Dakar: exclusive interview for the World Water Forum

Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Abdoulyale Sene and Patrick Lavarde @GPE/Ludovica Pellicioli, World Water Forum and Défis Humanitaires.

Interview with Mr. Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation of Senegal, Patrick Lavarde, Co-Chairman of the International Steering Committee and Abdoulyale Sene, Co-Chairman of the 9th World Water Forum during the preparatory meeting of stakeholders on October 14 and 15, 2021 in Dianiadio/Dakar, Senegal.

Alain Boinet: Will the next World Water Forum, which will take place from 21 to 26 March 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, keep all its promises?

Serigne Mbaye Thiam : First of all, I would like to point out that President Macky Sall and Senegal have the legitimacy at the global level to raise the debate on water to the level of Heads of State, Government and major institutions. I recall that during its presidency of the UN Security Council, it was Senegal, through the voice of the Head of State, which for the first time in 70 years, raised a debate on water in the Security Council, it was peace and security. Everyone realized at the time that it was the first time in 70 years that the issue of water was raised in the Security Council and this initiative of Senegal has opened the debate by placing the issue of water at a global level.

And it is in the continuum of this initiative that the President thought that for the Dakar Water Forum, which will be held in March 2022, it would be necessary to innovate and broaden the participation of governmental actors, civil society, the private sector, communities, and parliaments. We must take advantage of this opportunity to hold a summit of heads of state, governments and major institutions. The issue of water is an eminently political issue and this morning during the first interventions of these two meetings of stakeholders, many came back to the question of political commitment at the highest level.

It is this political commitment at the highest level that President Macky Sall wanted to make in view of the 2023 United Nations conference on water issues, and I am convinced that it is an issue that will also cross his presidency of the African Union in 2022.

The President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall, at the United Nations in September 2016 @UN

Défis Humanitaires : The theme of this forum is “Water security for peace and development”. Doesn’t it risk forgetting the countries and populations that are neither at peace nor in development, that are facing crises and that urgently need access to water and sanitation, such as the Sahel countries?

Serigne Mbaye Thiam :

I think that the theme of the forum already informs the will and the ambition that we have to have a holistic vision of water, the theme I recall, the security of water for peace and development. In the term there is the word “security” there is the word “peace” and there is the word “development”.

We wanted to touch all the sectors and I am convinced that at the level of the special sessions that we will have, at the level of the debates of the forum, we will have to address the question of access to water in a general way. I mean water and sanitation at the same time. We will have to address these issues in difficult contexts where populations are vulnerable or disadvantaged, including in crisis zones where these issues may not be development issues but rather survival issues.

Défis Humanitaires : At the end of these two days of stakeholders in Dakar, is the WEF well on track?

Abdoulaye Sene : Yes, this is a question to which we answer with a very optimistic and realistic yes, because we simply invested a lot of energy, a lot of consultations and exchanges to elaborate what the content of the forum should be. Today we are very satisfied to see that the consultative groups that were set up and that include more than 1000 actors were able to produce extremely relevant, very inclusive and very concrete solutions.

We therefore consider that from the point of view of the thematic content we have the material and that we are absolutely confident about the interest that this content will arouse and therefore also about the success that should have in terms of concrete results, in terms of concrete proposals, in terms of outstanding initiatives so that this forum is a solid one. And in terms of the commitment of the actors, we can see that with the participation rate that we have obtained, in a very particular context of pandemic, it reinforces us because the world is starting again and today we can clearly see that the actors of water bring a very positive response.

The participants of this meeting of October 14 and 15 in Senegal in Diamniadio came from all continents, from South Africa, Europe, Asia, America and as you see also in Senegal we have a situation that offers beautiful embellies. We are very confident that we should have a forum also in presence with all the impacts at the economic, social and political level.

Défis Humanitaires : If the WEF is on track, will it arrive on time for the Dakar Forum on March 21, 2022?

