17.07.2017 - UNESCO Office in Nairobi

Linking Africa and Climate Change, advancing on the International Hydrological Programme in Africa

Participants of the IHP Programme meeting/UNESCO

The Hydrological Programme (IHP) National committee members and focal points from 25 countries attended the sixth African regional committee meeting at Porth Elizabeth, South Africa, from 12 to 14 July 2017 to discuss and share the progress achieved by countries to adress Africa water challenges.

Latest data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change with direct consequences on people, their livelihoods and economic development. Economies of African countries and livelihoods of its people are greatly dependent on natural resources and therefore vulnerable to climate variability and change. Against the background of consecutive seasons of drought in East, South and Western African countries, the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) National Committee members and focal points from 25 countries attended the sixth African regional committee meeting at Port Elizabeth, South Africa between 12-14 July 2017.

The meeting gathered over 50 representatives from 25 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo-Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Five UNESCO Regional Offices from Africa jointly with Secretariat of UNESCO-IHP supported this meeting and the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Government of South Africa, hosted the sixth Africa IHP Committee meeting.

The organization every two years of regional meeting of IHP Africa national committees started in 2006. The regional platform provides IHP National Committees in Africa to discuss and share the progress achieved by countries to address Africa water challenges. All participating countries submitted their IHP national activities.

During the meeting, UNESCO IHP developed and presented a Water Information Network System (IHP-WINS) which is an open source and open access platform that combines geolocalized data. This data base serves as a global reference in the design and support of operations, management, and decision support functions for sound water resources governance as well in monitoring and implementing the Sustainable Development Goal to "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" (SDG6). This data base was introduced to African IHP Committee to use it for their monitoring as well contribute the national data sets for regional monitoring (http://en.unesco.org/ihp-wins)

Participants expressed their concerns on the serious issues such the recent drought in East, West and South African states, shortage of man power to handle this dire situation in Africa and shortage of international / regional / national level funding to handle this disaster.

The experts agreed on key recommendations: UNESCO-IHP to continue the assistance on identifying the potential groundwater zones, quality of groundwater and transboundary aquifers to avert effects of the droughts as UNESCO is the only UN agency works in the science of groundwater; emphasized the importance of having UNESCO-IHP National Committees and requested UNESCO to help African Member States to establish IHP and make the existing IHP Committees to be fully functional, create awareness among Member States on several existing platforms under IHP to share knowledge and capacity among countries in Africa; the new mandate on SDG 6 calls for a lot more capacity building in order to achieve this important global goal. UNESCO needs to organize regular capacity building trainings especially, training of trainers for all member states in Africa.

The main results of the meeting included an agreement to establish a communication information exchange e-platform within African Member States with a focus on knowledge sharing, resource materials dissemination, capacity development and partnerships including, among others, civil society organizations, African economic communities, higher education institutions, UNESCO institutes, sister UN agencies and other partners and a communiqué addressed to Member States and UNESCO.

Finally, a communiqué was signed by all members, to highlight the alignment of the work to sustainable development goal 6 and other SDGs that are reliant on the success with freshwater security. UNESCO will take the lead in the coordination and monitoring of this crucial SDG 6. Members states were also urged to strengthen their National Commissions which should be proactive in engaging with all stakeholders in the water sector so as to play its crucial mandated liaison role between the member states and UNESCO by coordinating the IHP activities in the respective countries and ensuring effective liaison with the UNESCO Regional Offices and the Headquarters in Paris.

The International Hydrological Programme (IHP), created in 1975, contributes in improving knowledge in water resources in Sub-Saharan Africa. IHP is the only intergovernmental programme of the UN System devoted to water research, water resources management, and education and capacity building.

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