GENEVA (The Southern African Times) – At a meeting in Geneva, water ministers from The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania and Senegal adopted a declaration on the establishment of institutional transboundary cooperation around the Senegal–Mauritanian Aquifer Basin. The ministers also agreed to begin talks on the creation of a mechanism to ensure the concerted and sustainable management of their shared groundwater resources, on which more than 15 million people depend for their water supply. Switzerland, through the Geneva Water Hub, works to facilitate this cooperation, which also enjoys the support of the Secretariat of the UN Water Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, as well as the European Union.
The declaration, signed in Geneva by ministers James Furmos Peter Gomez (The Gambia), Orlando Mendes Viegas (Guinea-Bissau), Mohamed El Hassen Boukhreiss (Mauritania) and Sérigne Mbaye Thiam (Senegal), is a major step towards the development of a regional water use plan, improved management and sharing of scientific data, and the implementation of climate change adaptation strategies, in which aquifers have a strategic role to play. Since 2019 representatives of the four states that share the Senegal–Mauritanian Aquifer Basin have developed a vision for transboundary cooperation around this groundwater system. They called on Switzerland and other partners to support and facilitate their efforts to bring the project to fruition. Switzerland has a solid reputation in this field thanks to its extensive experience in the management of shared water resources. The 1978 Convention between Switzerland and France on the Geneva Aquifer is one of the earliest agreements of its kind in the world.
Water as a driver of peace and security
Although the control over water resources is a frequent source of conflict, this vital natural resource can also spur dialogue between states that depend on the same water basin for their supply. Swiss water diplomacy seeks to transform destructive competition for limited resources of fresh water into constructive collaboration. In 2010 Switzerland launched the ‘Blue Peace’ initiative to further this goal. In this context, Switzerland lends the Geneva Water Hub its support.
The aim of Switzerland’s efforts is for joint institutions and jointly adopted legal frameworks to resolve disputes peacefully. Freshwater cooperation can pave the way to peace and security between peoples. It has a positive impact on economic and diplomatic cooperation.
Switzerland is committed to continuing its Blue Peace efforts in other regions of the world like the Middle East and Central Asia. It will also take part in the 9th World Water Forum, which will be held in Dakar between 22 and 26 March 2022. The theme of the conference will be ‘Water Security for Peace and Development’.