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As widespread droughts spark national emergencies in Southern Africa, Water Convention and partners convene in Zambia to strengthen transboundary water cooperation

On 29 February 2024 Zambia declared a National Crisis and Emergency regarding a drought gripping the country and which has decimated food and energy supply. Other Southern African countries have declared similar National Emergencies due to severe drought, including Zimbabwe in April. Severe droughts have also developed or recently intensified in regions including Western Europe, the Horn of Africa and South America.

Seeking to strengthen cooperative solutions to these pressing challenges, the Water Convention and its partners convened the workshop on'Transboundary Water Allocation, WEFE Nexus and Development of Agreements and other Arrangements: Supporting exchanges of lessons learned, good practices & practical tools' in Livingstone, Zambia on 15–16 April. The event was designed to support states, river basin and lake organizations, and other relevant institutions in sharing challenges, problem-solving, and exchanging good practices on water allocation agreements and other transboundary arrangements. The outcomes will be applicable within Southern Africa and regions facing similar challenges such asCentral Asiaand Western Europe.

Zambia's Minister of Water Development and Sanitation, Honourable Mike Elton Mposha MP,opened the workshop."As we gather here today, it is critical that we recognize our enormous responsibility to protect these shared water bodies for current and future generations,"he said."The challenges we face are multifaceted, ranging from competing water demands and climate change impacts to inadequate governance structures and environmental degradation. However, amidst these challenges, there are opportunities for collaboration, innovation, and transformative change. This is an important opportunity for Zambia and other SADC representatives and River Basin Organisations to learn and share best practices in transboundary water allocation, hydro-diplomacy and the water–energy–food–ecosystems nexus."In conclusion, he noted that the Zambian Cabinet, during one of its sittings in February 2024, approved accession to the Convention and Zambia aims to be a Party to the Convention in time for the10thMeeting of the Parties in Slovenia in October 2024.

The workshop was organized under the leadership of the Governments of Finland and Hungary, as co-lead Parties on theWater Convention's work on 'Water Allocation in a Transboundary Context'. Focus was squarely on the science-policy interface between allocation modelling, WEFE Nexus approach and developing flexible, 'climate-proof' and environmentally sustainable legal agreements and policies. Presenters and interactive group work sessions showcased up-to-date practices, novel approaches and showcased practical tools to support decision-makers, such as the Convention'sHandbook on Water Allocation in a Transboundary Context;Practical Guide on the Development of Agreements and Other Arrangements; andMethodology for assessing the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in transboundary basins and experiences from its application: synthesis.

More broadly, through this workshop the organizersaimed to assist participants in strengthening transboundary water cooperation to mitigate potential conflicts and contribute to supporting hydro-diplomacy and peace. Speaking in the high-level opening session of the Workshop, Finland's Special Envoy for Water, Mr. Antti Rautavaara, identified that"Water Allocation and Nexus approach may be one solution, among others, for future droughts, but also a solution for regional stability, integration and peace, which is why there is high demand for this workshop."

Funding and technical support for the workshop was provided by: Water Convention; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Finnish Environment Institute; Ministry of Water Development and Sanitation of Zambia; European Union; International Water Management Institute; and International Union for the Conservation (IUCN) Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE) Program. Additional technical partners included: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); CGIAR Initiative on NEXUS Gains; Northumbria University; and University College Cork.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
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