About the 2nd Africa Water Week in South AfricaAMCOW Background
In 1998, the UN agencies recommended that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) should chair the Water Working Group of the United Nations System-wide Initiative on Africa (UNSIA). UNEP, as a first step, working with other co-chairs, was requested to develop a strategy for consolidating progress in the work of the group. Subsequent to the above process, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was launched in the year 2001 and its implementation called for specific responses from governments throughout the continent.
The ministers responsible for various sectors were asked to devise strategies for achieving the goals of NEPAD. It was recognized that the ministers of water in Africa, in view of the centrality of water resources in sustainable development, have a special role to play. Pursuant to the above, the inauguration of AMCOW followed on 29-30 April 2002 in Abuja, Nigeria and was attended by the ministers responsible for water in Africa, as well as representatives of the African Union (AU), UNEP, World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), and African Development Bank (AfDB). The principal outcome of the meeting was the Abuja Ministerial Declaration on Water - A Key to Sustainable Development in Africa, which formally established the African Ministers’ Council on Water.
The Declaration also outlined agreements on AMCOW’s institutional arrangements to provide political leadership and strategic direction to region-wide efforts in the field of water, the functions of the Council, principles for providing support to initiatives, general governance arrangements, and the establishment of a trust fund. The Abuja Declaration also culminated in a long process to forge and formalize a coordination structure for water policy dialogue and policy in Africa.
AMCOW, like the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN), represents an important milestone in the growing recognition that Africa must and will take the lead in bringing sustainable development to the continent.
AMCOW INSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURE
The institutional structure of AMCOW today consists of several political and technical entities at the regional and sub-regional levels, working together to achieve the objectives of AMCOW. The structure is also outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding governing AMCOW.
The Governing Council: The Council serves as the principal inter-governmental body on water issues and is composed of all 53 African Ministers responsible for water affairs in the region.
AMCOW Executive Committee (EXCO): The Executive Committee comprises the President of the Council and 15 other members—three members elected from each of the five sub-regions of Africa on a rotational basis. The members are selected by the sub-regions.
AMCOW Technical Advisory Committee (TAC): The Committee comprises 25 technical experts, five (5) each from the five sub-regions of Africa, on a rotational basis. The sub-regions decide which countries and experts are to become members of the Committee.
The Sub-regional Committees: These consist of a Ministerial committee and technical experts responsible for ensuring that arrangements are in place for sub-regional coordination on AMCOW matters as well as providing inputs for the deliberations of the TAC.
AMCOW Secretariat: The Secretariat is headed by an Executive Secretary and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Secretariat and taking follow up actions on the decisions of the Council. The Secretariat is based in Abuja, Nigeria and the Executive Secretary is Mr. Bai-mass Taal.
AMCOW Strategy Unit: To strengthen its knowledge-base for informed deliberations and decision-making, AMCOW decided to create a Strategy Unit in collaboration with, and support from some of AMCOW’s partners.
OPERATIONAL SYSTEM OF AMCOW
AMCOW conducts an Ordinary Session with the full ministerial contingent of the Governing Council once every two years, which is preceded by AMCOW TAC meeting and an EXCO session. TAC takes the responsibility for policy and strategy formulation, co-coordinating with other institutions and operational follow up of the Council decisions within the respective sub-regions.
PARTNERSHIPS WITH OTHER ORGANISATIONS
AMCOW’s accomplishments have been driven largely by a spirit of implementation through partnerships. This is evident from the endorsement by the 2003 Pan-African implementation and Partnership Conference on water (PANAFCON) of a variety of initiatives led by different partners, such as AfDB (hosting the African Water Facility and implementing programmes such as the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative), UN Water/Africa (mobilizing scientific and technical expertise and undertaking initiatives such as the African Water Journal), UNEP (providing institutional support and hosting the AMCOW Trust Fund) and development cooperation partners such as GTZ (providing both financial and technical support).
Engaging with NEPAD: AMCOW’s role is to provide strategic direction for achieving water resources management objectives through, inter alia, provision of ministerial responses to the water crisis in Africa, developing and promoting common African positions and perspectives on the global water agenda, and providing a platform for regional dialogue and cooperation on water policy.
Engaging with AfDB: The African Water Facility (AWF) is an initiative led by AMCOW to mobilize and apply resources to finance water infrastructure and water investment facilities in Africa and is hosted by the AfDB. AMCOW and AfDB also collaborate on the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI).
Cooperation with Regional Economic Communities (RECs): In 2005, AMCOW signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Secretariats of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Secretariats of River and Lake Basin Organizations (LBOs).
Cooperation with African River and Lake Basin Organizations (R/LBOs): AMCOW, as a region-wide ministerial body, has a special responsibility and challenge to facilitate cooperation amongst African River and Lake Basin Organisations.
Co-operation with African civil society: Considerable progress has already been made in terms of engaging civil society in the work of AMCOW with the formation of the independent ANEW. A Memorandum of Understanding to guide the relations between AMCOW and ANBO has been endorsed.
DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION PARTNERS
World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP): The WSP has been supporting and collaborating with AMCOW on supporting the Office of the President on water and sanitation issues.
German Technical Cooperation (GTZ): Following a project implementation agreement between AMCOW and GTZ in April 2005, priority has been given to the immediate requirements of AMCOW’s institutional structure and consultation mechanisms, including the sub-regional organs of AMCOW.
Global Water Partnership (GWP): GWP is supporting African countries to formulate Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plans for achieving the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) target and AMCOW TAC, with support from GWP, has been directed to prioritise identification of constraints and opportunities in financing water sector activities in the continent.