Patrick Lavarde : I think we can say that the forum is on track. With 5 months to go, we are, as I said this morning, in the home stretch. We have reached the objective for the thematic part of the 4 priorities of the forum since the groups that worked in difficult conditions have produced 92 sessions, that is to say less than 100, which is the objective that was assigned, which covers well the 4 priorities, all the major issues related to the targets of the SDGs. And we are now working on the political messages and actions with the different political segments. Things are well advanced with the local authorities, as we heard this morning, and with the basins, and we will work tomorrow with the parliamentarians.

Dakar, Diamniadio, stakeholders meeting 5 months before the 9th World Water Forum from 21 to 26 March 2022. @Alain Boinet

Défis Humanitaires : You wanted this WEF to be one of solutions and concrete actions, will it really be so?

Abdoulaye Sene : You must have noticed that we have implemented a great innovation for this forum with the Dakar 2022 initiative which has aroused great interest and the echo is very favorable in all continents and this dynamic that we have set in motion has really allowed us to provide answers already. These answers will have to be consolidated and then worked on to scale up. But beyond that, we have tried to encourage the actors to discuss, exchange, but above all make concrete proposals. We can consider that what came out of these exchanges will really allow us to have very concrete proposals, very easy to translate into action.

The consultative groups have drawn up proposals, and we are going to use these proposals to prepare a major political declaration that the Heads of State will endorse on the first day of the forum and entrust this declaration to the various political segments, ministers, local elected officials, parliamentarians, and basin assessments, in order to translate this into action and implement it. And that is why it is a somewhat reversed process. Usually we say people discuss and then? Here, there was a preliminary discussion which led to proposals, these proposals will allow us to elaborate a declaration that the politicians will engage at the highest level. After this adoption, there will be a declension on the field that will follow. We are convinced that in this way we will accelerate the action.

Défis Humanitaires : During this stakeholders’ meeting on October 14 and 15, the focus was on general considerations rather than on concrete water and sanitation projects. How can we now move from ideas to action?

Patrick Lavarde : I think that we have to wait for the details of the sessions to realize this. The risk is quite obvious. We have to remember that the different action groups have been asked to work on the basis of projects which are either very concrete things on territories, or actions to be carried out. In other cases, it may be a little more conceptual, but it seems to me that we will have a fairly solid basis on the concrete level and I am quite confident about the political segments since, if I take the example of local authorities, the subject elected with the OECD provides in particular for the cities of Africa, On the basis of the study carried out in recent months by the OECD, to set up an observatory on the evolution of access to water and sanitation in African cities, which are a major challenge due to population growth and urban concentration on this continent. And to have a permanent support mechanism as the OECD did on the principles of governance after the 5th WEF in Marseille in 2012. We are therefore working on the same example and it is something extremely operational and complete.

In Darfur, water is scarce and difficult to access in the dry season. William Daniels

Défis Humanitaires : Doesn’t the upcoming Dakar Forum risk forgetting the reality of conflict or disaster situations in Africa itself and elsewhere in the world?

Abdoulaye Sene : What I am going to answer first of all to this very important question is to say that we must keep in mind that some of these conflicts have been fanned or formalized by the difficulties of access to water. If you look at some of the areas that are currently involved in multiple conflicts, you will see that there is strong competition over natural resources, particularly water. It is conflicts between herders and farmers, it is also a restriction of the availability of water for herders, and you will see that in most of these areas, there is at the base the problem of water which even if it is not the primary cause contributes to worsen the situation. So dealing with the problem of access to water already leads to the prevention of conflicts, it allows us to contain the crises we have talked about. This is part of the answer. The second part of the answer is to say that in crisis situations, the populations are even more confronted with difficulties because the crisis generates problems of access to water.

