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SPEECH BY PROF. JUDI WAKHUNGU – CABINET SECRETARY,MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, WATER AND NATURAL RESOURCES DURING THE UNESCO MEETING OF HIGH-LEVEL PANEL ON WATER SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN AFRICA AT KENYA SCHOOL OF MONETARY STUDIES, NAIROBI ON 11TH SEPTEMBER, 2013

 

 

Your Excellencies Irina Bokova, Director-General, UNESCO Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations Michel Jarraud, Chair of UN Water Distinguished Guests Ladies and Gentlemen

 

 

It gives me pleasure and great honour to be with you today and to participate in the ‘High-Level Panel discussion on Water Security and Cooperation’ with a particular focus on Africa. It is also an honour to our country Kenya to host this important event that is part of celebrating this year designated the International Year of Water Cooperation as declared by United Nations General Assembly at its 65th Session in 2010. I have been informed that discussions during this session will include the results of various consultation processes related to water cooperation, notably the Africa Water Community consultations during the 3rd Meeting of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons held early this year in Liberia.
 

 

We are indeed honoured; I recall that Nairobi again hosted the ‘Groundwater Governance Regional Consultation forum’ for the subSaharan Africa region in May, 2012. These series of events demonstrates the confidence UNESCO has in our continued partnership while for us we take great pleasure in hosting these events. Please feel most welcomed in Nairobi, Kenya! Ladies and Gentlemen Allow me to thank UNESCO for organizing this forum which appropriately addresses Water Security and Cooperation that is also the theme for Eight Phase of International Hydrological Programme.

 

 

Indeed a great number of water resources in Africa are shared by either two or more countries, which require close cooperation among riparian states in their sustainable management; otherwise the resources would be potential sources of conflict, resulting to insecurity in the region. I believe that the pronouncements and resolutions arrived at the end of this session will contribute significantly to strengthening cooperation and collaborations amongst riparian states and foster meaningful social and economic development especially for those communities living in the shared basins. In my view, peace and sustainable development are two sides of the same coin.

 

 

Neither can truly exist without the other. Therefore, the onus is upon us to pursue a culture of peace from the individual through the national, regional and global levels. We do realize that none among us can any longer act in isolation with regard to transboundary resources. Thus, international cooperation, collaboration and partnership should be the keywords. We must all willingly cooperate, especially in instituting governance structure that mitigates potential conflict. Indeed communication, education, science and culture are critical aspects for peace-building, and therefore it is no coincidence that these are UNESCO’s key attributes.

 

 

No wonder, therefore, that United Nations delegated the role of leading the celebrations to mark 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation to UNESCO, due to its expertise in water-related social-sciences. We in Africa have faced numerous challenges ranging from underdevelopment, armed conflicts, refugees, effects of drought especially in the Horn of Africa and floods in Southern Africa, malaria, AIDS and other communicable diseases. What confound many is the paradox that Africa is endowed with a wealth of human and natural resources on the one hand, and extreme poverty of its people on the other.

 

 

More recently, Africa has also faced disproportionate threats to human security – those brought about by terrorism, piracy, human and drugtrafficking. The consequences of some of these challenges spill beyond our region to the international arena and therefore we need to strengthen international cooperation and collaboration in order to minimize or eliminate altogether these threats to peace and development. Therefore, we in Africa should be spared any further sympathy but rather should be afforded opportunities to exercise practical and sustainable socio-economic development options appropriate to our environment.

 

 

I wish to inform you, Ladies and Gentlemen, that Kenya has already been in the forefront of promoting peace, cooperation and collaboration, stability and security in the region, through such initiatives as the InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC), Great Lakes Region and African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW). For example, Kenya has been at the forefront in promoting water cooperation with other countries under the Nile Basin Initiative, which brings together all the riparian countries sharing the Nile River Basin.

 

 

The Initiative recognizes the need to share equitably the Nile Basin water resources as a basis for promoting cooperation among the riparian states and this therefore leads to sustainable management of water resources of the Nile Basin. Presently, Kenya and Tanzania on the one hand, and Kenya and Uganda on the other are almost concluding the development of a Memorandum of Understanding for the management of shared water resources between these countries.

