Cameroon became the 47th Party to the United Nations Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) following the approval of accession at the highest level by the Cameroon President on 7 July 2022 and the deposit on 1 November 2022 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the instruments of ratification at the UN headquarters in New York.
This is an important step for the wider region, as Cameroon shares most of its water resources with other states including Chad, Nigeria, Niger, the Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. In the face of rising water stress, cooperation on these shared waters is essential to ensure economic development, climate change adaptation and to preserve regional stability.
The Minister of Water Resources and Energy, M. Gaston Eloundou Essomba announced that “the accession to the Water Convention brings many opportunities to strengthen Cameroon’s water management system and our shared water resources through increased cooperation between states in the Lake Chad, Niger, and Congo River basins as well as coastal rivers to promote sustainable development and peace”.
A boost to strong momentum for water cooperation in Africa
Cameroon’s accession further consolidates the fast-building momentum for water cooperation in Africa, and its accession could be a catalyst for more countries to join and reap the benefits of implementing the Water Convention.
Chad, Senegal, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Togo have joined the Convention since 2018 following its opening to accession by all UN Member States. More than 15 countries are in the process of joining, most of which are in Africa. With neighbouring Chad already a Party and following the recent commitment of Nigeria to join, Cameroon’s accession could help reach a critical mass of Water Convention Parties in the region that share the same water resources, putting this practical instrument into action.
As well as providing a legal framework for water cooperation that benefits peace, stability, economic growth and sustainable development more broadly, it also provides a robust basis – supported by International Financial Institutions – to help mobilize financing and de-risk investments for infrastructure and climate change adaptation in shared basins.
Harnessing benefits for Cameroon
Aware of the impact of water management on different sectors of development of the country, with a population of over 27 million people, Cameroon has early on listed cooperation on transboundary water resources among its major concerns. At the national level, the country has initiated the revision of the legal framework for the water sector to integrate transboundary waters. To guide the country’s accession, the Ministry of Water and Energy created a ministerial committee with all stakeholders working in the water sector to analyze the responsibilities and opportunities linked to the Convention.
Sonja Koeppel, Secretary to the Convention, said: "Cameroon has a lot to gain from joining the Water Convention, but also a lot to contribute. We are honoured to welcome Cameroon as 47th Party to the Water Convention, building on the Convention’s proven 30-year experience in facilitating cooperation in shared basins.”
Accession to the Water Convention will allow Cameroon to benefit from support at the global level to strengthen stability and peace. It will also support Cameroon to further improve its integrated water resources management at the national level. Among cross-cutting contributions to Sustainable Development Goals progress, this cooperation can benefit access to clean water and sanitation, energy and food production, environmental protection, and building resilience to disasters.
Accession to the Water Convention will further reinforce Cameroon’s existing strong involvement in several transboundary basin organizations (Lake Chad Basin Commission, International Commission of the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin, Niger Basin Authority) and prior ratification of the Water Charters of the Niger River and Lake Chad basins, whose principles are convergent with those of the Water Convention. Cameroon is also involved in other regional organizations active on transboundary water issues (Economic Community of Central African States, African Union, African Minister’s Council on Water).
Cameroon also intends to raise the profile of transboundary water cooperation at the highest political level, in the perspective of the upcoming 2023 United Nations Water Conference.
The Water Convention requires Parties to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact, to use transboundary waters in a reasonable and equitable way, and to ensure their sustainable management through cooperation. Parties bordering the same transboundary waters are obliged to cooperate by concluding specific agreements and establishing joint bodies. The Convention has a sustainable development perspective in that it takes into account all the sectors involved in the protection and use of water.
Cameroon’s accession to the Water Convention, will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit.