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BRIEF October 16, 2017

Transboundary Cooperation for Climate Resilience

Climate change will alter hydrological regimes in different ways across Africa. Economies, livelihoods, and ecosystems are all highly water-dependent. Building up their resilience to climate change takes effective water management systems composed of strong information systems, institutions, and infrastructure, at all levels—local, national, and regional. And, when it comes to transboundary waters, resilience entails a cooperative approach. Fewer options are available if they are limited to the actions of individual countries, which run the risk of being counter-productive on a regional scale.

Since transboundary cooperation is complex, and investment in it is often more for public good than private gain, the risk of underinvestment in climate adaptation measures is high.

To draw attention to the critical role of transboundary water cooperation, CIWA has produced a report entitled Climate Resilience in Africa : The Role of Cooperation around Transboundary Waters. This documents the relationships between climate change, livelihoods, and water management across Sub-Saharan Africa, outlining cooperation.

Drawing from CIWA’s work on transboundary water projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, the report proposes a framework for cooperation and climate resilience, and elaborates on it. The framework would allow River Basin Organizations, riparian nations, water management authorities, development partners, and other stakeholders to formulate strategies to tackle transboundary water issues.

Economies, livelihoods, and ecosystems across Sub-Saharan Africa are highly dependent on their water resources for irrigation, ecosystems, and energy. Aspects of climate change threaten to disrupt these.

Proactive improvements to the three “Is” of water management—information systems, institutions, and infrastructure—can reduce a region’s vulnerability to climate change by integrating climate change into water management practices and decisions.

Climate finance donors now have an opportunity to counter the market failure that limits the supply of regional resilience, and support transboundary water initiatives as part of their package for climate adaptation financing in Africa.

Building systemic resilience

By specifically targeting the 3Is, cooperation in transboundary water management helps:

  • Improve people’s readiness to cope with short-term shocks and long-term change;
  • Build-in redundancy to make sure things continue to work; and
  • Connect water-related sub-sectors and geographic areas to optimize water use, expanding the benefits of this into areas beyond water and harnessing the benefits of scale.

All these contribute toward systemic resilience, which enables economies and ecosystems to grow more suited to a changing climate and be better prepared for further change.