Workshop on the Establishment of an

International Discourse on Development in the Nile Basin  

Finding a Platform for Engagement



IUCN Headquarters, Gland, Switzerland
10 - 12 January 2001


Workshop Report

Compiled by Len Abrams



Co-hosted by


Sponsored by



Establishment of an International Discourse on Development in the Nile Basin:
A Platform for Engagement

IUCN Headquarters, Gland, Switzerland
10 - 12 January 2001


  1. Contents

  2. 1 Contents *

    2 Introduction *

    3 Background *

    3.1 Nile Basin Developments *

    3.2 Reason for the Workshop *

    3.3 Co-hosts and funders *

    3.4 Logistics and facilitation of workshop *

    3.5 Participants *

    3.6 Agenda *

    3.7 Workshop objectives *

    3.8 Proceedings *

    3.8.1 Agreement on modus operandi *

    3.8.2 Reflections on the declarations of interests and concerns *

    3.8.3 Discussion on a Preferred Future *

    3.9 The way ahead *

    4 Conclusions *

    5 Appendix 1. Agenda *

  3. Introduction

  4. This report is of a workshop which was held in Gland, Switzerland at the headquarters of the World Conservation Union (the IUCN) from 10 to 12 January 2001 to discuss the establishment of a civil-society discourse on development in the Nile River Basin.

    The report provides a briefing of the current initiatives which are being taken by the governments of the countries of the Nile Basin and the need for the establishment of a discourse involving all interested parties from inside and outside the Basin. The proceedings of the workshop are related including the chief outputs and recommendations of the participants.

    The Workshop concluded that there was an urgent need to establish a discourse which in particular assisted organisations within the region to remain informed of developments and which provides a vehicle for the voices and concerns of all parties to be heard.

  5. Background

    1. Nile Basin Developments

Over the past decade there have been a number of initiatives undertaken by of countries in the Nile River Basin in order to promote development in the region. The countries which have part or all of their territories within the Basin are Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. The work is under the political direction of the Council of Ministers (the Nile-COM) which is made up of the Ministers of Water Affairs of the Nile countries.

Brief history

In 1992, the Council of Ministers (COM) of Water Affairs of the Nile Basin States launched an initiative to promote cooperation and development in the Basin. In 1993, the Technical Cooperation Committee for the Promotion of the Development and Environmental Protection of the Nile Basin (TECCONILE) was formed. Six of the riparian countries joined as members and the other three riparian states participated as observers. In 1995, within the framework of TECCONILE, the Nile River Basin Action Plan (NRBAP) was prepared with support from CIDA, comprising 22 technical assistance projects totaling US$ 100 million. One of the projects, whose objective is to develop a cooperative framework for management of the Nile, is under implementation with UNDP funding (Project D3, the Cooperative Framework) - this was the first program to include all the riparian countries except Eritrea. In 1997 the World Bank agreed to a request from the Council of Ministers (including all riparian governments except Eritrea) to lead and coordinate donor support for their activities, and organize a donor meeting -- the International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (ICCON) -- to raise financing for cooperative projects. The World Bank, UNDP, and CIDA are facilitating dialogue and cooperation among the riparians, to create a climate of confidence within which a cooperative framework can be established and sustained and through which joint projects can be identified and developed for presentation to the Consortium for financing.

The Nile Basin Initiative

At this stage there is no formal legal agreement between the countries of the Nile basin on how the resources can be jointly developed to the maximum mutual benefit of all concerned. The Cooperative Framework Project, Project D3, is aimed at ultimately producing such an agreement. In the interim, however, it was decided by the Nile-COM to establish a transitional mechanism made up of the Council of Ministers (the Nile-COM), a Technical Advisory Committee (Nile-TAC), and a Secretariat (Nile-SEC). In May 1999, the overall process was officially named the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). The secretariat of the Nile Basin Initiative is based in Entebbe, Uganda where it was established in June 1999 and officially opened in September 1999.

