Gender and Water Alliance

Accra Conference on Water and Sustainable Development in Africa, April 2002

WATER AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AFRICA - REGIONAL STAKEHOLDERS' CONFERENCE FOR PRIORITY SETTING. By Pauline Ikumi who represented the GWA as a Gender Ambassador at this event on the April 15 - 17, Accra, Ghana


The Accra conference was held against a background of a number of international initiatives in the water sector. These include the adoption of the Dublin and Rio principles in 1992 and adoption of the African water Vision for 2025 during the Second World Water Forum in the Hague, Netherlands in 2000.

Meanwhile, there were two international events on the horizon(World summit on Sustainable Development, Third World water Forum) which require a unified African voice and position on water, based on a consensus of water stakeholders. In September 2001 and under the guidance of the African Development Bank, representatives from more than 20 regional and international organizations dealing with water in Africa met in Abidjan. The main purpose of this meeting was to forge collaboration among the different organizations in a way, which will promote synergies, coordination and therefore utilize resources efficiently.

Recognizing the urgency for immediate action, it was decided at the meeting that an African Water Task Force (AWTF) should be established to assist in defining and synthesizing African positions and programs for the two forthcoming international events. To help reach this objective, it was also decided that a Stakeholders Conference should be held.

Following the launching of NEPAD(New Partnership for Africa's Development) it was decided that the proposed Conference should also be used as a platform to show how water can help in achieving the goals of NEPAD and to help mobilize resources for implementing the targets set in the African Water Vision and Framework for Action.

The Conference was held in Accra during April 15-17, 2002, with the financial support of the Government of Netherlands. The African Development Bank played a central role on organizing and coordinating the conference and in bringing together the key international and regional stakeholders to Accra.

Purpose of the Conference:

  • To deliberate on the final version of The African Position Paper and declaration on Water in the continent under the framework of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD),
  • The preparation of a programme to ensure a high profile for water issues in Africa during the Earth Summit in Johannesburg scheduled for August/September 2002; and
  • Proposals for effective African participation at the 3rd WWF and Virtual Water Conference.
  • The conference was also supposed to support the UNEP organized forthcoming AMCOW conference in Abuja, Nigeria which will be held at the end of April 2002.

The conference also sought to address the following two questions:

  • How can water resources be utilized to support the goals of poverty eradication and sustainable development in Africa?
  • How can we ensure that water-related problems are not a constraint to sustainable development in Africa?

The conference was timed to coincide with the visit to Ghana of the Dutch Prince of Orange, who has been selected to serve on a panel of 12 persons to advise the UN Secretary General on water issues at the Johannesburg Earth Summit.

Consequently the conference was also to discuss the report of the Prince of Orange to the UN Secretary General, particularly as it relates to water issues in Africa.

The main goals of the Accra Water Conference include the following:

  • Help increase awareness by Africa's political leaders and development specialists of the central importance of water in sustainable development
  • Identify African water problems that can constrain the contribution of water resources to the goals of NEPAD
  • Agree on priorities for water development in Africa
  • Agree on a concrete Action Program
  • Develop a plan for mobilizing financial resources needed to implement the action plans


Over 200 participants including 6 African Ministers responsible for water from 42 African Countries participated in the conference. Participants were drawn from senior Government officials, NGO's, Universities and research Institutions, River Basin Organizations and International organizations active in the water sector including international Water management Institute, Global Water Partnership, the Water Utility Partnership, World water Council, FAO, African Development, The World Bank, etc. Bi-lateral donors including the Netherlands Government, Department for International Development(UK), French Ministry of Foreign affairs, The European Commission were also represented at the conference.

Process of the Conferences and Gender Mainstreaming:

Participants names were put under different working groups to discuss different themes by the organisers. Esther Mbawo from Zambia and Pauline Ikumi from Kenya were the only gender ambassadors present in the conference. They were put in different working groups where they facilitated the integration of gender issues within the groups, giving experiences on gender mainstreaming related to the two themes and finally within the Accra statement on water and sustainable development.

Esther was chosen to be on the working group to discuss the theme Water, Poverty and Health, while Pauline was asked to join the Food Security, environment and trade working group.

The general impression is that gender was taken care in the conference and in the working groups, however much more could have been done if we had our own sessions as well as incooperated all the various sub-theme. It should be noted that this was a big conference and there was need to have more gender ambassadors. Nevertheless there were quite a number of participants who supported the issue of mainstreaming gender in all the themes and gave us a lot of support. Much more needs to be done in the Johannesburg Conference and push what was decided in the Accra conference in terms of gender mainstreaming.

As a member of the steering committee and gender alliance Esther and myself were also able to use all opportunity to mainstream and lobby for the alliance and took every chance to explain the activities we are undertaking.

Principal Outcomes:

The main outcome of the Conference was the ACCRA DECLARATION based on identified challenges and issues in the water sector in Africa and recommendations for action plans to address these challenges.

A position paper was prepared based on the objectives and targets of the African Water Vision and Framework for Action, and served as a basis for the discussions during the conference. The paper highlighted the important role water can play in achieving the objectives of NEPAD.

The output is based on six themes, which were identified in the position paper and discussed in working groups.

The themes are outlined as follows:

Working group on Water, food security, environment and trade:

A strong linkage exists between availability of water and food security hence the importance of developing programmes that will ensure that water is available in sufficient quantity to increase food production. Sustained agricultural water use and production depends on fair world trade order and opening of regional and international markets.

