Southern Africa

UNWC's Global Relevance

When the UN Watercourses Convention was passed by the UN General Assembly in 1997, all votes among Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states were in favour, except for the abstention from Tanzania and the absence from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. No SADC country voted against the Convention. Yet of the SADC Member States, to date only Namibia and South Africa are parties to it.

The Southern African assessment gives an overview of the shared watercourses in the SADC region, providing information on climate, population, economic uses of the water resources and environmental issues in the basins. Following an bird’s eye description of current legal and institutional management frameworks for shared watercourses in the SADC region, the report conducts an analysis of the value of the adoption of the UN Watercourses Convention for SADC states.

The analysis provides a comparison between the UN Watercourses Convention and the SADC Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses (the regional framework agreement for the management of shared watercourses concluded by SADC member states), highlighting similarities and differences between the two instruments. The paper continues with the assessment of the potential benefits for SADC states of adopting the UN Watercourses Convention with respect to basins shared among SADC states and basins shared with neighbouring non-SADC states.

The assessment makes the point that with respect to basins shared between SADC states only, the value of adopting the UN Watercourses Convention for SADC states would merely lie in interpretational guidance for some SADC Protocol provisions, rather than creating a new or more comprehensive legal framework. It would, however, provide SADC states with a number of tangible benefits in relation to neighbouring non-SADC states they share basins with. The assessment therefore concludes that it seems to be in the interest of SADC states, as well as of their neighbours, to adopt the UN Watercourses Convention and extend the harmonised legal framework that SADC states have created among themselves to basins that are shared with non-SADC neighbours.

Additional Resources

- Download Southern Africa Case Study

- Relevance of the UN Watercourses Convention in Africa (AMCOW Information Brief)

Video: Anton Earle Video: Anton Earle Application of the UNWC in Southern Africa and interaction with the SADC Protocol
Video: Inga Jacobs Video: Inga Jacobs What is the role and relevance of the UNWC for multi-level water governance?


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