UN Agencies, Partners Support Water Cooperation in Africa

7 September 2017: When water becomes scarce in Sudan, pastoralists migrate along traditionally recognized routes to access water for their livestock, but increased water stress and competition with agriculture threatens longstanding cooperation arrangements. The EU is supporting pastoralists’ access to water along their seasonal migration routes, through a project funded through UN Environment. Meanwhile, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and the Sahara and Sahel Observatory are supporting cooperation on the sharing of groundwater resources in Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, especially in relation to the North-West Sahara Aquifer System – an area of more than one million square kilometers.

Pastoralists in Sudan herd camels and sheep in arid conditions that receive less than 18 days of rain annually. Seasonal migration is a survival strategy. To avoid pastoralists coming into conflict with farmers and local people, the EU-UN Environment project is re-vegetating pastoral grasslands, marking traditional routes and maintaining existing water infrastructure such as pumps and dams. The project is also organizing communities to meet with migrant pastoralists to discuss cooperation on accessing water resources, supported by SOS Sahel, a national NGO in Sudan. The EU funding comes from its ‘Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace.’

In North Africa, the UNECE and partners organized a workshop on the North-West Sahara Aquifer System (NWSAS), for government officials from Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. The two-day workshop took place in July 2017 in Algiers, Algeria, drawing more than 50 participants to discuss an assessment of the shared groundwater resource and the existing Coordination Mechanism of the NWSAS. Participants considered the impact of the water-energy-food nexus on groundwater demand. They called for urgent monitoring of available water resources, adopting water pricing measures, and rethinking economic development to favor less water-intensive activities. The workshop organizers are currently preparing an intersectoral study on this subject.

The UNECE highlighted the value of its Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (the Water Convention), which opened in 2016 for signature by countries beyond Europe. The agency noted that the Water Convention’s provisions can support countries in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, by facilitating transboundary cooperation for water resources management. The Sustainable Development Goal on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) calls for, by 2030, the implementation of integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation.

[UN Environment Press Release] [UN Water Web Page on Cooperation Between Algeria, Libya and Tunisia] [UNECE Press Release]



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