The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) Regional Programme Energy Security and Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, hosted a groundbreaking side event during Africa Climate Week.
This influential gathering served to underscore the paramount importance of water diplomacy and robust transboundary management, coming at a critical juncture when the Horn of Africa region grapples with the devastating consequences of successive droughts, impacting the lives and livelihoods of over 36 million people, with a staggering 20 million facing emergency levels of food insecurity. The crisis has led to limited access to water and triggered displacement and conflicts borne out of drought-related hardships.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that three-quarters of the region’s population resides within river basins and over aquifers that transcend international boundaries, highlighting the pressing need for a regional approach to water management.
In recognition of these challenges, the event emphasized the imperative of inclusive and pragmatic approaches on a regional scale. By showcasing instances of successful state collaboration in water resource management, the gathering shed light on how cooperation can ensure that water, a shared and precious resource, becomes a catalyst for shared responsibility and understanding.
Dr. Guleid Artan, Director of the IGAD Climate Prediction and Application Center (ICPAC), emphasized the significance of regional cooperation. He stated, “ICPAC provides data for early warning systems using the latest technology,” underscoring the critical role of science in building resilience.
Dr. Alexandros Makarigakis, Director and Representative of the UNESCO Office for East Africa, stressed the importance of sustainable groundwater use. He aptly compared groundwater to money, stating, “You have to think of groundwater the same way you use money. If you take something from your savings account, you must ensure that at some point, you will be able to save money again to refill your account. The same holds true for groundwater. If you take away more and more water, there will be no water left at some point.”
Transboundary water resource management often faces challenges such as power imbalances between upstream and downstream countries and the absence of robust frameworks for sustainable cooperation. Water stress and insecurity can also strain relations in the region. Elizabeth Carabine from the Office of the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa and Dr Kyungmee Kim, Researcher on Climate Change and Risk from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, both emphasized the pivotal role that water diplomacy can play in fostering peace and cooperation in the Horn of Africa.