The "Shared Vision"

Following extensive consultations, the Nile-COM, at its Extraordinary Meeting in February 1999, adopted a Shared Vision and a set of policy guidelines for the NBI. The Share Vision is:

To achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from,the common Nile Basin water resources.

The policy guidelines, which provide a basin-wide framework for moving forward with cooperative action, set out the primary objectives of the NBI:

To achieve the Shared Vision, the riparian ogvernments are developing a Strategic Action Program which focuses on two complementary ideas -- a shared vision and action on the ground. The ideas are mutually reinforcing. A common vision facilitates activities on the ground, and, in turn, these activities realize the vision. These ideas will be translated into actions through two complementary sub-programs: (i) a basin-wide "shared vision" program which will articulate a common purpose among the riparians and implement activities to coordinate and enable implementation of the shared vision, and (ii) "subsidiary action programs" which will plan and implement physical infrastructure projects and other action on the ground at the lowest appropriate level, taking into account benefits and externalities of planned activities on other countries.

Progress has been made towards the implementation of both of these programs. The preparation of project documentation relating to projects of both the sub programs for presentation to the International donor community at the first meeting of the International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (ICCON) is at an advanced stage. The first meeting of ICCON is planned to take place during May 2001.

    1. Reason for the Workshop
    2. An important element of the development of the Nile Basin Initiative and of the support provided by the co-operating partners of the Initiative (the World Bank, CIDA and the UNDP) is the inclusion of affected and concerned parties in the process in an inclusive and effective way. Development within the Nile basin has implications both at the local level for communities directly affected and at the global level, both because of the size of the Nile Basin and its interaction with other global ecosystems, and because of the political and economic importance of the region. The question arose, therefore, at early stages of the process of how such engagement of concerned and affected parties could be achieved.

      The concept of an international discourse on development in the Nile Basin was developed at an early stage of the discussions and has been incorporated into the Nile Basin Initiative policy document adopted by the Council of Ministers. Much consideration has gone into clarifying the nature and modality of such a discourse. It is a new and unique feature in international development processes, particularly the establishment of such a discourse at such an early stage of the development process. After consideration and discussion it was decided that the best procedure would be to bring together a sample of people broadly representing the groups which may be included in a discourse to discuss the issues in a "brainstorming" meeting. It needs to be emphasised that the organisers of the meeting themselves had no clear initial concepts of the nature and modality of a discourse which was precisely the reason for holding the workshop.

    3. Co-hosts and funders
    4. The workshop was co-hosted by the IUCN, and the World Bank and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). It was held in Gland, Switzerland at the IUCN headquarters. The IUCN kindly provided the conference facilities and logistics support for the workshop.

      The costs of participation of delegates from Africa were covered by a grant provided by the Rockefeller Foundation. The grant covered all expenses including air fares, hotel accommodation, daily subsistence allowances and incidentals.

    5. Logistics and facilitation of workshop
    6. All of the logistical and administrative arrangements for the workshop were undertaken by Water Policy International Ltd with the able assistance of designated IUCN staff. Arrangements included the identification of potential participants, the preparation and sending out of invitations, the preparation of initial documentation, the preparation of the proposals for financial assistance from the Rockefeller Foundation, the arrangement of transport and accommodation in Switzerland, arrangement for international air travel by sponsored participants, the support of sponsored participants in such matters as detailed travel arrangements and the acquisition of visas, the settlement of accounts for in-country transport and sponsored accommodation, the arrangement and payment of subsistence allowances for sponsored delegates, detailed reporting and accounting for the use of sponsorship funds.

      The workshop was facilitated by Len Abrams of Water Policy International Ltd who was also tasked with the responsibility for producing this workshop report.

    7. Participants
    8. Participants were identified from a number of organisations with the objective of including a broad range of organisations to cover:-

      Different sectoral interests : development and poverty reduction; environmental protection; security and conflict; humanitarian concerns,

      Different regions: Local; national; regional; international organisations,

      Different elements of civil society: NGOs; academics; international network organisations; UN agencies; bi-lateral agencies.


