12 June 2018
Chad’s Accession to the Water Convention: Benefits, Lessons Learned and the 2030 Agenda
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Chad is the first country from outside the pan-European region to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.

IISD interviewed the Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Fisheries, Mahamat Alifa Moussa, to learn more about Chad’s journey, motivations, and lessons learned, as well as the inter-linkages with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

On 23 May 2018, Chad became the first country from outside the pan-European region to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (the Water Convention), the Secretariat of which is provided by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

To celebrate this accession, which marked the opening of a global convention, a special ceremony aiming to share the successful experience of Chad was held in the margins of the joint meeting of the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management and the Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment under the Water Convention at the United Nations Office at Geneva, on 29 May 2018.

During this ceremony, Bamanga Abbas Malloum, Ambassador of the Republic of Chad, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva, stated that his country had recognized the benefits long before its official accession to the Convention.

The Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Fisheries, Mahamat Alifa Moussa, shared the successful journey of Chad to its accession, while also reiterating Chad’s support and encouragement for other countries that have expressed their interest in joining this Convention.

Eleonora Bonaccorsi, IISD, interviewed Secretary General Moussa to learn more about Chad’s journey, motivations, and lessons learned, as well as the inter-linkages with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in light of the Convention’s role in supporting implementation of SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation).

What Were the Main Steps towards this Successful Journey?

Secretary General Moussa indicated that Chad’s journey towards this accession began in 2013, soon after the amendments to the Convention entered into force. Since then, Chad has participated in the activities within the Framework Convention, reaffirming its interest in joining it.

In 2016, the amendments became operational, and the Convention became accessible to all UN Member States, following which Chad, with the assistance of the Secretary of the Water Convention, convened national workshops in February and March 2017 to prepare for this accession. The workshops focused on the three pillars of the Convention: 1) prevent, control and reduce transboundary impacts, 2) ensure reasonable and equitable use of transboundary waters, and 3) cooperate through agreements and joint bodies.

After these workshops, the necessary steps towards this accession where taken at the national level. The ratification instruments where deposited at the United Nations in New York on 22 February 2018, and entered into force 90 days thereafter, on 23 May 2018.

What Lessons has Chad Learned Through this Process?

Among the lessons learned, Secretary General Moussa shared that this process resulted from a strong internal willingness, the sine qua non condition, complemented by the support of the Secretariat. He highlighted that a sign of this strong internal willingness was evident when the ratification bill was presented before the National Assembly in December 2017, and was adopted with 115 votes in favour, 0 against and no abstentions.

Of equal importance for this process has been the active participation of the Ministry of Environment’s technicians, the outreach and the explanation of this Convention through informational workshops on the subject, and the establishment of a Convention review committee.

A critical element was the effort to gather input from all concerned stakeholders during both the ratification and application processes. For Chad, these stakeholders included, among others, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government Secretariat, and the Parliament, as well as the Lake Chad Basin’s commissions, to encourage the riparian countries to join the Convention, as well as technical and financial partners.

What Were the Main Incentives for Chad to Access this Convention?

Secretary General Moussa highlighted that the geographical aspect played an important role. Chad is a landlocked country with no access to the sea. It shares with its neighbouring countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Libya) many hydro-surface and aquifer systems. It is vital to have a joint water management approach with countries that share and exploit the same water resources. It is in this context of interdependence that basin organizations have been created since the 1960s, such as the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the Niger Basin Authority (NBA) and the Joint Authority for the Study and Development of the Nubian Sandston Aquifer System (JASAD).

Chad also privileges the reinforcement of international cooperation as a means to sustainably manage these resources. The opening of the Water Convention to countries outside the European region represented a great opportunity toward this end.

What Are the Main Benefits Derived from Chad’s Accession to the Water Convention?

Secretary General Moussa reported that national and regional capacity building, exchange of information on the international management of water resources, access to development aid, and support to the basin organisations are some of the benefits that accession to this Convention brings. Participation as a party also creates a space where a common language and a mutual understanding are encouraged while supporting cooperation. The Convention offers a platform for exchanging experiences and good practices while creating synergies with other international initiatives, such as on climate change. It constitutes a legal framework for the continuity and sustainability of transboundary water cooperation, creating an institutional framework essential for “hydro-diplomacy”.

Interlinkages with the 2030 Agenda

This Convention has a direct implication on SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), but it also supports the implementation of the whole Agenda by putting as its core the importance of international cooperation: cooperation is essential for the achievement of all 17 SDGs.

Secretary General Moussa offered an overview of the current situation in Chad with regards to SDG 6. In Chad, access to drinking water is around 61%. This means that around half of the population doesn’t have access to safe drinking water. The rate of access to hygiene services is one of the lowest globally, around 18%. Ensuring access to sanitation, and with it health, dignity of vulnerable people and security for girls and women, we need water. Moreover, water is also essential for the approximately 130 million, and growing, livestock, in Chad.

In view of the above, Chad instituted a technical committee for the implementation of the SDGs and participated in the reporting process under indicator 6.5.2, which measures and monitors transboundary water cooperation. This report allowed the country to identify strengths and weakness in the area of transboundary waters.

Among the strengths identified were competent water resources mapping services, in cooperation with Switzerland. The Secretary General emphasized this strength, noting the importance of “better knowledge on water resources for a better management”. He also highlighted good cooperation with neighbouring countries, countries from the basin organisations and from the economic community together with a common plan for transboundary water management, and regional climate change adaptation plan.

Among the weaknesses identified by this report were the insufficient financial and material resources and national human skills, a lack of capacity building and skills transfer programmes, as well as the lack of an arrangement with the Nile basin.

Chad plans to use the report’s results and lessons learned to pursue an equitable and non-harmful management approach to transboundary waters. Chad will also seek to raise awareness and to assist countries that are in the same basin or same economic community, in the preparation of this report on indicator 6.5.2 and in their efforts to join the Water Convention.

As Secretary General Moussa said, “It can be seen as an ambitious objective, but it is something that Chad is doing and that it will do in the future”.

What does this Convention Mean for the Lake Chad Basin Commission?

“The Water Convention is a framework agreement, which does not replace specific bilateral and multilateral agreements on transboundary basins and aquifers. Instead, it fosters the establishment and implementation of such agreements, as well as their further development. The Convention establishes principles and rules that form the basis for countries working together to protect and sustainably use their shared freshwater resources” [1]

Chad’s accession adhesion to the Water Convention is part of a coherent and constant policy at the highest level of Chad in favour of cross-border cooperation. Secretary General Moussa said the accession to the Water Convention is as much part of the country’s particular hydrological situation as it is of the multifaceted challenges the country is facing in the governance of these resources.

On February 2018, during the Council of Ministers of the LCBC, Chad presented the benefits this Convention brought and explained its accession process. Chad also made a similar presentation during the 36th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the member states of the NBA, which convened in Abuja, Nigeria, In April 2018. The Council took note of the accession, congratulated Chad and encouraged other states to accede to this Convention.

Finally, the ABN and LCBC Charters cite the Convention on the protection and use of transboundary watercourses and international lakes, which was reached in Helsinki in 1992, in their Preambles. Additionally, the three principles that are in the Water Convention are also in the Charters of other Basins Organisations. While some may initially wonder why an African country has joined a previously all-European convention, as Secretary General Moussa stated at the end of the interview: “We are all going in the same direction and there is no contradiction at all.”

This article was written by Eleonora Bonaccorsi, Project Management Intern, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)

[1] UNECE (April 2018) The Water Convention: responding to global water challenges, p.4

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