The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI): Current Status, Challenges and Prospects


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A paper presented on current situations in the Nile Basin-NBI and the CFA during an educational tour with undergraduate PSIR students of AAU-to Bahir Dar and Debre Markos Universities on March 2011.

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The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI): Current Status, Challenges and Prospects

  1. 1. The Nile Basin Initiative The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI): Current Status, (NBI): Current Status andChallenges and Prospects Challenges Zerihun Abebe March 2011 Zerihun Abebe Paper presented in Debremarkos University Bahir Dar University
  2. 2. Introduction• Geographic Facts of the Nile • Two Tributaries • Eastern Nile shared by Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan – Major sub-basins Abbay, Tekeze-Atbara and Baro-Akobo – Contributes almost 86% of the Nile
  3. 3. Introduction ctd…• Equatorial Lakes shared by Burundi, D.R. Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt and South Sudan • White Nile contributes some less than 15 % • Negligible contribution • Less soil erosion because of swamps in South Sudan
  4. 4. History of Cooperation on the Nile• From Hydromet to TECCONILE• Cooperation on the Nile started in the late 1960s• Hydromet-The Hydro-metrological Survey of the Equatorial Lakes was the first initiative (est. 1967) • Main Objective was to study, analyze, and disseminate to member states metrological data on the equatorial lakes and rivers.” (Yacob, 2007:213).
  5. 5. History ctd… • membership was also restricted to the basin states Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, Ethiopia, not strictly on the basin, had an observer status since 1971 • Suspicious relation, lack of trust and confidence, membership problem as it was confined to the NELR only, Hydromet was not effective• Undugu (Kiswahili-Brotherhood) was the 2nd coopn attempt-est 1983 • Members were, Burundi, DRC, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, and Rwanda from the basin and a non-basin Central African Republic were full members. While Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania had observer status • The focus was more on ‘non-water’ issues, including; culture, telecommunication, electric power, trade, environment, and water resource development • Buried in 1993 without achieving its objectives
  6. 6. History ctd…• TECCONILE-the Technical Cooperation Committee for the Promotions of the Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile, established in 1992 to meet as the Nile- 2002 conference. • Short term objectives were; assist member states in developing national master plans and their integration into a Nile basin development action plan; and to develop the infrastructure and build the capacity and techniques required for the basin’s water resources (Ethiopia, MWR, 1999: 4 in Yacob, 2007: 215). • Tecconile’s long-term objective aimed at conservation and equitable entitlement of the water resources. • While the rest of the Basin states were full members Kenya and Ethiopia chose to be observers.
  7. 7. Assessment of Previous Cooperation attempts• Most of them collapsed without achieving the intended goals• Mistrust• Mutual suspicion• Divergent positions, policies, interests of the riparian states• Non-membership of principal riparian such as Ethiopia• Political unrest/civil war in riparian states; Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Sudan, … were challenges
  8. 8. Assessment …• All were made in downstream; especially a result of Egypts initiative- the offspring of a stolen camel will always be illegitimate. Thus, these attempts all, from Hydromet to TECCONLE had served the interest of downstream states
  9. 9. Assessment…. Ctd…• The cooperative attempts, at least theoretically show that, cooperation is possible and attainable,• TECCONILE experiences from Nile-2002 conferences later helped for the establishment of an inclusive regional initiative in the late 1990s
  10. 10. The Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)• Established on 22 February 1999, Dar el Salam, Tanzania• All riparian states except upstream Eritrea; which is an observer, are full members• Factors contribute to the establishment of NBI includes, • environmental factors like climate change, degradation, desiccation, • Population growth and the need to meet the water demands of this population • Understanding that unilateral undertakings are unstoppable
  11. 11. NBI: Objectives• the NBI is guided by a shared vision “to achieve, sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources.” (NBI, 2001:2)• The primary objectives of the NBI are: • To develop the water resources of the Nile Basin in a sustainable and equitable way to ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples, • To ensure efficient water management and the optimal use of the resources, • To ensure cooperation and joint action between the riparian countries, seeking win–win gains, • To target poverty eradication and promote economic integration • To ensure that the program results in a move from planning to action (NBI 2001).
  12. 12. NBI ctds…• Organs of the NBI• The Nile–COM-Council of Ministers of the Nile-which served as the highest decision making body,• the Nile–TAC is the Technical Advisory Committee of the Nile to support the Nile– COM,• the Secretariat- Nile-SEC.
  13. 13. NBI: Two Complementary Programs (Two Tracks)1. The Shared Vision Program (SVP)- SVP’s primary purpose is to create an enabling environment for cooperation management and development in the Nile basin through a limited but effective set of basin wide activities and projects.” (NBI, 2001: 3)• It is a basin wide project,• It includes the negotiation for New Nile Treaty- the legal track
  14. 14. NBI ctd….2. Subsidiary Action Programs (SAPs) • A project to translate the Shared Vision into action • Comprises sub-basin arrangements • It is the technical track of the NBI• The two sub-basin arrangements are:A. The Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Program (ENSAP) includes Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, and,B. The Nile Equatorial Lakes Region Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP)-which includes Burundi, D.R. Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda from the upper riparian states and Egypt and Sudan as downstreamers.
  15. 15. NBI ctd…• According to officials in the NBI, the initiative was working well before the CFA.• Following the signing of the CFA, Egypt and Sudan time and again warned to withdraw from the initiative• Later Sudan freezes its activities in the NBI• The future of the NBI is attached with the future of the CFA and is uncertain
