Category: China-India-Africa

Rethinking Hydro-Diplomacy: The Bridge Tank holds a high-level panel on the side of the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022

On December 6th, 2022, The Bridge Tank held a high level panel discussion on hydro-diplomacy in Paris, on the side of the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022, coordinated by UNESCO.

This event was placed under the high patronage of:

Mrs. Irina Bokova

Co-chair of the International Science Council’s Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability and Former Director General of UNESCO

Mr. Erik Orsenna

Chairman of the Initiative for the Future of Great Rivers (IAGF) and Academician at Académie Française

Hamed Semega, Erik Orsenna, Irina Bokova, and Joel Ruet

The conference focussed on “Rethinking Hydro-diplomacy: International Rivers as Instruments for Peace. Shared experiences, solutions, and sustainable resources management” and was organised and consciously positioned in the context of the United Nations’ renewed focus on water. The 2023 UN Water Conference planned in New York, in March, will be the first event of this kind since 1977.

As issues of water wars and conflicts rise in prominence due to increased hydric stress around the globe, hydro-diplomacy is bound to be a crucial subject in the years and decades to come. Following the recent release of our policy brief, which called for a renewed and enlarged practice of hydro-diplomacy, this conference represented the logical continuation of The Bridge Tank’s wish to position itself and contribute to the field and practice of hydro-diplomacy.

Erik Orsenna, Irina Bokova, and Joel Ruet
Arnab Das, Eric Kuindersma, and Sophie Gardette
Objectives of the conference

Convinced that hydro-diplomacy is not only the practice of diplomats and state entities, the conference aimed to offer a reflexion and exchange on the development of tools for hydro-diplomacy and towards the de-escalation of water-related conflicts.

The Bridge Tank thus convened this panel to gather like-minded people dedicated to a better approach and management of water resources. These included esteemed policy and decision makers, aid and humanitarian organizations, researchers, legal experts, and practitioners involved in water-related issues.

The event was held in hybrid format, allowing for a participants from across the globe to share their experiences, success stories, case studies, and the challenges they encountered. Participants joined from Abidjan, Brussels, Conakry, Dhaka, Geneva, Marrakesh, Oslo, Paris, Skopje, Tashkent, and Tokyo.

Marie-Laure Vercambre, Mats Karlsson, Eric Kuindersma, and Joel Ruet
Contribution over Zoom by Pascal Delisle
Marie-Laure Vercambre, Irina Bokova, Jean Bizet, Lionel Goujon, Hamed Semega, Arnab Das, and Sophie Gardette
Valuable discussions on water and hydro-diplomacy

The conference started with an introductory session setting the stage for the day by providing an overview of the existing international system in place on questions of water and introducing existing hydro-diplomacy initiatives and experiences from non-conflictual and integrated development water co-management. These introductory remarks stressed the need to approach water from a wider point of view, as a societal issue requiring shared and multi-stakeholder solutions and approaches. Co-operation is particularly needed in response to environmental and ecological threats on the one hand and to contribute to global peace by reducing the risks of violent escalation and water conflicts on the other.

The first thematic session of the day gave the floor to political decision makers from around the globe for them to share and discuss their experience with water and its management. Key messages included a call for solidarity of actions between all stakeholders in the face of crises and the need to listen to and believe local communities. Participants here again underlined the need to address water issues in a holistic way, an idea which requires an integrated approach to water management. Other key points raised included the need to combine both local management with a larger scientific worldview and understanding.

The second thematic session turned to international aid and development actors. From their field knowledge and experience in development, participants mentioned the inter-connectedness of issues, as water is a factor and entry point to food security, health and early childhood development, energy development, disaster risk management, climate change, and questions of transport. The need for an integrated and multi-lateral approach to water on the one hand and the importance of local and community action on the other also found resonance during this session. Transboundary governance however necessarily requires political will to move forward. A final but crucial point addressed by multiple contributors was the role education and knowledge of the water resource in order to ensure better maintenance and management of river basins.

