Presentation made by
Dr Patricia Kameri-Mbote
the website
of the conference

Stakeholder Discourse in the Nile Basin


758th Wilton Park conference on
Environment, Development & Sustainable Peace:
Finding Paths to Environmental Peace Making

16-19 September 2004



Nile Basin


Nile Basin Discourse

Lessons Learnt

Message for Development Partners


Need for co-operation between states as well as between basin users

  • Different states with different interests
  • Different groups of people with different needs (some competing)
  • Potential for conflict in use and management

International law a basis for negotiation of rules to govern transboundary watercourses

  • Developed over time; state-centric

Two agreements with respect to the Nile

  • 1929 Nile Water Agreement & 1959 Agreement for the Full utilization of the Nile gave Egypt & Sudan extensive rights over the Nile waters
  • Challenges on equity grounds & negotiated during colonial period
    • Countries challenge these agreements & some denounced them at independence

Nile Basin

Nile Basin covers 10 countries:

  • Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi
  • An area of about 3 million square kilometres.

Many people dependent on Nile basin for subsistence & economic activities

The Nile Basin Initiative a cooperative arrangement for management of the Basin (cooperation Vs. Conflict)

  • Developed over the years and formally established in 1999
  • Countries working together to develop the Nile resources for the benefit of all
  • Context: A long legacy of mutual recriminations, regional conflict, drought and other problems

Nile Basin (2)

Initially cooperation around scientific information sharing

  • The shared vision of the Nile Basin Initiative is “To achieve sustainable socio-economic development through equitable utilization of, and benefit from the common Nile basin water resources”

NBI has comprehensive programme for development of the basin in a sustainable and equitable way thro’ its institutional organs:

  • The Council of Ministers (Nile-COM)
  • The Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC)
  • The Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat (Nile-Sec)

Working on a cooperative legal framework to guide activities

  • Agreement not yet finalised but is ultimate aim

The NBI has two main programmes:


The Shared Vision Programme
(to help create an enabling environment for action on the ground)

  • Covering all riparian states
  • Dealing with regional power trade, water resources planning, confidence building and stakeholder participation, socio-economic development and benefit-sharing among others.


Subsidiary Action Programme (Sub-basin projects) involving specific groups of riparian countries categorised into two:

  • Eastern Nile Subsidiary Action Programme (ENSAP)
    Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Sudan
  • Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Programme (NELSAP)
    Sudan, Egypt, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, Tanzania & Kenya

These programmes are geared to reach the lowest appropriate level – Principle of subsidiarity

Nile Basin

Aim at poverty reduction, economic development, reversal of environmental degradation

Search for win-win opportunities between riparian countries

  • Water resource & water-shed management
  • Environmental & natural resource management
  • Food security
  • Flood preparedness
  • Power & infrastructure


NBI developed at very high political level

  • Process towards a cooperative framework fragile & threatened by mistrust, conflict in some states etc

NBI predicated on view that Nile waters constitute a major and vital resource for the people of the basin countries

  • Governments cannot go it alone and must include other stake holders such as civil society

All riparian states’ ministries responsible for water participating in NBI

  • Great achievement given sense of alienation of some actors by others

No direct involvement of groups outside the government departments

Nile Basin Discourse

The Nile Basin Discourse initiated to bring the voices of stakeholders to the process of the development of the Nile basin

It seeks to:

  1. Promote broad-based open dialogue, discussion and sharing of views on development in the Nile basin mainly thro’ NBI between:
    • All role players
    • Stakeholders and affected parties
  2. Develop a database of stakeholders
  3. Facilitate interaction between stakeholders
  4. Catalyse national discourses in the 10 riparian countries
  5. Give space for national discourse on status of people dependent on the Nile waters
  6. Bring out voices of all stakeholders, especially the poor at all levels (national, sub-national levels), CBOs & others concerned about:
    • Poverty, food security, economic and social human rights
    • Threats to livelihoods and poverty reduction posed by accelerating environmental degradation in large areas of the Nile Basin.

Expected that the participation of a diverse array of stakeholders will:

  • Contribute to NBI’s effectiveness
  • Contribute by bringing non-government views in addressing poverty, improving the livelihoods of all within the basin, and addressing insecurity and strife in the region.

The process leading to the establishment of the discourse long and winding (Not yet out of woods)

Nile Basin Discourse (2)

  • Government actors wary of engaging civil society due to political fragility of the process leading to co-operation over the Nile waters
  • Civil society invited & made statement on importance of engaging stakeholders in the development of the Nile at the First Meeting of the International Consortium for Co-operation on the Nile (ICCON)
  • Increasing (albeit slow) recognition of need to bring all stakeholders on board

Structure of NBD

  1. International Steering Committee with membership drawn for all riparian countries
  2. A General Assembly drawn from all riparian countries which has met once
  3. Secretariat in Entebbe, Uganda near the offices of the NBI
  4. National Discourse Forums (NDFs)
    • Groupings around issues
    • Concern for representation of marginalised (women, youth etc)

Achievements of NBD to date

  1. Has NDFs in all riparian countries
  2. Dialogue between civil society organizations
    • Widening web of organisations involved
  3. Draft MOU with NBI
  4. Developing a resource centre on the Nile basin at the desk office
  5. Creating master database of civil society organisations with interest in the Nile

Challenges in Getting NBD Going

  1. Leveraging resources for Discourse Desk & National Discourse Forums
    • NBD Desk at Entebbe presently struggling to survive
    • NBI programmes beginning in earnest & revised agreement being discussed
    • NDFs not engaged due to lack of finances for Discourse activities
  2. Question of representation raised
    • Should involvement have been sought only after getting all stakeholders on board?
  3. Given open nature of dialogue and involvement of diverse entities, how does it:
    • (a) Put in place an agenda not captured by interests of powerful groups?
    • (b) Create demand for involvement by empowering local groups?
  4. Legal nature of forums (comprised of groups and individuals) – has implications for capacity to impact on policy and engage government
    • Which sector to involve? Environment? Security? Development?
  5. Articulation between the NBD Desk & NDFs
    • Can/should NDFs seek resources and move even as NBD is struggling?
    • Impacts on nature of Discourse as basin-wide?

Lessons Learnt

Stakeholder participation in the management of Nile facet of procedural rights in the environmental rights realm

  • Outlined in Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration & many national envtl laws
    • Access to information by all
    • Public Participation in decision-making
    • Freedom of association
    • Access to justice

Provision for envtl rights assumes availability of information & access to the information

  • Not the case for many of the countries

Need for multi-faceted approach

  • Water related to other resources such as land (pasture, agric, occupation)
  • Land rights for individuals & groups critical beyond sovereign rights of nation

Agreement at state level but cooperation involves diverse actors and states must provide the space for cooperation

  • Existence of structural violence not conducive to cooperation
  • Non-involvement of stakeholders can diminish gains made at inter-state level

Process of engendering stakeholder participation requires nurturing

  • It is essentially political and amenable to capture by interest groups
  • Need to build trust among actors
  • Feeling of commonality of interest
  • Convergence of interests among actors

Message for Development Partners

Support to basin-wide initiatives such as NBI laudable & should be sustained

Support for civil society engagement in basin –wide initiatives to be in tandem with basin-wide initiative support

  1. CS much weaker compared to government
  2. Enable to demand access to benefits negotiated at inter-state level
  3. To secure investment in basin-wide initiative

Need for coordination among different funding institutions to create synergy in different sectors & have cooperation over water really be a catalyst for peace

For more information

Visit NBI websites at

Visit NBD website at