Author : Alfonso Medinilla
Organization affiliated: ECDPM
Site of publication : ecdpm.org
Type of publication : Working Paper
Date of publication : March 2017
The Niger Basin Authority (NBA) is a River Basin Organisation set up between nine countries that make up the Niger Basin: Guinea, Mali, Niger, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon.
In its current form, the NBA aims to harmonise and coordinate national water resource development initiatives around an integrated development plan for the basin, as well as facilitate and broker water and energy infrastructure development.
Assessing the political traction of the NBA
Guinea is by far the largest water producer. Benin to some extent contributes to the flow of the main artery, and Cameroon houses the headwaters of the Benue. Mali and Niger are the main water consumers, while Nigeria is both producer and consumer, controlling the Niger Delta and a significant portion the Benue.
The NBA’s governance model follows a typical multilevel structure, common for thematic intergovernmental organisations. Sessions take place very regularly, and participation at both Summit of Heads of State and Government and Council of Ministers level is strong, indicating that member states see an interest in maintaining and using the NBA. National Focal Structures (NFS) were established in each member state, in order to reinforce the administrative link between the NBA and the competent ministries.
Expanding agenda and implementation challenges: the Shared Vision Process for the Niger Basin (2002-2008)
At the sixth (2000, Bamako) and seventh summit (2002, Abuja), member states requested the “development of a clear and shared vision between member states”. This Shared Vision was elaborated between 2002 and 2008 through an inclusive consultation process.
The Shared Vision Process (SVP) was structured around a series of national multi-sectoral consultations and resulted in a number of key technical instruments and commitments. The Sustainable Development Action Plan (PADD) sets out the main priorities for the NBA countries until 2025. An investment plan was also agreed, which serves as a budget for the PADD.
At the eighth summit in April 2008, the member states adopted the Water Charter as the legal framework for cooperation on sustainable water resource development.
Fundraising was a crucial component of the SVP and a key consideration at every stage. Ahead of the process, an invitation was sent to the World Bank to finance the SVP, and each phase/component was taken up by one or more development partners.
The Shared Vision Process sought to develop an Integrated Water Resource Management approach for the Niger basin. The participatory process therefore resulted in the establishment of a system of National Resources User Coordination (CNU) regrouped under a Regional umbrella (CRU) based in Burkina Faso.
While the CNUs are to play a critical role of oversight and form an interface with local resource users, their visibility is limited. Empowering the CNU/CRU as a strong and credible interlocutor seems to be rather low on the NBA agenda.
Current reforms and challenges
One of the merits of the SVP is that member states agreed on a scenario for dam development, based on a detailed calculation of the environmental, economic and hydrological impact of a variety of combinations. Major infrastructure works tend to be high on the political agenda of consecutive administrations. Control over Niger River projects and investments listed in the NBA’s operational documents remains firmly in the hands of member states.
As most river basin organisations, the NBA is highly dependent on external financing and technical assistance provided by donor agencies.
With the adoption of the current scenario, the NBA member states agreed on the principle of moving towards a deeper level of cooperation, including “the sharing of the costs and benefits associated with the construction and management of infrastructure of common interest and / or of transboundary nature. The risk of water conflict and the need to mitigate competing claims to limited and threatened water resources has put River and Lake basin organisations in the spotlight as they are seen to be preferred partners and drivers for regional cooperation on climate change.
In recent years, the NBA appears to also become a channel of climate finance for its member states.
External drivers and blockers
The most important external blocker is the regional security situation. First it shifts the attention away from other key areas of national interest. Second, political instability severely affects long-term action on a regional level by reducing the predictability and capacity of member state administrations.
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