 

 

For the Kenya/Tanzania cooperative framework, the World renowned Mara River basin is the shared water resources which if not sustainably managed would result to serious negative impacts on the seasonal migration of wildebeest across the river from Serengeti to Maasai Mara National Parks. Similarly, Kenya and Ethiopia are discussing the sustainable

management and sharing of benefits accrued from the Lake Turkana Basin. Specifically, Ethiopia is developing a multi-purpose dam on the Omo River that feeds Lake Turkana, under an arrangement whereby

 

 

when commissioned will see Ethiopia sell electric power generated from the Hydro-dam to Kenya at an agreed fee. I am informed that the above cooperative arrangements between countries that share a common water resource are replicated across Africa. However, the capacities of these joint Basin Management organizations are at different levels. Every support that can be offered to established efficient Basin Management organizations is welcomed from those who have the expertise.

 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen Most regions of the world are confronted with serious water challenges. In Africa, nearly 75% of water supply is from groundwater. Poor management of this resource is an obstacle to economic and social development. It is for this reason that Kenya proposed the establishment of a Regional Centre on Groundwater Resources Education, Training and Research for East Africa – as UNESCO Category 2 Centre.

 

 

I am grateful to Member States for approving the establishment of the centre during the 36th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in 2011. We now host a UNESCO category 2 centre specializing in groundwater resources education, training and research, which will promote cooperation on management of water resources in the IGAD region and beyond. In addition, the centre will mobilize human and financial resources to address challenges in groundwater resources management, particularly in the understanding of groundwater regimes of the region. The idea here is to eliminate any suspicion based on lack of understanding of groundwater regimes by riparian countries.

 

 

The centre will also create awareness, not only among practitioners in the water sector, but also to the policy makers and implementers, and also at all levels of the society. It has been realized that communities have a critical role in management of water resources; they are therefore best suited to ‘police’ the rivers and other water resources in their respective areas. We are soon rolling out advocacy programmes to highlight development and management challenges as enumerated in the national groundwater policy particularly for policy makers and communities. In this regard, we will be approaching UNESCO and other UNESCO Centres for assistance towards this end.

 

 

The IGAD region is dominated by Arid and semi-arid zones. This requires that the meagre water resources are efficiently harnessed and utilized in a sustainable manner. The pressure exerted on water resources, especially during drought is a threat particularly to groundwater resources. We all recall the devastating drought experienced in the IGAD region in 2009 that affected over 12 million resulting to in a mass exodus of refugees as well as an increased number of internally displaced persons. Our people lost lives and numerous livestock, a source of their livelihood in the region.

 

 

All the surface water resources dried up. It is upon this realization that, in collaboration with UNESCO Regional Office in Nairobi, the Government of Kenya has since April 2012 been implementing a project to ‘strengthen the capacity to combat drought and famine in the Horn of Africa’ which is also being implemented in Ethiopia and Somali. The objective of the programme is to tap the more resilient groundwater resources for emergency water supply. Indeed this was in line with the

Nairobi Declaration adopted by the IGAD Heads of State during the
emergency summit on the Horn of Africa crisis held in September 2011.

 

 

This demonstrates a good example of what UNESCO in collaboration with other agencies can do in response to the needs of its Member States. Further, the Government of Kenya appreciates the financial assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for implementing the programme. Very positive results are being realized from the groundwater surveys being undertaken. I am informed that highly potential and untapped groundwater bearing zones have been identified both in the central Turkana County as well as in Ethiopia.

 

 

Currently exploration boreholes are being drilled and we look forward to harnessing these huge underground water resources, which when realized will alleviate the perennial water shortages experienced in the region. We do sincerely thank UNESCO for spearheading this exercise, and it is the intention of the Government to expand the programme to cover all other Arid and Semi-arid regions of the country. Ladies and Gentlemen Since 2007 Kenya along with the other countries in the Horn of Africa, has been undertaking a regional assessment of transboundary water resources under project mapping assessment and management of
 

 

transboundary water resources in the IGAD sub-Region. The project aims at providing the respective member states with a tool to better understand the shared water resources with a view to eventually undertake joint water resource management activities. Finally, I am aware that the outcome of this meeting will inform key upcoming international events, in particular the Budapest Water Summit; the High-Level International Conference on Water Cooperation in Tajikistan; and the Stockholm World Water Week; and High-Level Panel on Water Disasters in Tokyo.

 

 

This, therefore, requires that we hold a very focused discussion and thoroughly look at the various options available to us in order to come up with tangible outcomes. In conclusion, may I pay tribute once again to UNESCO’s long experience in building a peace culture, both through the implementation of UN declarations and through its own focussed programmes. I am aware that the next two days will be dedicated to designing an implementation strategy for the Eight Phase of International Hydrological Programme. I have full confidence in the Task Force put together to lead in the process.

 

 

In particular, I want to urge the Task Force members from Africa to be aware of the diversity in the region and therefore design practical programmes to cater for all sub-regions. I wish you all a successful workshop. THANK YOU.