EU delegation speaking Points at the 2nd GEOSS African Water Cycle Symposium
EU delegation to the African Union, 25 February 2011
Honourable Ministers/ Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
(The Ambassador of the EU delegation to the African Union has been invited to present EU activities in relation to GEOSS at this closing session. He regrettably cannot be here with us today but he asked me to present to you his apologies and to deliver this message on his behalf. My name is Francoise Villette. I am the Environment and Climate Change political advisor).
I would sincerely like to thank the local organizers UNESCO, as well as the University of Tokyo and the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Secretariat, for organising this excellent Symposium and inviting me to be here today for the closing session of this 2nd GEOSS African Water Cycle Symposium.
As many of you are aware, the European Union has been a strong supporter of the GEO initiative since its inception in 2003. And as Commissioner Tajani, Vice-President of the European Commission, said in his address to the GEO Ministerial in Beijing last November, "We wish to continue to contribute to GEO in the future, so that the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) can be implemented."
The GEO initiative is of strategic importance to all of us, including the European Union, given its clear relevance to a number of important policy domains such as: MDGs; sustainable development; environmental research and innovation, space policy; international co-operation and development. The EU recognises water and sanitation among the priority areas of its development cooperation. This is why the European Union puts so much effort to better integrate water and sanitation into the green growth agenda and into the future European development policy. The more so when we know that climate change, global population growth and economic development are putting an increasing pressure on the demand for existing water resources both in terms of quality and quantity.
To respond to the need for increased focus on water in development policies and to contribute to global initiatives, the EU launched the EU Water Initiative (known as the EUWI) in 2002 at the occasion of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. The final statement of the 3rd African Water Week, approved at ministerial level in November 2010 conveyed the message for the Africa-EU Summit in Tripoli that "AMCOW and EU should upgrade comprehensively the existing partnership on water and sanitation sectors". Subsequently, under the new Africa-EU Action Plan, adopted at the Tripoli Summit last December, access to water and coordination on water activities are priority areas of the Africa-EU Partnerships on MDGs, Infrastructure and Climate change.
Allow me to reflect on why I believe the collection of data on water including through earth observation matters: water is one of the most valuable resources on earth, with immeasurable human, ecological and economical value. The impact of water management on agriculture and food security, health, socio-economic development gives today an even greater importance to access of trustworthy, harmonised data for decision-makers. Africa has a larger share of its economies directly dependent on natural resources than other regions and is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The livelihoods of rural communities often depend directly on the aquatic ecosystems. The changing climate is affecting water resources and their use, in ways that are only now being recognised including but not only because of the repeated extreme weather events such as floods and drought. Which is why it is important to bring the water issues in the heart of the climate change negotiations and for nations to realise that they must address these issues in a more coordinated way. The importance of sustainable water management for economic growth and peace and security is increasing. We thus promote the integration of water resources management in peace, climate change and security agendas. Adaptation to climate change will increasingly have a major role to play in proper water resource management globally. We will need to turn the challenges of climate change and water scarcity into an opportunity for green growth. And we need to invest in climate proof and resource efficient infrastructure, and focus on increased water efficiency.
Improved management of rivers is needed, particularly for trans-boundary rivers during floods or droughts. In Africa, 93% of the water resources are shared across borders and there are totally 63 trans-boundary river basins, of which a very small part has established mechanisms for cross-border management. Increased water stress augments the risk of tension over shared and limited water resources. The EU supports cross-border and regional cooperation, partnerships and integration at river basin level in developed and developing countries. In particular, we promote River Basin Management Plans, building on the experience the EU has acquired through the implementation of its European Water Framework Directive.
At the Ministerial Summit in Cape Town in 2007 the then Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik declared: "The two domains of greatest importance for the future of GEOSS are ‘data-sharing' and ‘capacity building’, in particular in relation to developing countries".
The principle of freely sharing data and the establishment of norms and standards allowing easier access and exchange of Earth observations and information are of paramount importance. The European Commission already actively supports such developments through its INSPIRE Directive.
And with the adoption of the GEOSS Data Sharing Action Plan in Beijing last November by the 85 GEO Countries and the European Commission, we have entered a new era in international cooperation in exchanging Earth observations.
This Action Plan should facilitate access to Earth observation data in the coming years, in particular for those who do not yet have access to this information. And it is access to this data and its subsequent use that will enable the development of the fundamental services that are required to support water management in Africa.
Turning to capacity building, let me assure you that the European Union is actively engaged in the development of Earth observation capabilities in a number of developing countries, with a great focus on Africa and African ownership.
As an example, let me mention EU support to AMESD – the Africa Monitoring of Environment for Sustainable Development.
