Home | Comment & Analysis    Thursday 22 February 2018

“The Nile: Shared River, Collective Action”


By Dr. Eng. Seleshi Bekele

Ethiopia is hosting the 2018 Regional Nile Day Celebration in commemoration of the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) on February 22, 1999 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Participants from Nile riparian countries will converge in our capital, Addis Ababa, to observe this big event.

February 22 marks a groundbreaking event in the history of the Nile Basin. It is on this date that for the first time ever, all riparian countries that share the Nile came together and vowed to develop, manage, protect and conserve as well as utilize water resources on the basis of a commonly formulated and adopted Shared Vision which still provides the guiding principle for our collective action.

The Shared Vision Objective is an aspirational statement which enunciates our desire to achieve “sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources.”

In order to realize this Shared Vision Objective, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan Tanzania and Uganda established the Nile Basin Initiative as a transitional institution with two component Programs: (a) a Shared Vision Program to build water resources management, development-related technical and institutional capacities at country and basin level, as well as trust and confidence; (b) Subsidiary Action Programs to embark expeditiously on much needed investment preparation.

In its nearly two-decade lifetime, NBI has achieved significant results through these two programs, about which all member countries and the international community that supported us should rightly be proud of. By way of illustration, I would like to single out three major areas of success.

First, Nile Basin countries agreed to work together on the basis of new modus operandus, which respects their sovereignty. That is to say, they agreed to negotiate a New Treaty that would supersede and replace all preceding colonial and post-colonial treaties which were perceived as inequitable and not all-inclusive. The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA), whose 10-year negotiation was concluded in 2010 is a breakthrough and a milestone achievement by itself.

Second, the Nile Basin Initiative is the only common institution to-date that offers basin-wide platform for countries to dialogue, consult, plan and work together. NBI has been delivering results that provide a firm technical and institutional foundation until it is replaced by the permanent Nile River Basin Commission which would be established upon ratification of the CFA by at least six signatory countries.

Third, we understand the River with its challenges better than before. Each Nile Basin country has now a clear picture how to access and utilize the common Nile Basin water resources. There is better appreciation of the upstream-downstream interdependencies and mutuality as well as both the challenges and opportunities this phenomenon poses to all concerned. Not only we appreciate the vulnerabilities, needs and aspirations of each of our countries, but also we are now increasingly aware of our collective custodianship, responsibility and duty to husband, protect and conserve the Nile for future generation.

We are more aware of the potential damages we could inflict on the Nile if we perpetuate unfettered, unilateral and competitive utilization. That is to say, thanks to having collaborative discussions via the platforms NBI provided to us, Nile Basin countries no longer consider Basin Cooperation an option, but an existential imperative.

Notwithstanding our achievements, the Nile has several challenges ahead of it which requires more basin-wide cooperation. We need to prepare for the adverse Climate Change impacts our basin is likely to face and towards which our countries hardly contributed. We are likely to be compelled to live with more frequent extreme events such as floods and droughts, to mention but a few. Moreover, we do not own definitive knowledge yet about their duration and immensity. All the same, we need to have an in-depth understanding and it has to be urgent.

Demand for the finite Nile waters together with high rates of economic growth, high rates of urbanization and rapid growth of population across the basin is escalating. For example, the Nile Basin population is projected to double to one billion in less than two decades. Our watersheds are facing increasing degradation and our unique biodiversity is facing extinction.

All the above trends indicate that change is happening. The question therefore, is whether our modus operandi, which is the way we do our water resources planning, management, and development, be it at a country, sub-basin or basin scales, is nimble, flexible and dynamic enough to cope and manage these changes. Despite the pressure and temptation to work in the same time-worn fashion, we need to abandon old habits and patterns of thinking and mindsets in terms of policy making, policy planning and trans-boundary institution-regime-building. Instead, we need to be prepared to pioneer innovative, bold policies at multiple levels that enable us create new values, new synergies and more collective vigorous and adaptable competencies. We still can choose not to be hostages of the past.