  16. 16. NBI: Challenges• Political commitment• Excessive unilateral actions• Mistrust and lack of confidence• Upstream-downstream position on the CFA
  17. 17. The NBI: Prospects for the Future• Lessons learned from the NBI experience• The cost of unilateralism and benefits of cooperation• Environmental enigmas such as deforestation, land degradation, that affects both the quality and quantity of water. Such challenges can not be mitigated by individual actions• The role of the international community especially the World Bank
  18. 18. The Cooperative Framework Agreement of the Nile (CFA): Current Status and Future Scenarios• Why the CFA?• The need to reverse the unfair status quo
  19. 19. “Agreements” on the Nile: A Retrospect• The 1929 Colonial Agreement-exchange of Notes between UK and Egypt • Agreement b/n UK and UK • Institutionalize Historic Right, Ancient right, prior use,…of Egypt • Give 48 bcm of water to Egypt • Privileged Egypt with veto power on water projects from source to mouth • its legality is questioned from a number of angles; Nyerere Doctrine, Fundamental Change of Circumstances, pacta sunt servanda • Not a direct concern of Ethiopia
  20. 20. Agreements ctd…• The 1959 Agreement for the full utilization of the Nile water • Signed between independent Nile riparian states- Egypt and Sudan • Allocate the entire annual Nile flow between Egypt (55.5 bcm), Sudan (18.5 bcm) and evaporation in the Sahara Desert (10 bcm). • recognize so-called historic right of Egypt and Sudan
  21. 21. Tenets of the CFA• The CFA was “negotiated by the Ministers of Water Resource of the Nile riparians, legal and technical national negotiators, and external advisors on international water law.” (Cascao, 2008a:7).• The CFA as a general agreement “outlines general principles of cooperative water resources management with respect to protection, utilization, conservation and development of the Nile River System” (Granit et al 2010:20).• The corner stone of the CFA is the famous principle of Equitable and reasonable utilization (Article 4).• Here, “[i]t should be noted that at the outset that equitable utilization is chiefly a doctrine governing apportionment, or allocation of water between states sharing an international watercourse.” (McCaffrey, 2007: 385).• Hence the CFA in one way or another is a water sharing agreement
  22. 22. Tenets ctd…• The CFA by declaring equitable and reasonable utilization principle in the Nile Basin, it destroys the unfair status quo on the Nile• By so doing the achievement of the CFA is its ability of destructing the real impediment of cooperation on the Nile-the so-called historic or ancient right; which was based on the 1929 and 1959 agreements• It also oblige states not to cause significant harm under Article 5.• Protection and conservation of the Nile River Basin and its ecosystems Article 6
  23. 23. Current Status of the CFA• According to Article 42• The CFA shall enter into force on the sixtieth day following the date of the deposit of the sixth instrument of ratification or accession with the African Union.• Till today, six nations-Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi have signed it and DRC will follow in the unprecedented future• Upon the ratification of the treaty, the CFA will establish the Nile Basin Commission Article 15• The signatories are all, therefore, upstream states• No downstream state has signed yet
  24. 24. Current Status ctd…• Downstream states have not yet signed because they perceive that the agreement is against their interest (Addis Fortune, May 16, 2010).• The main bone of contention is Article 14(b)• Article 14(b) deals with the new concept of water security• The conflict is simply between maintaining the status quo and reversing it
  25. 25. Current status ctd…• Upstream Vs. Downstream Positions on Article 14(b)• Having due regard to the provisions of Articles 4 and 5, Nile Basin States recognize the vital importance of water security to each of them. The States also recognize that the cooperation management and development of waters of the Nile River System will facilitate achievement of water security and other benefits. Nile Basin States therefore agree, in a spirit of cooperation: (a) to work together to ensure that all states achieve and sustain water security; (b) the unresolved Article 14(b) is annexed to be resolved by the Nile River Basin Commission within six months of its establishment.
  26. 26. Current status ctd…• Upstream states acclaim Article 14(b) as not to significantly affect the water security of any other Nile Basin State• Downstream Egypt and Sudan proposes to rewrite Article 14(b) as not to adversely affect the water security and current uses and rights of any other Nile Basin State.• With this division and divergent interest and position the CFA is signed by upstream states only
  27. 27. Current status ctd…• Following the decision of upstream states to sign the CFA, downstream Egypt and Sudan proposed to establish the Nile Basin Commission by declaration of presidents and pending the negotiation on the CFA• For upstream states, however, negotiation is over.• From the upstream perspective after 14 May 2011 NBC will be established• The question is, then, what will be the fate of NBI if Egypt and Sudan withdraw?
  28. 28. Future Scenarios• If Egypt and Sudan signed the CFA before the deadline • It would be a golden opportunity in solving the real predicament on the Nile • Would pave the way to enhance cooperation by strengthening existing arrangements and initiatives in the NBI • Is less likely taking their position, Nile policy and the internal political situation they are with in
  29. 29. Future ctd….• If Egypt and Sudan acceded to the CFA after May 14, 2011 • There are arguments that Egypt and Sudan will join the CFA. This argument is based on reasons such as; • The benefit of cooperation against non-cooperation • Envtal enigmas that needs collective action • Population growth…. • But the problem is downstream states will follow delaying tactics in relation to water allocation as well as the implementation of different projects.
  30. 30. Future ctd…• If Egypt and Sudan not sign the CFA at all • That will leave the Nile Basin to uncertain future but upstream-upstream cooperation will establish NBC • But the problem is regarding sub-basin arrangements like ENSAP/ENTRO-if Egypt and Sudan withdraw from NBI and insist on rejecting the CFA, there will be no ENSAP/ENTRO.• The future is uncertain………• But one truth is there, the unfair status quo is destructed…..
  31. 31. Thank You!!!!!!