge amount of time of the COW was devoted to administrative
decisions, which were not all resolved and many were held over to the agenda of the next
Conference of the Parties, which will be convened in Recife, Brazil, from 15 to 26
November 1999. COP3 will consider the implementation reports from Africa, the modalities
and activities of the Global Mechanism, the promotion and strengthening of relationships
with other Conventions and the arbitration and conciliation procedures.
The Committee on Science and
- The CST, which was constituted to advise Parties to the Convention,
established a panel of ten people from around the world to elaborate and discuss links
between traditional and modern knowledge in addressing desertification. During the closing
plenary, nominations for the ad hoc panel included Dr. Timm Hoffman from the National
Botanical Institute of South Africa. Other matters which received attention by the CST,
- - the evaluation of the Roster of Experts in terms of gender equity,
better representation of relevant disciplines, and increasing representation of experts
- - the continuation of a survey of existing networks, institutions,
agencies and bodies involved in the desertification debate;
- - the focusing on programmes that build on national/local capacities
to develop and use benchmarks and indicators;
- - the pursuance of potential areas of cooperation between the CCD and
other Conventions and organisations; and,
- - the priority issue for next year i.e. early warning systems in the
broadest sense, including water management and protection.
Dialogue with NGOs
- Two sessions of the Committee of the Whole were devoted to dialogues
with NGOs. The first session focused on issues related to traditional knowledge. The
second session concentrated on the process of developing National Action Programmes
(NAPs). Case studies served to inform the official delegates, most of whom had little or
no experience of the realities faced by rural communities and people.
The Biodiversity Forum
- This Forum was held parallel to the sessions of the COP2. The
participants recognised that the CCD has much to offer to the other UN Conventions,
especially if it is able to develop ways of balancing international, national and local
actions, as well as environmental and developmental objectives. The goal of such
coordination should be to provide and overarching framework under which partnerships can
be strengthened and pursued at all levels.
The Global Mechanism
- The Global Mechanism (GM), which was designed to provide financial
assistance for projects that address desertification, has failed to start operating on 1
January 1998 as called for at COP1. Many delegates expressed concern regarding this delay.
The Managing Director of the GM said it would take time before this Mechanism has a real
impact, given its limited resources. Moreover, delegates in Dakar were unable to adopt the
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CCD and the International Fund for
Agricultural Development (IFAD), the organisation which is supposed to administer the
Global Mechanism. The decision on the MOU concerning the modalities and administrative
operations of the GM were deferred to COP3.
- For the first time, Parties to the CCD reported on their activities
and programmes. Developed countries and multilateral institutions described their efforts
to promote projects and activities for combating desertification in developing countries
that are affected by dryland degradation.
- The need to engage all interested actors at all levels is standard
rhetoric for those engaged in the CCD process. Partnerships between a variety of actors
propel CCD implementation and dominated the scene at COP2 in Dakar. Intergovernmental
cooperation at the COP level is a prime area where partnerships must be operational if the
Convention is to be effectively implemented. The above events, as well as a special
segment, during which ministers, high-level government officials and representatives from
intergovernmental organisations addressed the ways and means to implement the CCD, served
as examples of effective partnerships at various levels.
- While COP2 decisions were not earth shattering, its deliberations
served to highlight areas and partnerships that need reinforcement and further open up
opportunities for more representation in the process.
- by Wilma Lutsch, Deputy-Director
- Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, South Africa
|Inter-parliamentary Round Table on Desertification
An inter-parliamentary Round Table was convened on December 7
at the invitation of the CCD Secretariat, the National Assembly of Senegal and the
Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Thirty-six parliamentarians from 21 countries came
together to discuss the contribution that legislators can make to the implementation of
the Convention and their role in heightening awareness of the desertification issue. Ms
Gwen Mahlangu, MP, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism and
member of GLOBE attended the Round Table.
- Participants at the round table highlighted the link between
desertification and the fight against poverty and other socio-economic concerns, as well
as the link between land degradation and long-term sustainable development.
- MPs present also stressed the need to incorporate traditional wisdom
about desertification into modern knowledge. Calls were also made for greater cooperation
between the North and the South, between the "rich minority" and the "poor
majority", as well as for debt swapping strategies as a financial alternative for
implementing environmental management and protection in developing countries, particularly
for the least developed nations.
- At the end of the meeting parliamentarians adopted the Dakar
Declaration in which they affirm their commitment to contribute fully to the
implementation of the CCD by:
- - supporting legislation to fight desertification;
- - promoting policies and institutional frameworks that will promote
cooperation among affected countries;
- - supporting the strengthening of social policies and education,
health and public awareness;
- - subscribing to the initiatives of agencies, donors and the civil
society to increase financial assistance in order to promote sustainable development in
- Parliamentarians also issued an urgent appeal to the international
business and financial community to support the mobilisation of financial resources for
the fight against desertification. They equally urged the academic institutions, the
scientific community and research centers to share their knowledge and expertise and to
provide technical assistance to those countries affected by desertification and land
- The Dakar Declaration was adopted by the Closing Plenary of the CCD
on 11 December 1998.
For further information on the Convention to Combat
Desertification, please contact the GLOBE Office in Cape Town. You can also access the CCD
Website at: http://www.unccd.ch/