Ghana pushes cross-border water cooperation forward in Africa by joining UN Conventions

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Ghana became the 3rd African country (44th Party) to accede to the Convention on ‎the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) ‎serviced by UNECE; and the 37th Party to the Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of ‎International Watercourses (Watercourses Convention).‎

Ghana’s transboundary river basins, namely the Volta River basin (shared with Benin, Burkina Faso, ‎Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Togo – home to over 23 million people, with a population projected to more ‎than double by 2050); Bia and Tano Rivers (shared with Côte d’Ivoire); and Todzie-Aka basin (shared ‎with Togo) cover over 75% of the country’s land surface and generate around 80% of freshwater flow. ‎

These shared water resources provide water for drinking, sanitation, agriculture (which accounts for ‎between 54 and 85% of employment in Volta basin countries), hydropower, and industrial needs. The ‎basins link the populations across borders, creating socioeconomic interdependencies between the ‎riparian countries. ‎

Transboundary cooperation in these shared basins is therefore critical to ensure sustainable development ‎and preserve regional stability, especially in the context of rising water stress linked to climate change; and to ensure access to safe water and sanitation, which is vital for hygiene in the face of COVID-19.

Ms. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources stated: ‎‎“Ghana promotes transboundary cooperation as a key means of ensuring pragmatic solutions anchored on ‎negotiations and dialogue with its riparian neighbours.

“The growing effects of climate change and ‎pressure on water resources call for urgent action to deepen existing cooperation. Ghana encourages the ‎other riparian countries to also accede to both key global Conventions (1992 Water Convention and ‎‎1997 Watercourses Convention) in order to strengthen our international cooperation and national ‎measures for the sound utilisation, management and development of transboundary surface waters and ‎groundwater resources.”‎

UNECE Executive Secretary Ms. Olga Algayerova said: “I warmly congratulate Ghana on its accession to ‎the two global water conventions. This important step signals the mounting political momentum for ‎water cooperation in Africa, harnessing the two United Nations Water Conventions as a foundation for ‎sustainable development, conflict prevention, and climate change adaptation. UNECE will continue its ‎collaboration with countries, regional and sub-regional organisations to promote and implement the two ‎global Water Conventions. I call on all UN member-states sharing water resources to join and make full ‎use of these instruments”.‎

An increasing number of countries are seizing the institutional and legal frameworks of the global Water ‎Conventions to facilitate concrete efforts for cooperation on shared water resources. Ghana’s accession ‎to the Water Convention follows that of Chad and Senegal in 2018, which became the first countries ‎outside the pan-European region to join. Côte d’Ivoire and Togo – with which Ghana shares its basins, ‎Cameroon and the Central African Republic are in advanced stages of the national accession process to ‎the Convention, while numerous other African nations are among the around-20 countries worldwide ‎taking steps toward joining.‎

Ghana’s accession to the two Conventions – supported by UNECE, Green Cross International, WWF and ‎others since 2018, also follows recommendations the Council of Ministers of the Volta Basin ‎Authority made at its 7th session held in Accra (Ghana) on 10 May 2019.  This also shows the important ‎role played by regional organisations, notably basin organisations, in promoting the Global Water ‎Conventions. ‎

Ghana’s accession to the Water Convention will enter into force within the next 90 days (on 21st September ‎‎2020).‎

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