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Improving Water Management and Governance in West African Countries

In December 2007 UNEP began the implementation of a project to improve water management and governance in West African. The project contributes to the implementation of the Regional Action Plan on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) it will assist Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia which are the countries identified as having the greatest need for assistance to develop and implement IWRM plans. The project will run for three years until 2010 and is funded by the EU Water Facility and the Norwegian Government. The project is implemented in partnership with Water Resources Coordination Unit (WRCU) of the ECOWAS, Global Water Partnership and the UNEP/DHI Collaborating Centre on Water and Environment.


In 2000, the international community agreed on a selected set of goals, and incorporated them in the Millennium Declaration, a blue print for poverty reduction and sustainable development. As articulated in the Second World Water Development Report, with regard to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), water is crosscutting and plays a critical role in achieving all the MDGs, specifically those related to poverty and hunger, health, environmental sustainability, and global development.

In recognition of the seriousness of the freshwater situation in many parts of the developing world, and of the fact that improved water management is essential for achieving broader development goals, an important target was adopted at the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002: to “develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005, with support to developing countries through actions at all levels to develop and implement national/regional strategies, plans and programmes with regard to integrated river basin, watershed and groundwater management” (the “IWRM 2005 target”). Despite global, regional and national efforts, surveys presented at the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico in 2006, indicated that implementation to meet the “IWRM 2005 target” was slow, making it necessary to intensify efforts.

UNEP IWRM West Africa project

Thanks to the support provided by different actors, the West African Sub-region is well advanced in IWRM through a process that was initiated in 1998 (West African conference on IWRM in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso). This process has reached a stage where an institutional infrastructure is operational through the Water Resources Coordination Unit (WRCU) under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  As such, the WRCU has been put in charge of implementing the Regional Action Plan on IWRM in West Africa. Through capacity-building and regional partnerships, this project will support the development of national IWRM roadmaps in Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, and the implementation of the national IWRM Roadmaps leading to national IWRM plans in Liberia, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire.

Extensive ecological damage to the area, with the accompanying displacement of much of the indigenous population, was identified by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations/World Bank Needs Assessment Initiative for the Reconstruction of Iraq as one of the country’s major environmental and humanitarian disasters.

This project is building on the outcomes of the UNEP 2005 IWRM Target - project carried out between 2005 and 2007. In West Africa the project provided support to the elaboration of IWRM policies and roadmaps in three countries Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo. The project also provided further support for the regional monitoring of the IWRM process. The regional monitoring report on progress identified that the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia were lagging behind in meeting the IWRM 2005 target and had also received the least support. The main objective for the project in West Africa is to support the development and implementation of IWRM plans in the targeted countries with special focus on environmental aspects.
For further information:

Project Manager at UNEP: Thomas Chiramba

Project Manager at UNEP/DHI: Nick Ahrensberg