On 29-31 of May, the 2nd Regional Consultation of the Groundwater Governance Project was held in Nairobi. More than 80 Sub-Saharan African experts and stakeholders discussed regional groundwater challenges and how they could be solved by improving Africa's Groundwater Governance. The consultation is part of GEF's Groundwater Governance Project. This project intends to consolidate a Shared Vision on Groundwater Governance and propose a set of globally valid guiding principles that should inform groundwater governance at all levels: the Global Framework for Action.
Groundwater Governance Definition
Being still a rather new and relatively abstract concept, one of the outputs of the project is to agree upon a common definition for Groundwater Governance. So far the following working definition has been adopted by the project: "Groundwater governance is the process by which groundwater resources are managed through the application of responsibility, participation, information availability, transparency, custom, and rule of law. It is the art of coordinating administrative actions and decision making between and among different jurisdictional levels - one of which may be global." Governance can be distinguished from ‘government' (who decides) and ‘management' (what is done to implement decisions).
The Nairobi Regional Consultation
The aims of the regional consultation in Nairobi were to:
- acquire first-hand knowledge of regional issues from local groundwater experts;
- raise awareness and promote a global groundwater agenda;
- build partnerships amongst collaborating project agencies, stakeholders, decision-makers and specialists across sectors.
More than 80 people from various sub-regions of the Sub-Saharan region from governments, regional economic commissions, research departments, academia, NGOs and the private sector discussed for three days various groundwater governance topics. These were among others basic or foundational water governance principles like accountability (including corruption), transparency, user participation and the importance of the development and access to essential information needed to make informed decisions at all levels. Other important issues discussed were funding and water grabbing.
Although it is too early to come to conclusive recommendations, one stands out. We need to convey our groundwater messages more convincingly to all layers in society. Groundwater specialists are very talented people but generally poor communicators. Good groundwater science can make a difference only if it is properly communicated. A clear account of how groundwater quantity and quality allow livelihoods, economic sectors and national/regional economies to function is a fundamental requirement in making a case for groundwater governance!