Namibia becomes first Southern African nation to officially join UN Water Convention
Namibia has become the first Southern African nation and the 8th country in Africa to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UN Water Convention), according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
The country’s accession will help to consolidate the long-standing commitment to transboundary water cooperation in Southern Africa, as it shares all its perennial rivers with neighbouring countries and several significant transboundary groundwater reserves.
The Minister of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Hon Calle Schlettwein, commented: “Transboundary water cooperation stands as the cornerstone of our nation’s water security, and I firmly believe that through this accession, Namibia will not only reap substantial benefits from its participation in this global legal framework but will also have the opportunity to engage with fellow members in promoting the principles of peace and equity in transboundary water sharing. The principles and regulations of the Water Convention harmoniously align with Namibia’s policies on transboundary water cooperation and integrated water resources management, as we collaborate alongside other nations to safeguard and sustainably utilize our shared freshwater resources.”
According to the UNECE, Namibia is one of only two states in Africa to have all its transboundary freshwater bodies covered by operational management arrangements according to the national report submission for the 2nd monitoring exercise in 2020 of SDG Indicator 6.5.2, for which UNECE and UNESCO are co-custodian agencies. The third exercise is currently ongoing.
“As an effective global legal and intergovernmental framework and platform for cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters, including groundwater, accession to the Water Convention can enable support by the community of Parties, experience-sharing with basins and countries worldwide, facilitate access to financing and raise the country profile at the international level on transboundary water,” UNECE commented.
However, UNECE Executive Secretary, Ms. Olga Algayerova, said that, following the accession of Nigeria and Iraq earlier this year, Namibia’s joining demonstrates the Water Convention’s importance as a vital means of supporting sustainable development and preventing conflict over shared waters.
“I warmly congratulate Namibia on its accession to the UN Water Convention as called upon by the United Nations Secretary-General to all UN Member States. As the first Party in Southern Africa, Namibia opens the door to more countries in the region joining this unique treaty to help address water challenges across national borders, which is especially crucial due to rising climate change impacts,” she added.
Namibia has ratified basin agreements and is a member state of basin organizations, inclusive of the Okavango-Cubango River Commission shared with Angola and Botswana, including the Orange-Senqu River Commission shared with South Africa, Botswana, and Lesotho, the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) with all other riparian states of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and the Cuvelai Watercourse Commission with Angola.
At a regional level, Namibia is a party to the 2000 Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses and to the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Watercourses Convention).
Accordingly, as a global legal and intergovernmental framework and platform for cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters, including groundwater, accession to the Water Convention can enable support by the community of Parties, experience-sharing with basins and countries worldwide, facilitate access to financing and raise the country profile at the international level on transboundary water.
Following its accession to the UN Water Convention on 8 June 2023, the country embarked on a two-year pilot twinning Initiative with Finland, a party to the Convention, to exchange experiences, build capacity and strengthen bilateral cooperation on transboundary water management. Besides, it is the first Twinning between the two countries.
Open to accession by all UN Member States since 1 March 2016, the Convention now counts 50 parties. At present, more than 20 countries around the world are in the accession processes, predominantly from across Africa and Latin America. About 153 countries worldwide share rivers, lakes, and groundwater resources.