AMESD is a EU funded pan-African program coordinated by the African Union Commission which addresses the need for improved environmental monitoring towards sustainable management of natural resources in five regions of sub-Saharan Africa, namely CEMAC, ECOWAS, IGAD, IOC and SADC
The AMESD project builds upon the knowledge acquired by the meteorological sector, and now bridging to the environmental sector.
Capacity building is a key result area of the program. AMESD is strengthening capacities in Africa for the use of Earth Observation data for the monitoring of the environment.
The pertinence of satellite observation for monitoring environment has been demonstrated through many projects in the past. AMESD is now developing operational and sustainable services, based on Earth Observation, for the benefit of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa including all SADC member states. We are pleased that thanks to programmes like PUMA and AMESD, Africa can now fully benefit from this space infrastructure for their own management of the environment.
The continental dimension of AMESD is supported by five regional thematic actions on water resource management, marine and coastal management, crop and rangeland management, drought monitoring, land degradation, desertification mitigation, and natural habitat conservation.
Particularly, the Action being implemented in the Central African region focuses on water management. I am happy to report that Earth Observation derived services for monitoring of water level will soon become operational within AMESD.
As far as training is concerned, more than 2000 African meteorologists and environmentalists will receive training under the AMESD program by 2013, including on PUMA and AMESD system administration and on AMESD products and services.
This is where we are today, the question is “where will we be tomorrow?” This is where GMES-Africa comes in.
In October 2006 in Maputo, the African Union Commission and five Regional Economic Communities requested that the “Earth Observation in Africa” effort should be strengthened through the launch of a “GMES Africa programme”. The AUC confirmed its conviction “that the GMES and Africa initiative will complement, on an international scale, the European efforts on GMES, consolidate the objectives of PUMA and AMESD and contribute to the strengthening of Euro-Africa partnership”. Given this conviction, the European Union was called upon to extend the European GMES initiative to Africa to provide data and tools for policy making and policy implementation for sustainable development.
This request received a positive feedback at the last EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon and a “GMES-Africa Action Plan” is currently under public consultation and will be presented at the next EU-Africa Summit. The “GMES-Africa Action Plan” will set up a medium and long term strategy for Africa, aiming at making full use of the potential of space systems for sustainable development, locally, regionally and continent wide and to reinforce Africa’s capacity and ownership in using and contributing to remote sensing science, especially by building operational systems. The Action Plan will offer the opportunity to promote a long-term dialogue between África and Europe for an optimal integration of African requirements in the development and provision of GMES services and to explore how to improve African capabilities in Earth Observation. This initiative evolves in the wider context of the Africa-EU Action Plan.
Another EU funded program worth mentioning is, DevCoCast, which allows a wide variety of users in developing countries to access data crucial to the management of their local environment and natural resources. DevcoCast already transmits data and information that is of relevance to water management in Africa. And this capacity can be expanded if African research institutions and water agencies/authorities, working together on tasks such as an assessment of water-related issues in Africa can clearly define their data needs.
Many initiatives, programmes and projects designed to address these water-related issues across Africa are currently operating independently of one another. Yet, the convergence and harmonisation of observational activities, effective and comprehensive data management is of paramount importance. Drawing from this data collection and analysing the situation of African waters is one of the objectives of ClimDev Africa and its newly established African Climate Policy Centre, which the European Union also supports. The European Union actively supports the enhanced coordination and cooperation among these various initiatives to maximise efficiency, create synergies whenever possible and optimally leverage current investments and capacity. A coherent continental "picture" will lead Africa to a continental strategy, providing analytical tools and alert systems mechanisms for decision-makers.
To reconciling health, agriculture, food, energy and biodiversity needs, coordination and integration is paramount. If GEOSS initiative wants African ownership, it needs indeed to work with existing African initiatives but also with Africa agencies and authorities, such as ClimDev Africa and the mentioned African Climate Policy Centre but also the African Union, as the continental political leader and the AUC as implementing agency of decisions of the AU heads of state and government.
The twentieth anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit is approaching and our common goal remains to achieve sustainable development in the spirit of the Rio Declaration. This is at the centre of the environment policy of the European Union. Reaching the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit was also mentioned by this Symposium as an objective. In this context, I believe that GEOSS can contribute to the provision of the information necessary for a rational use of limited resources, including water in Africa.
In closing, let me congratulate you on the work you have achieved at this Symposium - through the various presentations in plenary sessions but perhaps more fruitfully even through the discussions of the breakout sessions - strengthening the coordination of the various on-going and planned water-related activities in Africa.
Enclosed to this post, the white paper "WHITE PAPER ON GEO CAPACITY BUILDING AND WATER RESOURCES IN AFRICA,THE AFRICAN WATER CYCLE COORDINATION INITIATIVE (AfWCCI)"