International Water and Forestry Agreements: Department briefing

Water and Sanitation

26 October 2005
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Meeting report


26 October 2005

Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department briefing: International Water and Forestry Agreements

The Committee was briefed about the activities surrounding the international water and forestry agreements in which South Africa was engaged. Department officials described agreements included signed, and those still being negotiated. Internationally, South Africa was engaged at five levels, namely:
- the River-Basin Organisation (countries with whom South Africa shared rivers);
- the Southern African Development Community (SADC);
- the African Union (AU);
- the developing countries with which South Africa particularly related, and
- the developed countries South Africa dealt with in water and forestry agreements.


Department briefing

Mr Fawcett Goatee, Department Director: International Development Co-operation, and his colleague, Ms Boniswa Hene, Ministry Chief of Staff, presented the briefing. Mr Goatee emphasised South Africa ’s commitment to equity in sharing water with its neighbours. For example, at the SADC level, President Mbeki was signatory to an international protocol on shared watercourses. The protocol was one instrument to regulate how water from the Orange, Limpopo, Inkomati and Maputo rivers were shared. This protocol had subsequently been revised to capture the needs of the environment and was now known as the ‘Revised Protocol’.

The revised version also made provision for the establishment of shared water institutions (SWI) that appointed river basin commissions to monitor and advise member states on how to manage the joint river basins effectively. The positions of South Africa and SADC, as major proponents of transboundary waters and shared watercourses, were clear and being made known at both national and international conferences. Not all countries, for example Egypt, shared this sentiment.

South Africa had signed water-sharing agreements with Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland. The Orange Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM) that included the states of Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana, was the most important.

Bilateral Co-operation: Shared river basins
Certain bilateral agreements existed between South Africa and its neighbouring countries. These agreements were co-ordinated and controlled by the Department of Foreign Affairs, but sector departments were also allowed to sign their own agreements. For example, there was an existing bilateral commission between South Africa and Lesotho chaired at the Ministers of Foreign Affairs level. However, the Department was still expected to sign its own individual agreements within the framework of the broader bilateral agreement initiated at that level.

Orange River Basin
Two projects that emanated from bilateral foreign affairs agreements with Lesotho included: the feasibility of phase two of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHW); and the Lowlands Water Supply (LWS) Project. With reference to the former, South Africa ’s Minister of Foreign Affairs was likely to sign an agreement with her counterpart in Lesotho for the appointment of a joint consortium to do a feasibility study for the LHW Project. Further agreements were being negotiated between Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe, not only in terms of water-sharing, but also for the purposes of capacity-building and sharing information within the auspices of agreements that had already been signed.

Limpopo River Basin
Although agreements with Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana had recently been signed for the establishment of a commission (which was subsequently established), the agreement was not yet in full force. Only when the basin states had ratified these instruments, would donor funding for development projects be forthcoming. Hopefully, these agreements would be enforced within the next six months.

Inkomati and Maputo River Basins
South Africa shared these rivers with Swaziland and Mozambique. Currently, it was a challenge to share the minimal amount of water in these rivers equitably because of the drought. An aerial survey had been done (on 22 October 2005) to check the water levels in the Maputo River so that proactive measures could be considered for the immediate future.

Bilateral relations: SADC and other African countries
South Africa also had bilateral agreements with Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda. These agreements were essentially related to information exchange about the effective integrated water resources management techniques.

Multilateral African relations: SADC, AU, UNION, NEPAD and AMCOW
The Constitutive Act that established the Africa Union made provision for the specialised technical committees. The African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW) had been a product of this provision and Ministers had resolved that the African Development Bank would accept all donor funds to facilitate water resources projects in NEPAD, through the Bank’s African Water Facility Financing Mechanism.

Bilateral Agreements with countries outside Africa
South Africa had bilateral agreements with Cuba, China, Japan and Russia and agreements under negotiation with Vietnam, Brazil and India. South Africa was about to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Russia (under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Co-operation) at the level of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. South Africa also had an exchange programme with Cuba where the latter provided engineers to help local capacity building. The Foreign Affairs Department determined policy and priorities and their Department worked within that policy framework.