      Table 1. lists the participants at the workshop.




      Table 1: Workshop Participants

      Last Name


      First Name








      Executive Director

      InterAfrica Group







      Water Policy International


      United Kingdom





      Arab Office for Youth and Environment






      School of Oriental and African Studies


      United Kingdom




      United Nations Development Programme






      Head of the Training Department

      Christian Relief and Development Agency



      Boisson De Chazournes



      Professor of International Water Law

      University of Geneva






      Head: Water and Habitat Programme

      International Committee of the Red Cross






      Executive Vice President


      ADCI/ VOCA





      List moderator

      Nile River Mailing List






      Senior Wetland Inventory Officer

      Wetlands International






      Senior Advisor, Water Resources

      World Bank






      World Wide Fund for Nature International





      Osman El Tom

      Chairman [Vice Chairman]

      Nile-TAC [Sudan Water Resources Technical Organ]






      Livelihoods and Environment Advisor



      United Kingdom




      The World Conservation Union






      Director of Policy Research and Outreach

      African Centre for Technology Studies






      Senior Researcher

      Uganda Wildlife Society







      Friends of the Earth, Middle East






      Executive Director

      Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat






      World Wide Fund for Nature International






      Coordinator, Desertification Convention







      Executive Director

      Sudanese Environment Conservation Society






      Rockefeller Foundation






      UN High Commissioner for Refugees






      International Science Coordinator

      Wetlands International






      Head, Africa Region External Affairs Unit

      World Bank



      The following picture (between the rulers) is not part of the report. It is from Nabil's collection (courtesy of Len Abrams).

      Gland meeting participants
      Participants of the Gland meeting.

      In case you are wondering;


    9. Agenda

The draft agenda of the workshop was circulated with the initial invitations at the beginning of November 2000 with a request for comments and suggestions. No comments were received.

The main sections of the agenda were:

In the development of the draft agenda, the objective was to create a balance between the following three elements -

a) Enabling all participants to have the opportunity to share their concerns and interests in development in the Nile Basin Region,

b) Sufficient input and discussion on the Nile Basin Initiative for all participants to ensure that they are up to date and understand the process.

c) Enough time to discuss the idea of establishing and running a discourse on development in the Nile Basin.

Small modifications were made to the final agenda which is included in Appendix 1.

    1. Workshop objectives
    2. The objectives of the workshop were confirmed by the participants as follows:

      1) Information sharing - to provide participants with information about the Nile Basin Initiative and to share the interests and concerns which participants have regarding development in the Nile Basin.

      2) To develop the idea of a Discourse

      3) To suggest and discuss the way forward

      4) Build relationships between the participants, most of whom had not met before because the meeting brought together participants with different interests - humanitarian, development, environmental and other concerns

    3. Proceedings
      1. Agreement on modus operandi

At the beginning of the workshop it was considered important to establish the "ground rules" for the engagement of the participants for the course of the workshop. Most of the participants had not met before and it was important to encourage frank and free discussion. The following points were discussed and agreed:

      1. Reflections on the declarations of interests and concerns

Each participant presented their organisation's interests and concerns related to development in the Nile Basin. Initial concerns that this would be a tedious affair with some 25 consecutive presentations were unfounded because of the variety, quality of presentation and interesting content of the presentations.

After the presentations the workshop reflected on the input. The following points were made and discussed. The inputs could be grouped under three main sub-headings:


Why a discourse is needed.


How a discourse could work - how it could be structured.


What the substance of a discourse might be.

      1. Discussion on a Preferred Future

The workshop then undertook a group exercise based on a hypothetical press release on possible infrastructure developments within the Nile Basin in the year 2002. The main questions asked by the exercise were

What roles could a Discourse perform to ensure a different future?

What should the Principles of Engagement of a Discourse be?

What must be done now to set in motion the establishment of a Discourse to ensure a different future?

The report-backs from these discussions have been consolidated below: [It should be noted that this consolidation represents a record only of the discussions - these were not decisions nor do they represent the consensus of the workshop.]


What roles could a Discourse perform to ensure a different future?

What should the Principles of Engagement of a Discourse be?


What must be done now to set in motion the establishment of a Discourse to ensure a different future?

  1. Establish a focal point for the discourse hosted at the NBI Secretariat in Entebbe, Uganda as soon as possible with a clear Terms of Reference and mandate, including:
  1. Undertake a scoping exercise to establish a discourse work plan which would include a common agreement on what the discourse is, what principles it should function under and strategic objectives and issues relating to the Nile Basin Initiative inparticular and Nile Basin development in general to be addressed by the discourse.
  2. Establishment of protocols, mechanics and tools for the discourse, consistent with the principles discussed during the workshop.
  1. Co-operative activities to be undertaken by discourse members

Other suggested activities and issues were


    1. The way ahead

The objective of the final session of the workshop was to decide on how to take the process begun at Gland further.

It was agreed that :

1) The co-hosts of the Gland workshop - the IUCN, the WFF and the World Bank - will take the process further.

2) The possibility of establishing a desk at the NBI Secretariat offices in Entebbe will be investigated.

3) The work of reporting on the Gland Workshop, preparing documentation and promoting the start of a discourse in Entebbe will be undertaken by Len Abrams on behalf of the co-hosts.

4) The "Gland group", including the co-convenors, will act as a reference group to review and oversee the process of establishment of a Discourse on development in the Nile Basin based on the Nile Basin Initiative. The group would comment on documentation; proposals, TORs, etc.

5) Efforts will be made to include within this Group other organizations from countries not represented at Gland meeting to avoid exclusivity. Emphasis will be placed on basin ownership / leadership in process.

  1. Conclusions

  2. The Gland Workshop was a success in that it achieved its objectives. There is a mandate from the participants at the workshop to take the concept of the Discourse further. This Report contains the main points of the discussions during the workshop which will guide the establishment of the discourse.

    The next step is to prepare the necessary documentation and implement the establishment of the discourse.


  3. Appendix 1. Agenda

Workshop Agenda

Wednesday 10 January 2001

Part 1: Opening and background : Chair - IUCN

9:30 AM Opening Remarks and welcome by Co-Convenors

9:45 AM Self Introduction of Participants

9:55 AM Confirmation of Agenda - some ground-rules

10:00 AM Introduction to Nile Basin Initiative:

10:40 AM Additional perspectives of the Nile Basin : David Grey and Geoffrey Howard

11:00 AM Coffee/tea break

Part 2: Interests, opportunities, concerns and expectations related to the Nile Basin : Chair - WWF

11:30 AM Objectives of the Workshop: Len Abrams

12:00 AM 10 minute presentation of areas of interest, activities and concern in the Nile Basin by participants. Presentations 1-6

1:00 PM Lunch Break

2:30 PM Continue Presentations, Presentations 7-12

4:00 PM Coffee/tea break

4:30 PM Continue presentations, Presentations 13-16

5:30 PM End of Day 1

Thursday 11 January 2001

8:30 AM Presentations 17-24, concluding with presentations by CIDA, UNDP & World Bank

10:30 AM Coffee/tea break

11:00 AM Reflections and discussion on the range of activities and concerns

Part 3: The International Discourse : Chair - Rockerfeller Foundation

12:00 AM An International Discourse - What and why: Len Abrams

12:30 PM Breakout groups: Discussions on the nature, function and objective of an International Discourse

1:00 PM Lunch Break

2:30 PM Breakout groups continue

3:30 PM Report back

4:00 PM Coffee/tea break

4:30 PM Discussion

5:30 PM End of Day 2

Friday 12 January 2001

Part 4: The way ahead : Chair - IUCN

8:30 AM Breakout groups: Discussion on the way forward

9:30 AM Report back

10:00 AM Coffee/tea break

10:30 AM Discussion on report back - Decisions on the way forward

12:00 AM Concluding remarks and comments

12:30 PM Closure by Co-convenors