On May 25th-27th, the 3rd International Conference on Shared Aquifer Resources in Africa was held in Tripoli, Libya. The conference was organized by UNESCO-IHP, the General Water Authority (GWA) of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Observatoire du Sahara et du Sahel (OSS). The conference was hosted by the GWA.
Objectives and scope
The conference provided valuable input to the 7th phase of the UNESCO-IHP program and contributed to the current debate on transboundary aquifer management. The outcomes of the conference provided beneficial information for some of the related activities to be organized by international organization the next few years.
Obviously, the conference provided the opportunity for collective learning (150 participants from more than 20 countries and national, regional and international organizations) and to build partnerships. Furthermore, the Regional Centre on Shared Aquifer Resources Management in Africa was introduced to the wider audience during the conference.
Sharing, learning and building partnerships
H.E. Dr. A. Mansuri, secretary of the people's Committee for Livestock, Agriculture and Marine Wealth of the Lybian government opened the conference. Representatives of the organizing partners and of various contributing partners, stakeholders and honorary guests gave welcome addresses.
In 3 thematic plenary sessions, presentations were given on what we already know about transboundary aquifers in Africa, how we have been managing transboundary aquifers so far and on what options we have for transboundary aquifer management in the future. New insights were presented from experiences of real world transboundary aquifer test cases in Africa. Other presentations were more abstract and dealt with new concepts, approaches and methodologies.
The various presentations clearly illustrated the multi-dimensional character of transboundary aquifer management. Presentations dealt with the technical and hydrogeological aspects but also with institutional and legal aspects, governance and policy guidance as well as socio-economic aspects and financial instruments.
Law on Transboundary Aquifers
The conference was honored with the presence of Mr. Chusei Yamada of the Drafting Committee for the Law on Transboundary Aquifers. He presented the draft articles as prepared for the final reading by The UN International Law Commission on May the 29th.
The draft law contains 20 articles in 5 parts. Part I contains terms and definitions. Part II addresses the general principles behind transboundary aquifer management such as sovereignty of aquifer states, equitable and reasonable utilization of the aquifers resources, the obligation not to cause significant harm to other aquifer states and the obligation to cooperate and exchange data and information with other aquifer states. Part III gives provisions on the protection and preservation of ecosystems, discharge and recharge zones, the prevention, reduction and control of pollution and on monitoring and management. Part IV deals with obligation to notify other aquifer states on planned activities that may possibly affect them. Part V states miscellaneous provisions on scientific and technical cooperation, emergency and conflict situations, agreements and conventions.
Regional Centre on Shared Aquifer Resources Management in Africa
During the conference the newly established Regional Centre on Shared Aquifer Resources Management in Africa (RCSARM) was introduced to the conference participants. This centre is a UNESCO Category 2 organization and is hosted by the GWA in Tripoli. Mr. O. Salem of GWA presented an overview on the mission, objectives and action plan of action of the new regional centre.
During a round table discussion, the inclusive audience was asked to provide feedback and debate the mission, role, mandate and planned actions and cooperation of the centre.
During the conference a Conference Statement was drafted by a commission of invited experts. After intensive and inclusive consultation of the conference participants the conference statement was finalized.