African Basin Organizations Consultative Meeting Pre-Session Event (24-25 October 2011, Bangkok) Bangkok Declaration of African Basin Organizations
BANGKOK DECLARATION OF AFRICAN BASIN ORGANIZATIONS
We express our deep sympathy to the Government and the people of our host country – Thailand – in view of the severe floods occurring at this moment.
Water in Africa takes on an entire different dimension and we believe in the continent’s leading voice in improving the governance of freshwater resources overall.
This pre-session consultative meeting is a unique and timely opportunity to discuss the particular environmental challenges faced by the African continent and thereby by basin organizations like the ones we represent.
Basin organizations (BOs) are vital constituents of the international environment governance system that contribute immensely towards the green economy. This meeting created a strong conviction among us that we need a continuous process to discuss environmental challenges and opportunities such as this meeting and the First International Environment Forum for Basin Organizations.
The following key messages have been adopted providing an African perspective on the four themes framing the First International Environment Forum for Basin Organizations:
ECOSYSTEMS AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
- Ecosystems provide invaluable services to livelihoods and economies. They depend on water to function properly. Ecosystems are key to ensure water security. BOs should articulate this understanding.
- Water has an economic value. It is important to translate ecosystem services into business opportunities to attract investment to support conservation of the water resources and related ecosystems in the basin.
- BOs are managers of ecosystems of global significance. Hence there is a need for a paradigm shift that supports the adoption of basin wide planning. BOs provide a unique platform for creating synergies in financing major water resource management and development activities which might be too expensive or uneconomical to be borne by one country. In order to ensure sustainability there is a need to find innovative funding sources and sustainable funding models, such as paying for ecosystem services and trust funds. Country contributions therefore need to be progressively increased by way of demonstrating long term commitments.
- In many African basins there are critical biodiversity hot spots of international significance, such as wildlife habitats and seasonal migration corridors, which bear competing and uncoordinated sectoral demands. BOs should promote coordination with relevant sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, etc.).
- Fair and equitable utilization of water resources to meet Africa’s food security. Investing in irrigated agriculture in basins will enhance food security, particularly in the sub-regions with low rainfall.
- BOs are in a unique position to underscore the interdependences among ecosystem services, biodiversity and food security.
- BOs provide a critical platform for maintaining ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation at the basin level.
- BOs have important roles in the provision of adequate potable water and the achievement of MDGs.
ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE
- Climate change is already having adverse impacts on African water resources and related livelihoods as illustrated by the example of the Lake Chad which drives home the need for basin level coordinated action to protect key environmental assets.
- In order to adapt to climate change effectively, it is important to provide BOs with a permanent and strong legal and institutional framework to enable them manage freshwater resources across borders. BOs can provide such framework.
- BOs can provide a platform for managing natural disasters and climate variability (in particular in the context of a changing climate) through conservation of natural infrastructure and development of appropriate engineering investments. In this respect, the effects of climate change on African Small Island Developing States need to be addressed in a particular manner.
- BOs can highlight the importance of shared aquifers and groundwater recharge for climate change adaptation, especially in a transboundary context. There is a need to integrate groundwater in water resource management as an adaptation measure for climate change effects.
- One of the ecosystem services provided by freshwater bodies is carbon sequestration. BOs therefore need to be empowered to access the carbon market.
- BOs need to be knowledge driven institutions. Their decisions should be supported by the best available data and information. Hence, BOs need to enhance their capacities to generate relevant basin specific data, information and build knowledge base and scientific tools.
- Global Climate Models (GCMs) need to be downscaled to specific basin level in order to develop appropriate (tailored) adaptation and mitigation policies and measures. Data and information at global, regional, sub-basin, and national levels need to be available and accessed in order to generate and, as needed, build the appropriate knowledge base that makes adaptation to climate chnage possible.
- Wherever possible, BOs should leverage existing knowledge management and research institutions instead of creating new ones.
ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS
- Domestication of international commitments indicated in relevant MEAs is a challenge. BOs can promote the integration of environmental concerns into national water related legislation.
- BOs can also play an important role in harmonizing water resource management related policy and legislation in countries sharing a basin, such as cumulative impacts and transboundary EIAs. In particular, cross-sectoral implications of water laws need to be harmonized within the legal framework at national and basin levels.
- BOs can play a critical role in the promotion and understanding of international and regional water laws targeting key actors, such as politicians, legal advisors, magistrates, and members of parliament.
- BOs can be meeting points for strengthening the implementation of and finding synergies between relevant international agreements, such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
- The 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses is already serving as a guidepost and informing the development of regional water agreements (e.g. SADC Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses). BOs are in a unique position to promote this process. There is a need for an agency to champion the implementation of the 1997 UN Convention and the ILC Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, probably appointing relevant UN agencies, in particular UNEP and UNESCO, to take up that role.
- Good governance and political stability are critical to ensuring sustainable access to water.
- BOs should gain ownership of internal decision processes through political and financial commitment of partner states. A genuine agenda is crucial in building political will and attracting investment in the basin.
- BOs need to make themselves relevant and visible in international environmental processes, such as the Rio +20 Earth Summit and the Seventeenth session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC which will take place in November 2011 in South Africa.
- BOs are key players in transboundary water management and should engage increasingly with regional political bodies, such as AMCOW. BOs could be the operational ground for AMCOW policy decisions.
- ANBO and AMCOW need to take a coordinated role in unifying a message from the continent. These institutions should provide support BOs in participating to the political dialogue.
- The entry points into international processes are BOs’ specific experiences on the ground. This process needs to be driven by the BO’s agenda and a clear understanding that BOs are key constituencies in the international environmental agenda.
- BOs should promote integrated management and development of the basin as a whole.
- BOs need to become a platform for negotiating trade-offs and for facilitating vertical and horizontal integration across borders. BOs can play important roles in promoting regional cooperation throughout the basin and use its bio-capacity more efficiently.
- Transboundary water resources can provide opportunities for generating benefits beyond sharing of water. BOs will have to play a critical role in realizing the full potential of hydropower for economic development.
- In order to become stronger counterparts for international partners, BOs need to focus on their strengths and bring them to the table.
- There is great opportunity for BOs to upscale the science- policy interface and bridge the gap between them.
- Commonly owned structures are more powerful tools to prevent conflicts than unilateral development, capacity building and small workshops. BOs should put in place mechanisms of advocacy to bring basin issues to the attention of higher level representatives within the region.
- BOs should strengthen the capacity of both institutions and individuals for improved efficiency in the management of the basin and promote stakeholders’ participation in the decision making process. Stakeholders’ participation should be issue driven and help generating wealth from the use and conservation of water resources within the basin.