Finally, the last thematic session took on the task of discussing the diversity of tools at the service of hydro-diplomacy. Participants here again encouraged a community based approach, starting at the local level, to develop solutions tailored to the communities’ needs. The examples of River Basin Organisation must thus be understood in their variety, as their diverse forms are the result of the diversity of needs and functions they fulfil. The centrality of knowledge, data, and scientific research as necessary prerequisites for action were addressed by participants of this session as well. In addition to that, the ideas of shared infrastructure and shared water information systems were noted as promising tools for hydro-diplomacy.

Annukka Lipponen, Lionel Goujon, and Marie-Laure Vercambre
Contribution over Zoom by Claus Sorensen
Susanne Schmeier and Arnab Das
Online contributors: Pascal Delisle, Lars Andreas Lunde, and Claus Sorensen
Key takeaways of the conference

From the valuable contributions of the conference’s many participants and the lively discussions throughout the day, a diversity of approaches to hydro-diplomacy transpired, allowing for the establishment of what could be defined as a taxonomy of hydro-diplomacy.

We identified 3 key lessons learned:

1. A first aspect of hydro-diplomacy is found in its fundamentally diplomatic dimension, through its role in conflict prevention and de-escalation. Participants agreed to recall the classical approach of international law, which remains very much rooted in water issues.

2. From this early assessment, numerous contributions stressed the centrality of political will in hydro-diplomacy. Testimonies and experiences from across the globe provided ample proof that hydro-diplomacy initiatives like River Basin Organisations (RBOs) can be successful vectors of peace, cooperation, and sustainable management of water resources. However, all these initiatives and transboundary organisations presuppose and require political will.

  • Discussions on how to generate this necessary political strongly focussed on a bottom-up approach, which in turn underlined the importance of local action and what could be called Track II hydro-diplomacy. Civil society’s knowledge and activity in the preservation of riverine and water resources combined with the exchanges between practitioners and scientists from different countries offer the foundational track II hydro-diplomacy needed to generate political will at the level of decision makers.
  • From there, political will can be triggered through the interaction of the scientific and practitioner communities on the one hand and political decision makers on the other. As however pointed out by participants, bridging the gap between scientists and decision makers is not without challenges. Interactions between these two communities aimed at ensuring an increased commitment to hydro-diplomacy require aligning messages and preoccupations of both communities. There is therefore a real need for scientists to not only communicate the scientific importance and relevance of hydro-diplomacy and of an approach to water resources built on cooperation and co-management but also to stress its political importance. Hydric stress endangers entire communities in their livelihoods, creating insecurity, and accelerating both internal and international migration.
  • Mobilising science and putting it at the service of policy making and the generation of political will has therefore been one of the key questions and preoccupations raised throughout the day.

3. A last dimension of this taxonomy of hydro-diplomacy which emerged throughout the conference was centred on the diversity of tools, processes, and institutions of shared management of water resources as well as discussions about their replicability.

  • River Basin Organisations are notable examples of such institutions and developers of tools towards an improved management and sharing of transboundary water resources. With examples from the Senegal River, representatives from the Netherlands and France discussing the shared management of the Rhine River, perspectives from both Pakistan and India on the Indus River, as well as contributions from Uzbekistan with the example of Central Asia, the conference revealed the diversity of approaches and structures of RBOs and shared management agreements.
  • Participants from the realm of development agencies addressed the question of replicability of RBOs by noting the comparative advantages of certain structures over others. They however also pointed out that each national and transboundary context, geography, and concrete local and regional needs require adapting the structure and form of RBOs.
  • One final but crucial point raised was that cooperation fundamentally requires the sharing and pooling of knowledge and information. While it is important to respect national and regional sovereignty, global and transboundary issues like climate change and increased hydric stress call for global and multilateral solutions. Creating transboundary solidary and cooperation is necessarily achieved through the sharing of data.

