A three-day first regional high-level conference of the Nile Upper Reparian Countries cooperation conference has on today Monday September 5, kicked off in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
H.E. Demeke Mekonnen Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Minister of Water and Energy H.E. Dr. Eng. Habtamu Itefa, State Ministers of Foreign Affairs, H.E Ambassador Tesfaye and H.E. Ambassador Birtukan Ayano, Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa City, Zantirar Abay, delegates from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and South Sudan, representatives from various water institutes and high-level guests were in attendance.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, H.E Demeke Mekonnen welcomed the guests and emphasized the importance of the river for the riparian states in his opening remarks.
The river, which supplies livelihood to millions of people who live along its banks in Ethiopia alone, accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s surface water, according to the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.
However, as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr. Demeke, noted, the Nile River is confronted with both man-made and natural issues that affect sustainable use of the river, exacerbate water stress in the region, and cause tensions over the utilization of the available water.
Demeke explained the issues preventing the sustainable use of the Nile river, saying that it is “on the one hand, threatened by the ever-increasing water demand due to population growth, environmental degradation, and climate change, among other things.”
The tendency to assert hegemony over the shared water resource, on the other hand, continues to be a barrier to the equitable and sensible utilization of the Nile waters, Demeke emphasized.
Demeke recalled the actions taken by the upper riparian nations on the Nile in the past years, saying that “riparian states have sought to address these challenges and have made modest strides to conserve the shared resource while trying to ensure fairness in its utilization.”
These efforts have culminated in the launching of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in 1999 and the opening for signature of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) in 2010, following a decade-long negotiation process, he added.
Among other aspects, Demeke also stated, “In addition to this collective effort that we are making to ensure fair and equitable use of our shared resource, the government of Ethiopia has, in the framework of the CFA, supported basin wide development and restoration.”
Demeke also briefed about the developments of the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Green Legacy Initiative launched by the Government of Ethiopia under the leadership of His Excellency Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali.
Demeke stated, “Unfortunately, a pure development project with clear targets for clean energy production has been subjected to undue politicization and pressure, even though it does not entail any significant harm to any riparian country.”
He further said, “This is yet another indication of why we need to expedite the setting up of a basin wide legal and institutional framework.”
In this regard, I would like to seize this opportunity to call on riparian states to expedite the coming into force of the CFA, which would undoubtedly address problems in a lasting manner, he added.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen also wished for fruitful deliberations at the conclusion.