Therefore, strategies must be developed, technologies must be developed, and solidarity must be established so that in these conflict zones we can continue to guarantee and ensure access to water for life, for well-being, for health and simply for food. We must also ensure that the measures taken will allow these populations to look to the future with much more hope, to consolidate the peace situations that must necessarily be built after these conflicts. The rest, fundamentally essential first to reduce the lists of conflicts, but also to manage the difficult situations that result from these conflicts as well as to foresee the post-conflict.

Défis Humanitaires : How would you like to conclude 5 months before the Dakar Forum?

Patrick Lavarde : This forum is a World Water Forum, it is not a forum on development conditions. But we all know that where there is insecurity, there are, for example, migratory movements of people and they must find decent conditions of reception. So, obviously, they must have access to sufficient drinking water and sanitation conditions that also concern health.

And there will be excellent sessions on this subject, which will be proposed by the action group on water security, notably under the impulse of Solidarités International and other actors. Similarly, what is being prepared on the basin process, the establishment of basin organizations as they exist in some areas of Senegal is also a form of response to finally contribute to security without claiming to simultaneously solve all existing problems. The forum is a privileged place to advance the cause of water and sanitation in all their dimensions and inspire decision makers.

Biography of Serigne Mbaye Thiam

After completing his elementary and secondary education in Senegal, he pursued his higher education in France, earning a Diplôme d’Etudes supérieures commerciales, administratives et financières from the Ecole supérieure de Commerce et d’Administration des Entreprises de Rouen (Rouen Business School) and a Diplôme d’Expertise Comptable from the French government.
He was Administrative and Financial Director of the Autonomous Port of Dakar and has also worked as a consultant in management, organization, finance and accounting.
He has held the positions of Regional Councillor and Vice President of the Regional Council of Kaolack, Member of Parliament, Vice President of the Economy and Finance Committee and General Rapporteur of the Budget of the National Assembly in 2001.
He also served as Minister of Higher Education, Research, Government Spokesman from April 4, 2012 to October 29, 2012 and Minister of National Education from October 29, 2012 to April 7, 2019.
Mr. Serigne Mbaye THIAM is currently Minister of Water and Sanitation since April 07, 2019.
He was the current President of CONFEMEN (Conference of Ministers of Education of the Francophonie).
In May 2018, he was appointed Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education.

Prior to that, from February 2014 to December 2015, he chaired the “Governance, Ethics, Risk and Finance” Committee of the Global Partnership for Education and was a member of the Board of Directors and the Coordination Committee.
As part of his associative commitment, he was Treasurer General of the Senegalese Football Federation; he was also the initiator and first President of the National Movement of Senegalese Football Supporters

Biography of Patrick Lavarde :
Patrick LAVARDE is a general engineer of bridges, water and forests and a permanent member of the General Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development. He was governor of the World Water Council (2012-2018) and president of the International Water Resources Association (IWRA) between 2016 and 2018. He contributed to the organization of the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, notably as co-chair of the thematic commission, and was a member of the bureau of the international steering committee of the 8th forum in Brasilia. He created the National Office for Water and Aquatic Environments and was its General Manager from 2007 to 2012. Between 1998 and 2007, he was Director General of the National Institute of Environmental and Agricultural Sciences and Technologies. Prior to that, he held various responsibilities in the central and decentralized administration in the forestry, water and agriculture sectors.

Biography of Abdoulaye Sene :
President of the National Committee for the organization of the 9th World Water Forum, “Dakar 2021”.
President of the Board of Directors of SOGEM/OMVS (2013-2017).
President and founder of the international think-tank Global Local Forum.
Deputy and President of the Commission on Development and Land Use Planning of the National Assembly of the Republic of Senegal (2007-2012).
President of the Regional Council of Fatick (2002-2009).
Special Advisor to the Minister of Mines, Energy and Hydraulics of Senegal (2001-2002). Head of the Mission of Studies and Development of Fossil Valleys (1994-2000).
National Director of Hydraulics and Rural Engineering (1984 to 1994).
Expert in Hydraulics, Climate Change, Decentralization, Governance and Local Development.