Efforts must be made to increase productivity of water in agriculture and to upgrade the capacity of research institutions, data and information generation. Build of partnerships and examine the regional and international trade situation to remove market constraints and create a fair exchange of agricultural produces taking into consideration comparative advantages.


In this working group the role women play in food production and security was discussed at length and it was noted that it should be recognised and addressed. It was agreed that women be empowered, their capacity built and their activities promoted so that when they are producing the food it can be sustained. One of the short-term interventions agreed on was that Gender based labour activities must be promoted, with particular reference to women and children

Water, Poverty and Health:

Proportionately Africa has the lowest percentage in terms of accessibility to water and sanitation services. Yet improved access to equitable and sustainable water and sanitation improves livelihood and contributes to poverty reduction.

Investment effectiveness requires to be well addressed given the fact that most utilities in Africa to achieve financial viability.

Before opening any dialogue for external assistance, African governments should take the initiative to carry out actions that encourage autonomy and corporate norms in the business of water and sanitation services.

Strengthen pro-poor water governance through water polices, laws, action agendas and better information management.

Increase the access of the poor to water services

Increase investments in agriculture, rural development and other water using sectors that generate economic growth.


In this working group it was noted that aspects of water together with sanitation and hygiene, directly affect the health conditions of the poor and especially the vulnerable groups such as children, women and the elderly. It was added that Women’s roles are central, in particular in rural communities. With respect to capacity building, while empowerment is needed to all stakeholders, including high level traditional decision makers, through training and advocacy, emphasis should be placed on the need to empower the poor more effectively through increasing options available to enable them make informed choices. Such empowerment needs to take into account the gender equity and roles particularly for women and girls who are basically involved in water fetching chores and hence disadvantaged to exploit their full potentials be it in economic activities or school attendance.

What was striking about this group was that during the discussion there was sufficient recognition of the vulnerable groups in the sector and more especially the roles and subsequent burdens that women carry in WSS. Hence the recognition of the need to build capacity in this area.

Integrated Water Resources Management(IWRM) and Water Wisdom:

Water must be considered holistically taking into account all the sub-sectors including water supply and sanitation, irrigation, energy generation etc. There is therefore need to develop a strong awareness of the issue in water

  • Establish dialogue between countries and within countries
  • Use media to disseminate information on IWRM
  • Intensify Training of water professionals in IWRM


In this working group it was noted that when sharing information there is need to make information accessible to the public.

One of the actions on gender for sharing information was:

  • To establish Gender disaggregated data

On Cross-cutting issues:

  • The action agreed on was to create programmes that deal with Gender and Water in Africa .
  • Climate Change and Natural Disaster:

Africa suffers greatly from climate changes resulting in disasters. These adversely affect the availability of water for development purposes including domestic use. Furthermore, the current state of knowledge in this area indicates a trend towards greater variability in the region. To help mitigate these effects, the following actions need to be undertaken:

  • Build capacities to equip countries in disaster preparedness, management and mitigation
  • Future investments in large storage infrastructure need to take account of increased occurrence of extreme events (floods and droughts) and should be designed in a way that they contribute to mitigating these events (e.g. flood control functions)

No gender issues were mentioned

Managing Shared Waters:

Most of the water resources of Africa are part of the international (or transboundary) rivers, lakes or groundwater acquifers. Water should therefore not be a source of conflict but a source of regional integration. Consequently:

  • A guideline should be developed summarising the different options available and existing best practices on the development and management river basin organisations.
  • Member states should consider establishing river basin organisations in basins where they do not exist. A diagnostic study/institutional audit is recommended for all existing river basin organisations to identify problems and constraints

No gender issues mentioned.

Financing Water Infrastructure:

Water is a social good, which implies that basic needs for life should be provided at an affordable cost. At the same time it is an economic good which should be properly valued and efficiently and optimally utilized. Water service providers should aim for financial sustainability, charging the full cost to those who can afford to pay, with transparent subsidy arrangements from public funds and cross-subsidies where the poor cannot afford the full cost.

African leaders should place water infrastructure financing higher on their agenda. One important instrument for doing this is the inclusion of water resource development in country poverty reduction strategy papers.

There is need to establish an African Financial Water Facility to provide investment for water resources management and water service provision in Africa within the framework of NEPAD. The African Development Bank should provide technical support in establishing the facility and be responsible for its management.

No gender issues mentioned

In plenary during the presentation of the working groups participants noted that gender mainstreaming should be a cross cutting issue which should be included in all the 6 themes.

Accra Statement On Sustainable Development:

On The Accra Statement on Sustainable Development it was pointed out that water can make an immense difference to Africa's development if it is managed well and used wisely. Given clear policies and strategies and real commitments to action, water can be used to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.

This can be achieved through:

  • Improved access to potable water services and sanitation
  • Water use to address food security and income generation
  • Pro-poor water governance and water policies
  • Integrated water resource management in national and shared water basins
  • Water related disaster prevention, mitigation and management, and
  • Empowerment and capacity building focused on improving equity and gender sensitivity.

Future Direction:

The conference participants agreed that the African Water Vision for 2025 provides an overarching framework for guiding the development of water resources in Africa and the implementation of its targets should be pursued with urgency.

The participants were pleased with the role and achievements of the African Water Task Force (AWTF) and endorsed its continued existence to promote collaboration and partnership on the continent and help define an African agenda for water within the framework of NEPAD. Specifically the AWTF was mandated to continue coordinating the participation of Africa in the forthcoming World events including the WSSD in Johannesburg and the Third World Water Forum.

Training of trainers

Realisatie door Four Digits op basis van Plone.