South Africa had also signed bilateral agreements with developed countries, such as the European Union states. On the multilateral front South Africa was committed to the decisions that had been taken at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Furthermore, South Africa had effectively represented SADC and Africa at the multilateral forums in 2003 and 2004, and would do so again in 2006 to ensure that the interests of the African continent were protected.

Forestry Agreements
Forestry agreements were governed by the same protocols as water resources agreements. The Protocol on Forestry was currently under ratification. South Africa was a participant in the United Nations Forum on Forestry; the Africa Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Declaration; and the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. Finally, South Africa was also assisting with the Congo Basin Initiative in the effective management of their forests.

In response to the Chairperson’s request for the Department to consider inviting certain Members to attend the Mexico/Brazil World Water Forum, Mr Goatee said the Department would cover the Members’ costs.

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked if the Department had experienced any violations of agreements signed. Secondly, how were people who depended on riverwater being assisted during droughts? Lastly, what possibilities existed for students to study in other countries to broaden their experience?

Mr Goatee replied that the yardstick for water usage was equity sharing. There appear to be many variables. Although the Commission had agreed how much each country might draw from the pool, the underlying principle was that everybody should work together. For example, Mozambique would receive a continuous supply of water even if it meant the upper supply was cut. As far as violations were concerned, Members were reminded that agreements were enforceable although the support of all countries should be obtained by persuasion rather than by force. Students were sent to study in countries like Cuba, Sweden, and United Kingdom on an ongoing basis.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) felt that the contents of these agreements were not adequately known to the Committee and asked the Department to make these agreements available to Members. Feedback could then be heard from the Department during a questioning session.

Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) and the Chairperson agreed that these agreements should have been studied before being signed. Mr Goatee said he would send copies of the agreements as soon as possible.

The Chairperson asked why the Limpopo Agreement had not yet been signed. Furthermore, she reminded the Committee and the Department of its Constitutional obligations to consult widely before international agreements. The Foreign Affairs and water-related Committees of both the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, should be invited to a joint sitting and oversee how the sector levels had been involved with certain agreements and how the Department was rendering services.

Mr Goatee said that an agreement were enforceable after it had been signed. The Limpopo agreement had been signed but not yet enforced. South Africa did not have control over the ratification process of other countries and that SADC preferred consensus-seeking. Diplomacy was normally employed to persuade defaulting countries to abide as donor money was withheld if agreements were not ratified. He acknowledged that the Committee should in future be involved in every aspect of its oversight function.

Mr Goatee continued that trade and services were burning issues led by the Department of Trade and Industry. His Department had been asked for input and negotiations were ongoing. Countries were at different levels of development meaning that, for example, rich countries could insist that the full cost of water services be paid, while in developing countries, government needed to subsidise input costs.

There were many benefits from agreements with countries far away. One example was that the exchange of information was crucial because areas of weakness in a particular country could be addressed through the strengths of other countries. South Africa’s relationship with Russia was also strategic since that country would soon have the chairpersonship of the G8 countries.

With regard to Mr V Mabuyakhulu’s (ANC) concern about the processing of timber, Mr Goatee conceded that beneficiation remained a challenge.

Mr Goatee also rested Ms M Manana’s (ANC) concern about ratification. South Africa was at an advance stage of ratification and the Committee would be kept informed about and included in the final ratification process.

The Chairperson reiterated two broad issues of concern. Within the context of trade and services, the Department should protect the Constitution (in particular the Bill of Rights) and beneficiation. With regard to the latter, she mentioned the need for broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) and the social responsibility of multinational firms. She questioned if the Department was bringing the big companies in line with these requirements and mentioned a R50 million investment by Japan in the Eastern Cape.

The meeting was adjourned.


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