Botswana accelerates progress on Water Convention accession and shared river agreements

Botswana accelerates progress on Water Convention accession and shared river agreements

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Almost all of Botswana’s territory sits within transboundary rivers basins. Although landlocked, Botswana is therefore a ‘water-linked’ country. The Cubango-Okavango, Limpopo, Orange-Senqu and Zambezi Rivers all provide crucial freshwater arteries that supply people and nature, including the Okavango Delta, a major tourist destination for the country. 

In this context, Botswana has confirmed its intention to accelerate the accession process to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) which constitutes a unique global legal and intergovernmental framework for the sustainable management of transboundary water resources, serviced by UNECE.  

Along with the formulation of a concrete road map to guide Botswana’s accession process, a high-level commitment for Botswana’s accession was the main outcome of the National workshop related to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, organized on 25-26 October 2023 by the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs in partnership with UNECE and the European Union.  

The National Workshop detailed the obligations under the Convention, the benefits that Botswana can derive from its accession and possible challenges, as well as the next steps in the process. Funded by the European Union, it brought together over 50 participants from different ministries, basin and regional organizations, academia and civil society, among others.   

As illustrated by the result of the reporting exercise measuring progress to achieve SDG indicator 6.5.2 on transboundary cooperation, Botswana is one out of two countries in Africa that has all its shared water covers by an operational arrangement (the other being its co-riparian neighbour, Namibia). However, transboundary cooperation requires continuous efforts in in supporting sustainable management and development of shared basins' water resources to meet natural and man-made threats. Ms. Sonja Koeppel, Secretary of the Water Convention, said: "the Water Convention is a concrete and effective global legal and intergovernmental framework and platform to support cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters, including ground waters.”   

Botswana has taken numerous measures to promote cooperation with neighbouring states in the management and development of its shared waters, in accordance with the provisions of international law, according to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Lands and Water Affairs, Dr. Kekgonne Baipoledi. The country is a party to basin agreements and is a member state of basin organisations including the Limpopo Watercourse Commission (LIMCOM), Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM), and Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM). Botswana is a party to the 2000 Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses. “All of this demonstrates the strength and trust that has been achieved by transboundary cooperation among our riparian states and hence it has to be nurtured”, noted Dr Baipoledi. 

Accession to the Water Convention will enable support by the community of Parties, experience-sharing with basins and countries worldwide, and assistance for cooperation, including the creation of aquifer basin arrangements, applying the Water Energy Food Ecosystem Nexus in transboundary basins and support to climate resilient water investments in transboundary projects.  

Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Botswana and SADC, Ms. Petra Pereyra, acknowledged Botswana’s initiatives in the sphere of transboundary water cooperation and highlighted the importance given by the EU to transboundary water cooperation as a tool for peace, security and stability.  

United Nations Resident Coordinator for Botswana, Mr. Zia Choudhury stated that “as the UN in Botswana, we fully support the Government of Botswana’s plans to accede to the Water Convention and reaffirm our commitment to supporting the Government in sustainable management of all water resources and active engagement in regional and transboundary initiatives that promote attainment of all SDGs.”  

Source :https://unece.org/media/news/384710

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