22 April 2002

Ghana: An Overview of the Accra Water Conference

Majority of participants at the 3-Day Accra Water Conference, which begun on Monday April 15th, 2002, say that it has succeeded in highlighting water and its related issues as pertaining in Africa. They said the conference has also succeeded in creating the need for commitment by African governments to ensure that water is given the needed priority in all national policies. These views were gathered during a random interviewing of participants on Wednesday April 17th, 2002, the last day of the conference.

About 200 participants attended the Regional Stakeholders Conference for Priority Setting on "Water and Sustainable Development in Africa" from different parts of the world. They represented 41 African countries, international and national NGOs, private sector agencies, research institutions, universities and water related professionals and the media. The distinguished gathering also included representatives of world bodies like UNESCO, UNEP, World Bank, European Union, World Meteorological Organisation and the Economic Commission for Africa.

It was jointly organised by the African Development Bank, International Water Management Institute, Food and Agriculture Organisation and Ghana's Water Resources Commission with funding by The Netherlands Government.

The main objective was to produce a position paper that will project a high profile for African water issues during the Johannesburg Summit. This was to be based on the outcomes of discussions on water related issues. They are food security, international trade and environment; transboundary water issues; financing water and sanitation infrastructure as well as water, poverty and health.

Participants were also to discuss and make recommendations as inputs for the paper entitled "No Water No Future". The paper was authored by His Royal Highness Prince Willem Alexander, the Crown Prince of The Netherlands. It is his initial contribution to the Panel of 12 people appointed by the UN Secretary-General to help him in preparations towards the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002. In fact, His Royal Highness is the Ambassador to the UN Secretary General on water issues at the Johannesburg Summit.

During the closing session of the Accra Water Conference, an address by the Chairman of the African Water Taskforce Professor Albert Wright indicated that the set objectives have been attained. Notable among the achievements is the Accra Declaration which has been adopted and which serves as a summary of the African position on water.

The Declaration states that: "given clear policies and strategies and real commitments to action, Africans can use water to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development on the continent." Among other things, the Declaration calls for the establishment of a Water Fund for Africa to facility financial flows to implement water related activities. It will also support integrated water resource management and cooperation in shared river basins.

A Source at the Water Resources Commission in an interview explained that the outcomes of the Conference would serve as vital technical inputs to the African Ministers Conference on Water; AMCOW meeting that would be held in Abuja, Nigeria, at the end of April. "The rectification of the Accra Declaration by the African Ministers would no doubt provide the necessary political support that is needed in putting African water issues as priority in Johannesburg," the source added.

Another outstanding achievement is the common position presented by Africa on Prince Willem's paper. It focuses on some global major water related issues and urges the forthcoming World Summit to reconfirm the priority of water and adopt targets and actions that would address challenges. According to the paper, water was not at the top agenda during the Rio Summit.

A statement representing Africa's comments and read by Professor Wright said Africans consider the paper "No Water No Future," as a valuable contribution to the awareness about water issues. It calls for the inclusion of an African chapter based on recommendations specified in the African Position Paper.

At a Press Conference to crown the three days of deliberations on the water situation in Africa, Prince Willem said so far 2000 comments have been received regarding the paper. "The inclusion of the comments could alter the paper," he said, adding, "If it is adopted in Johannesburg, then it will become a workable document."

Asked if the issue of gender has been well articulated at the conference, the African Regional Officer in-charge of Women in Development, Diana Tempelman replied in the affirmative. She said, "I'm pleased that gender aspects of water management were discussed throughout."

Miss Templeman said, "gender mainstreaming is not Beijing, but is serious development planning from efficiency, economic and equitable point of view, taking into consideration the needs of all."

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