Africa Regional Web Launch of the World Water Development Report 2020

UNESCO and partners organized an Africa Regional Web Launch of the 2020 World Water Development Report to discuss the entry points for seizing adaptation-mitigation synergies which indicates a growing momentum for climate action in the water sector, as well as the corresponding need for policy decisions, capacity development and investments

Climate change and its impact on socioeconomic and environmental development is topical on the agenda of global concerns. While Africa is among the least contributors to climate change, it suffers most from the brunt of climate change in all of its sectors. In the water sector, several studies point to a future decrease in water abundance due to a range of drivers and stresses, including climate change. As the scientific consensus of the nature of climate change and awareness of the possible impacts of it on water resources has increased in recent years, there has been a corresponding acknowledgement of the need to incorporate climate change into water planning, and promote innovations that allow simultaneous achievement of mitigation and adaptation benefits in the water sector.


To this end, the United Nations World Water Development Report 2020 (WWDR 2020) on Water and Climate Change was designed to focus on the challenges, opportunities and potential responses to climate change, in terms of adaptation, mitigation and improved resilience that can be addressed through improving water management.


Following the release of the WWDR 2020, UNESCO Offices in Africa in partnership with the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) of UNESCO, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) and the African Union Commission organised the Africa Regional launch of the report on 27th April 2020. Leading experts and stakeholders from the aforementioned institutions presented on a range of topics that stimulate further discussions within countries and continentally about the entry points for seizing adaptation-mitigation synergies which indicates a growing momentum for climate action in the water sector, as well as the corresponding need for capacity development and investments. Below are excerpts from the presentations:


In her Opening Remarks, Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, the Director and Representative of the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, welcomed all the participants and pointed out that “Efforts to improving water quality and availability for household, agriculture and industrial use must be anchored in the theme of leaving no one behind.” She further stressed that the nexus between water, energy and food are among the greatest importance as water shortage links with several serious issues. To improve and sustain water security in Africa, she listed three priorities – scaling up innovative approaches to improving water availability for agriculture, raising the level of investment in water and enabling policies and strengthening governance of water resources.


Giving the special address at the web launch, Ms. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle – Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO Paris, emphasized that transboundary water governance arrangements and water diplomacy can be strengthened to better address climate change adaptation needs. Ms. Shamila appealed to all the partners to create networks in transboundary water cooperation to avoid conflicts between countries and communities. She expressed UNESCO’s readiness to support in this initiative Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) which can mobilize international expertise and skills for sound water management.

Trans boundary water cooperation or water diplomacy in Africa can avoid conflicts between countries, nations, and communities.

Ms. Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, UNESCO Paris

Mr. Engin Koncagül, the WWAP Programme Officer and WWDR Process Manager in his submission, highlighted that the 2020 WWDR focuses on the challenges, opportunities and potential responses to climate change, in terms of adaptation, mitigation and improved resilience that can be addressed through improving water management. He mentioned that many of the examples shared in the report could mitigate climate change and build adaptive capacity – reusing wastewater to reduce greenhouse gases, restoring wetlands which can store twice as much carbon as forests etc. He reiterated that combining climate change adaptation and mitigation, through water, is a win-win proposal, contributing to not only SDG 6 but also SDG 1, 2, 13, etc.


Mr. Jean Paul Adam, Director from Division of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management, UNECA, underlined policy interventions to climate adaptation and resilience in Africa and provided two mechanisms for using water to achieve climate-related goals – enhancing transboundary collaboration and Water-Energy-Food Nexus among states; and integrating water-related issues effectively in national development plans. He said that tapping the resources of the blue economy in a sustainable and integrated manner would yield benefits for Africa.


Messrs Paul Orengo, Moshood Tijani, Kitch Bawa from AMCOW presented some of the challenges confronting the quest to improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Africa. They enumerated a number of interventions instituted to overcome the challenges: mainstreaming climate change into water and sanitation; identifying groundwater as a priority intervention area to address challenges of water access; developing guidance and reference materials to help Member States put in place adaptation measures; integrating water security, risk mitigation and climate resilience strategies in all water and sanitation projects and activities; developing and propagating best practices that draw from lessons learned (positive and negative) on water-related climate adaptation and resilience; and developing evaluation reports based on the data collection.


Mr. Alex Simalabwi from Global Water Partnership in his submission emphasized the need to pay attention to the gender gap in climate resilient water investments. He said that planning, investment decision-making and institutional processes (reflecting cultural norms and practices) for climate resilient water investments are not gender transformative. He later introduced the Africa Water Investment Programme and proposed interventions for developing climate resilient water investment policies and capabilities for gender responsiveness. He was emphatic that “Gender Transformation requires interventions at the system level not project level.”


Few of the key actionable messages from the Africa Regional Launch of the WWDR 2020 include:

  1. UNESCO will support collaboration and coordination between responsible institutions; ensuring that action is based on sound information and evidence; and increasing access to both public and private finance for climate-resilient investment;
  2. AMCOW will raise the profile of groundwater among the Members States within the framework of water resources management, and mobilize support from partners and member states to increase funding for provision of water points for WASH;
  3. Africa data sharing on water quantity and quality should be improved and invested;
  4. Greater public participation to manage climate change and water is suggested as a way to build adaptive capacities at multiple levels and prioritize risk reduction for socially vulnerable groups.


Webinar recording in MS Stream: