Monday, May 30, 2011

17th OKACOM Meeting approves Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis

OBSC and Task Force members at the 17th OKACOM Meeting

The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission met on the 27th of May 2011 to discuss issues pertaining to management of the Okavango River Basin. This meeting was preceded by meetings of the OKACOM task forces and the Okavango Basin Steering Committee.

Among the issues discussed at this meeting was the decision by Angola, Botswana and Namibia to begin full financial contributions to ensure continuity of the Commission’s Secretariat, demonstrating their commitment to long-term joint transboundary management of the river basin. The OKACOM Secretariat was established with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), on the understanding that it would be supported by the member countries on a long-term basis. The success has been such – as borne out in an end-of-period review - that the member countries did not hesitate to contribute to ensure the permanence of the Secretariat. OKACOM is also investing in an institutional analysis to strengthen the Secretariat in preparation for supporting its new Strategic Action Programme.

The OKACOM meeting also approved the final version of the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis, a major study of conditions in the river basin that will guide the Strategic Action Programme of complementary management and conservation interventions in the three countries. The report, finalized with support from UNDP, is a product of more than 50 background studies by regional scientists.

Understanding that transparency and sharing of information is vital to wise management of the river basin, the Commission has developed a groundbreaking draft Access to Information Policy to ensure appropriate flow and dissemination of information to its stakeholders. Basin communities and other interested parties can act on the basis of sound scientific research, rather than rumour and speculation. OKACOM is the first river basin organization in Africa to see the importance of such a policy.

The meeting also discussed a policy for its partnerships with projects in the basin, such as the Southern Africa Regional Environmental Program funded by USAID, which is working to encourage and support local people to work in harmony with the environment.

OKACOM completed its deliberations with a panel discussion open to the public that explored the Commission’s evolution from the signing in 1994 in Windhoek, Namibia of the OKACOM Agreement, drawing on the collective wisdom of current and retired Commissioners.

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