A renewed and enlarged practice of hydro-diplomacy thus requires a durable platform of exchange between all stakeholders, bridging the gap between the scientific community, local water practitioners, and political decision makers. Honouring its name and mission statement, The Bridge Tank offers to provide this missing bridge and to host such a platform of exchange and connection.

This conference provided a first example of The Bridge Tank’s dedication to the matter and is hoped to become an annual occurence as the “World Water for Peace Conference.”

Read the concept note and the agenda of the day here.

Brice Lalonde and Stéphane Gompertz
Erik Orsenna, Hamed Semega, Joel Ruet, and Irina Bokova
Joel Ruet, Lionel Goujon, and Christian Bréthaut

COP 27: Advances on loss and damage but no breakthrough on climate finance despite a strong West African involvement

The fear of ending COP 27 without any significant advances was looming over Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in the dying hours of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference.

But after a final negotiations marathon between the parties, a deal was eventually struck.

The agreement which concluded two weeks of discussions and negotiations in the Egyptian coastal city offered an important step forward in the contentious question of loss and damage. Parties agreed to establish a loss and damage fund which will help support those countries most impacted by climate change. The fund will provide financial relief to respond to the catastrophic effects of the environmental crisis, like droughts, heatwaves, floods, or cyclones.

Efforts Remain Insufficient

While encouraging as a signal of international solidarity in response to environmental catastrophes, the final agreement fell short of many COP 27 participants’ expectations and hopes. In an interview for TV5 Monde, Hakima El Haite, board member of The Bridge Tank, expressed her disappointment  with the lack of advances at COP 27:

“It is true that we have taken a step forward by agreeing on the creation of a mechanism that will still require time. The more we mitigate CO2 emissions and the more we reduce CO2 concentrations, the less we will need to adapt and the less money we will need to repair the damages caused by natural disasters. And so we have to act and it’s not up to the vulnerable countries to act, it’s the emitting countries that emit 80% of the emissions that have to provide 80% of the solutions in their own countries.”

This opinion was shared by many, particularly in the Global South and West Africa, a region which faces some of the most dire effects of climate change and which had come with strong demands and expectations to COP 27, the African COP.

A Strong and Proactive West African Presence at COP 27

Representatives from West African countries had arrived at COP 27 with the hope of seeing strong decisions being made to relieve the environmental pressure affecting the continent. Before the beginning of COP 27, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had shared some of the points it considered crucial to successful climate change negotiations:

  • Increasing the ambition of greenhouse gas emission reduction, specifically for the biggest emitters
  • Article 6 of the Paris Agreement with regard to generating new financing opportunities in the region and defining the new carbon market mechanisms
  • Adaptation: moving from planning to operationalizing
  • Loss and damage: providing concrete responses to the existing loss and damage in West Africa
  • Climate finance: meeting the 100-billion-dollar target of the Green Climate Fund and establishing a financial facility specifically dedicated to African countries to focus on their needs and priorities in terms of adaptation.

Intent on making the sub-region’s voice heard at COP 27, West African institutions joined forces in Sharm el-Sheikh at the West Africa Pavilion. This pavilion was co-piloted by ECOWAS and the West African Development Bank (WADB), in partnership with the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).

“The pavilion expresses the willingness of regional institutions to strengthen their cooperation around the common challenge of climate change. The approach aims to improve the coordination and effectiveness of the collective response for the benefit of the region’s populations,” ECOWAS communicated prior to the conference.

For two weeks, the four West African institutions thus contributed to moving public debate on climate action and climate finance forward.

Leading voices on climate governance and climate finance

The ECOWAS Commission made use of its presence at the West Africa Pavilion to organize side events introducing the union’s Regional Climate Strategy. These included a session on November 9th on coordination mechanisms for greater regional climate governance and another one on November 11th on the sectoral opportunities the strategy offers for agriculture and energy.

