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Africa Program

Water Projects

Click on the links below to explore ELI’s projects on Water in Africa.

Improving Public Participation in the Management of International Watercourses in Africa

In 2001, together with the United Nations University (UNU), ELI launched a series of projects to examine how public involvement in decision-making can lead to more effective management of watersheds at the international level. According to a recent United Nations report, rising demand for water is one of four major factors that will threaten human and ecological health for at least a generation. Over the coming decade, governments throughout Africa and the rest of the world will struggle to manage water efficiently, equitably, and in an environmentally sound manner. Public participation holds the promise of improving resource management and reducing the potential for conflict.

In Africa, declining water quality and increasing water demand are developing into threats to regional peace and security. ELI was asked to examine ways to improve the management of international water bodies through mechanisms designed to increase public participation in the decisions affecting water quality and quantity. ELI collected examples from around the world of public participation by citizens, NGOs, and local governments in international waters. The research also highlighted public hearings, open meetings, and other mechanisms by which the public can have its voice heard on this sensitive topic. ELI’s research was presented at a United Nations University (UNU) Workshop on International Water Systems in Southern Africa on September 25-26, 2000. The final paper, “Charting New Waters: Public Involvement in the Management of Transboundary Watercourses,” was published in 2001 as an ELI publication and as a chapter in the UNU book on Southern African waters.

To further promote the dissemination of experiences with public involvement in specific watercourses, ELI convened an international symposium on “Improving Public Participation and Governance in International Watershed Management,” held April 18-19, 2003, at the University of Virginia School of Law. This symposium, attended by approximately 90 watershed managers, scholars, and decisionmakers from five continents, was co-sponsored by UNU, the University of Virginia, UNEP, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and America’s Clean Water Foundation. Leading up to the symposium, ELI hosted a study tour of 14 sub-Saharan African experts in international water law, many of whom spoke at the symposium. The proceedings of the symposium were published in 2005 in a UNU Press book entitled “Public Participation in the Governance of International Freshwater Resources.”

As an outgrowth of this work, ELI was asked by the Global Environment Facility’s International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network (GEF/IW:LEARN) to undertake an innovative capacity-building initiative for GEF international waters projects on public participation in international waters management. This four-year program has been supported in part grants from the GEF and the Tinker Foundation, Inc.

In the first phase of the project, ELI worked with local partners throughout Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia to conduct in-depth research on the relevant legal, policy, and management approaches that can be used to increase effective stakeholder involvement in international water resources decision-making. This research was then used to create a practical handbook for water managers and civil society organizations on public participation in international waters management. The handbook is now being refined and expanded through an iterative and participatory process. In a series of three regional capacity-building workshops involving a broad cross-section of stakeholders, ELI is pilot-testing the handbook and its methodologies.

The first of the regional workshops was convened in partnership with UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme and the Organization of American States in Montevideo, Uruguay in December of 2006. The second regional workshop took place in Africa in Lesotho in October 2007.

As part of our broader initiative supporting the improvement of public and stakeholder involvement in international water management, ELI convened a major session at Fourth World Water Forum in Mexico City in 2006 in partnership with the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) and UNESCO’s International Hydrological Program. The session brought together representatives from over 20 basins, both national and international, to share experiences and identify practical lessons learned.

Additionally, ELI has continued to provide specific technical assistance in this area to partners throughout Africa (see Improving Methodologies for Impact Assessment in Transboundary Watercourses and Strengthening the Legal and Operational Frameworks for Fisheries Co-Management in East Africa). Most recently, ELI was invited to be a member of an international team of expert consultants developing a Stakeholder Involvement Plan for the Orange River Basin Commission (ORASECOM) in Southern Africa. The Plan was recently approved by the Inter-Ministerial Committee that heads ORASECOM.

Improving Methodologies for Impact Assessment in Transboundary Watercourses

In a world of burgeoning populations and resource-intensive development needs, acute challenges are emerging regarding water resource allocation and protection. Managing freshwater resources more equitably and effectively is fundamental to ensuring that both human and ecological needs for water are met in a sustainable fashion. With over 250 river basins shared by two or more states worldwide, one of the most complex aspects of this management is the governance of shared watercourses. Environmental impact assessment and, more recently, social impact assessment have emerged as valuable tools for ensuring the sustainability of natural resource and development projects affecting these transboundary watercourses.

ELI, along with the University of Tokyo and the United Nations Environment Programme, recently completed a three-year effort to develop and test a methodology for evaluating the accuracy of transboundary impact assessments (TIA) for projects affecting international watercourses. The project comprised five case studies in Africa and Asia that compared predicted social and environmental impacts with actual impacts. The case studies yielded several observations regarding how to improve the analytic and procedural methodologies for conducting TIA. They also illustrated how factors such as the legal and institutional framework, political context, public involvement, and project design can affect the accuracy of the TIA process. The case studies and synthesis report were published in the International Journal of Water Resources Development in the fall of 2007.

Over the course of this project, ELI has also produced significant scholarship on the legal frameworks available for transboundary impact assessment of international waters. In 2005, the New York University Environmental Law Journal published ELI’s article on “Transboundary Environmental Impact Assessment in International Watercourse Management.” In 2006, the United Nations University published ELI’s further work focusing on the public participation aspects of TIA as a chapter in its book Enhancing Participation and Governance in Water Resources Management.

Finally, as part of ELI’s efforts to strengthen the implementation of transboundary impact assessment, the Institute provided technical assistance by acting as a integral member of the drafting team of Guidelines on Regional Impact Assessment in the East African Community. The Guidelines were recently published as an annex to the new East African Protocol on Environment and Natural Resources Management.

Strengthening the Legal and Operational Frameworks for Fisheries Co-Management in East Africa

In 2005, ELI partnered with the Kenyan Department of Fisheries and the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) to assist in establishing a legal and operational framework for co-management of Lake Victoria’s fisheries. During the first stage of this project, the project team undertook intensive desk and field research to review the status of fisheries co-management implementation around the world and provide a comparative grounding for our recommendations. The team also analyzed the implementation of the co-management regimes in place in Tanzania and Uganda. Finally, it assessed the historical and current regulatory and institutional, both formal and informal, frameworks for fisheries management on the Kenyan portion of Lake Victoria. Field visits were undertaken in each of the three countries to observe and collect primary data on the operations of Beach Management Units (BMUs) and other relevant institutions. The team drafted reports of the results of this work for each of the three countries, as well as a synthesis paper that provides recommendations for harmonization of the legal and institutional frameworks around the Lake through the East African Community (EAC).

This research formed the basis of a three-day workshop on “Legal and Operational Framework for Beach Management Units in East Africa,” convened by ELI and ILEG in Kisumu, Kenya in November, 2005. The workshop brought together 45 representatives of the BMUs in each of the three EAC countries, Ministry officials, NGOs, EAC Secretariat representatives and the media to discuss the findings of the research and chart a path for next steps. ELI and ILEG are currently developing the second phase of this project.