Basin Overviews as They Relate to the 2003 Stakeholder Participation Workshop

Okavango and Lempa River Basins

The Okavango River in Southern Africa and the Lempa River in Central America share similar characteristics which pose current and future challenges to inhabitants and ecosystems within their basins. These rivers are international river basins containing large populations living in poverty who are highly dependent on land and water for subsistence and vulnerable to drought and flooding. The basins contain significant sources of biodiversity and delicate wetlands threatened by population and development pressures. The distribution of the sources of the problems, their impacts, and the resources to address them are unequal across the nations which share their burden. The environmental deterioration and uncoordinated development of land and water resources threaten to provoke tensions across the international borders as well as aggravate local level conflict. In addition, political relations among riparian states in both basins are burdened with a past of long and protracted violent conflict, which makes it difficult to develop and maintain international institutions to help address transboundary problems.

Despite these challenges, the countries of both basins are currently in the process of developing formal agreements to coordinate environmental protection and development across their borders. The governments of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are currently negotiating policies to help the Lempa River basin under the Trinational Commission of the Integrated Development Plan for the Trifinio Border Area. A similar process is underway between the governments of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana, through the development of the Okavango River Basin Commission, under provisions laid out in the Southern African Development Community's Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems. These initiatives attempt to move away from traditional approaches to water management by including numerous stakeholder groups, in setting priorities, planning, and implementation. Independent of the willingness of these new institutions to embrace participatory processes, they are predominately staffed with people unaccustomed to facilitating programs to meet the needs of multiple interest groups across international borders. This project aims to assist the efforts of the international commissions by providing a forum for information-sharing dialogue among commission staff, highlighting case studies, lessons learned, and logistical concerns for implementing stakeholder participation in international basins around the world.

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