Africa facing greater ‘water stress,’ says UN
Rising demand from growing populations, changes in food consumption and increased energy production, including biofuels, is badly straining the world’s water resources, warns the UN’s third World Water Development Report. By 2030, according to the March report, nearly 50 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of high “water stress,” in which demand far exceeds the supply of water. Already by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa may experience increased water stress, in large part due to climate change, says the report, which was produced by over 20 UN agencies, led by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Water must be given a higher priority on the development agenda and developing countries themselves need to increase investment in water, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura told the Fifth World Water Forum, which met in Istanbul, Turkey, from 16–22 March. Decrying insufficient investment in water resources, Mr. Matsuura warned that if left unattended the problems arising from increased demand on water resources could become insurmountable.
Water and sanitation issues are crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of reducing by half, by 2015, the percentage of people without access to safe drinking water or basic sanitation, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang told the Forum. Scaling up investment in water resources is particularly important for sub-Saharan Africa. With some 340 million people lacking access to safe drinking water, the region is the only one not on track to meet that element of the MDG target, according to the Water Development Report. Half a billion people in Africa also lack adequate sanitation, the report says. With many other regions also trailing behind, current efforts will need to be doubled if the sanitation goal set by world leaders is to be met.
In Africa, overall economic losses due to lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation amount to some US$28.4 bn a year, the report estimates. Moreover, 10 per cent of all illnesses worldwide could be avoided by improving water supply and sanitation, the report points out.
The UN and the African Union (AU) are strengthening cooperation to battle the growing problem of drug trafficking. Under the new initiative, announced in March, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will provide support to the AU’s Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention in making policy, setting norms and building capacity.
Support to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will be a particular focus. The region has seen a sharp rise in drug trafficking in recent years. “West Africa is under attack,” with drug trafficking presenting a major security threat, the UNODC said in a paper prepared for this year’s session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. “Few economic activities in West Africa, aside from oil extraction, have the economic weight of cocaine trafficking,” the UNODC said in a report prepared last year.
According to the report, seizures of cocaine in the West Africa region — the main drug trafficked — have exploded from 95,000 kilograms in 2002 to nearly 6.5 mn kilograms in 2007. But resources to combat drug traffickers or to share information remain very limited. Regional cooperation, backed by international support to help strengthen law enforcement, is essential, the UNODC says. In October, ECOWAS ministers met to agree on a region-wide action plan to combat trafficking. The European Union is also supporting the AU and ECOWAS plans.
The Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has elected Mr. Kanayo F. Nwanze of Nigeria as its next president. Mr. Nwanze, who was previously the vice-president of IFAD, will serve in the position for four years. He has nearly 30 years of experience in agriculture, rural development and research in Africa and Asia, including as director-general of the Africa Rice Centre (formerly the West African Rice Development Association) from 1996 to 2006.
The UN Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Joseph Mutaboba of Rwanda to head the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS). At the time of his appointment, Mr. Mutaboba was the Rwandan president’s special envoy to the Great Lakes Region. During a long career in diplomacy and foreign affairs, he also served as secretary-general in the Rwandan Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs, as a senior diplomat in Addis Ababa and Washington, and as Rwanda’s permanent representative to the UN. In the Guinea-Bissau post, he replaces Mr. Shola Omoregie, who retired in December 2008.
Mr. Christopher Ross of the US has been appointed by the UN Secretary-General as his personal envoy for Western Sahara. Mr. Ross has had a long career with the US Department of State specializing in Middle Eastern and North African affairs, including as US ambassador to Syria and Algeria and director of the American Cultural Center in Fez, Morroco. He replaces Mr. Peter van Walsum of the Netherlands.
The UN Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Michael von der Schulenburg of Germany as his executive representative for the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL). He has had a long career with the UN, including long-term assignments in Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.