Namibia joins UN Water Convention

30th June 2023

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Namibia has become the first Southern African country, and the eighth in Africa, to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.

Namibia opens the door for more countries in the region to join the treaty aimed at mitigating water challenges across national borders.

With 153 countries worldwide sharing rivers, lakes and groundwater resources, accession to the United Nation’s (UN’s) Water Convention was opened to all UN Member States on March 1, 2016.

The convention now comprises 50 parties, while more than 20 countries, predominantly from across Africa and Latin America, are in the accession processes.

Nigeria and Iraq acceded earlier this year.

The Water Convention is seen as key for supporting sustainable development and preventing conflict over shared waters.

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, explained United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) executive secretary Olga Algayerova.

Namibia shares all its perennial rivers, as well as several significant transboundary groundwater reserves, with neighbouring countries and, as both a midstream and downstream country, transboundary water cooperation is critical for Namibia’s – and the region’s – water security and sustainable socioeconomic development.

“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,” said Namibia Agriculture, Water and Land Reform Minister Calle Schlettwein.

“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 use our shared freshwater resources.”

Namibia’s accession will help to consolidate the long-standing commitment to transboundary water cooperation in Southern Africa.

The country has ratified basin agreements and is a member State of basin organisations including the Okavango-Cubango River Commission shared with Angola and Botswana; the Orange-Senqu River Commission shared with South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho; the Zambezi Watercourse Commission 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 party to the 2000 Southern African Development Community’s Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses and to the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Watercourses Convention),” Schlettwein continued.

Namibia is one of two States in Africa to have all its transboundary freshwater bodies covered by operational management arrangements according to the national report submission for the second monitoring exercise in 2020 of Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 6.5.2, for which the UNECE and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation are co- custodian agencies. The third exercise is currently ongoing.

Earlier this year, Namibia also embarked on a two-year pilot twinning initiative with Finland, which is party to the Convention, to exchange experiences, build capacity and strengthen bilateral cooperation on transboundary water management. It is the first twinning of its kind between the two countries.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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