This said, though, I still see reasons for hope. We are learning to cooperate and work together, craft common agenda, embark on cooperative ventures while not always agreeing on everything. For example, despite its reservations on CFA, Sudan has resumed participation in the NBI in 2012, after two years of absence. We want to believe that it is a matter of time before Egypt will rejoin the NBI family. Despite the disagreements over aspects of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), Egypt and Ethiopia, along with Sudan, have signed the Declaration of Principles (DoP) and are working together to craft modalities for the eventual filling and operation of the dam.

Summing up the foregoing, one thing is evident, that is, our Shared Vision is as relevant as it was when it was first formulated in 1999. The emphasis on a common resource, which is the Nile, and an equitable utilization of its resource, are still valid. But then, utilizing and benefiting from a common resource also requires concomitant obligation to protect and conserve that resource. In other words, a “Shared River” requires “Collective Action”, which entails a mandatory cooperation for everyone concerned.

It is my firm belief that no Nile Basin Member State would entertain the idea that “the tragedy of the commons” may befall our great River. The “tragedy of the commons” occurs when communities sharing a common pool resource such as water bodies are so focused on competition to ensure exclusive maximization of individual benefits, which in the long-run and ultimately threaten that shared resource itself. Killing the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs is not rational. We, therefore, could and should benefit from cooperation and collective action.

This could, for example, be manifested by coordinating our investment plans, our operations and finding ways to internalize social and environmental costs, building common strategies to prepare for and cope with Climate change impacts, putting in place common measurement systems, standards, analytical frameworks to help us better monitor, plan and manage the Nile, reconcile individual country-requirements and needs with basin-wide strategic priorities, etc. In terms of broadening and deepening our collective action, we only have started scratching the surface.

A lot remains to be done! A lot of potential remains to be tapped! Suffice to say, that Nile Basin cooperation is necessary and irreversible.

To reiterate, it is my earnest conviction that Nile Basin Cooperation is happening now and will be sustained for years to come, for posterity. After all, this great River that weaves and bends and passes through all our countries is the umbilical cord that connects and nourishes us all. The motto for Celebrating Nile Day this year “Shared River, Collective Action” is apt and descriptive enough of our common duty to cooperate.

On behalf of the FDRE and the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Electricity I welcome all Participants to the 2018 Nile Day Celebrations, and to Addis Ababa.

H.E. Dr. Eng. Seleshi Bekele, Minster of Water, Irrigation and Electricity of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE)


The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

Salient features of South Sudan latest peace deal 2018-09-21 05:36:06 By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi Last week, the government of South Sudan under President Salva Kiir, various armed and unarmed opposition groups and other parties, including the SPLM/A-IO led by Dr (...)

Open letter to South Sudan Civil Aviation Authority 2018-09-19 04:05:10 By Telar Ring Deng On the cold morning of 9th September 2018, we were all in utter shock and bewilderment at the very tragic accident that occurred in Eastern Lakes State when a Plane crashed (...)

Sudanese have become prey of mercenaries and Janjawid militias 2018-09-17 09:59:30 By Mahmoud A. Suleiman The Janjaweed bandits have been raging in the land of Darfur in particular and Sudan in general with corruption, havoc and destruction, more than a decade on. The (...)


Latest Press Releases

Unity State community in Kenya supports Khartoum peace agreement 2018-08-17 08:33:21 PRESS STATMENT 14th Aug, 2018 Re: We shall Rally behind Khartoum Peace Agreement The Unity State Community Association in Kenya was established in 2010 to organize and mobilize the people of (...)

The Suspension of Hurriyat Online Newspaper 2018-04-29 07:04:37 Sudan Democracy First Group 28 April 2018 The Sudanese civil and political circles and those concerned with Sudan were shocked by the news that the management of Hurriyat online newspaper has (...)

Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan 2018-04-22 10:01:20 UN Secretary-General, New York African Union Commission, Addis Ababa UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva Petition on the Deteriorating Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in Sudan (...)


Copyright © 2003-2018 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.