The West African Development Bank (WADB) was also very active on the Pavilion. On November 9th, Serge Ekué, President of the WADB, gave a press briefing on the WADB’s climate positioning. This was an opportunity to discuss the WADB’s Djoliba 2021-2025 Strategic Development Plan, which allocates 25% of the bank’s total commitments to climate finance in order to support member states in the financing of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Through its president, the WADB expressed its wish to be a catalyser of resilience and adaptation to climate change and a facilitator of sustainable and stable growth.

Capitalizing on the centrality of climate finance at this year’s climate change conference, the WADB organised a number of events on the matter, including a panel on “Challenges and opportunities of climate finance in Africa,” and two sessions on November 14th, “Filling the Gaps in Climate Change Adaptation Policies to Facilitate Access to Climate Finance for WAEMU Countries” and “Carbon finance as a lever of development for WAEMU countries,” with the participation of the West African Alliance On Carbon Market and Climate Finance.

The WADB also took part in side-events organised by other institutions in Sharm el Sheikh, including one by the Green Climate Fund on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel.

This importance of climate finance on this year’s agenda at COP 27 also mobilised The Bridge Tank, which co-organised a side event with Liberal International on North-South dynamics in climate finance. The panel discussion “Towards a balanced, empowered, North-South blended climate finance for mitigation and adaptation” included prominent figures and institutions from West Africa and provided an additional building bloc to the pursuit of a more effective and balanced climate finance.

Despite these many efforts and calls for bold measures, COP 27’s final agreement comes as a disappointing conclusion to two weeks of active involvement on the ground from West African institutions and countries. The wish to make COP 27, the African COP, an important milestone in the fight against climate change and the establishment of climate finance mechanisms ensuring the continent’s preservation has been left unfulfilled, to the frustration of many.

Analysis – Where has the Chinese COP 15 disappeared ?

By Joël RUET & Malaurie LE BAIL – After being half-postponed four times due to the pandemic, half-launched through a heads of states level online event on October 2021, the COP 15 on biodiversity should have finally happened started on April 25, 2022 in Kunming, China. Is is now being postponed to the end of 2022 in Montreal, Canada for logistical and sanitary reasons, while China will still hold the Presidency. With little media coverage throughout and only few academic and journalistic analyses, the COP 15 is the great absentee from the international news as ecosystems reach their limits. The responsibility lies with a host country not very involved: China.

China’s COP 15 missed a major diplomatic opportunity in visibility and in environmental themes advancement. China’s communication was blurred from the beginning with the half-postponing, half-keeping of the COP 15. The October 2021 virtual meeting largely saw the promotion of a “Kunming Consensus” that could only be really negotiated by March 2022 in Geneva. What became a “pre-COP” appeared only sparsely in the Western media. Infused with much of rhetoric, the “pre-COP” turned into an empty shell.

Was the opportunity just missed as China decided to focus on propagating Xi’s ideas on “ecological civilization”, a concept so far yet to be informed by tools and measures? Or is there a larger shift away from China? On this ground China’s quasi-absence from the COP 26 had already not gone unnoticed. It is one of several countries whose top leader did not attend in person, alongside Brazil, Russia, and Turkey. Instead, China was represented by special climate envoy Xie Zhenhua, touching briefly on the country’s continued commitments to cutting carbon without making any new declarations, alip service putting into question the legitimacy and dedication of the country in the global fight against climate change. The overall deadline for revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) has been pushed from the COP26 to the COP 27 largely due to China having not filled its contribution in an ambitious way, many observers agree.

Being host to a global conference has its share of reward and any hosting country has its publicity, western style, or propaganda, dirigiste style. However, with this low tone commitment of China on climate, doubts have arisen as to whether China, one of the world’s greatest emitters of C02 and plastic, will be capable of upholding its responsibilities as host country for the COP 15. China has yet to sign the Global Methane Pledge, a pledge launched by the United States and the European Union during COP26, along with 103 countries representing 70% of the global economy, to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees within reach.

Glasgow observers, as they prepare for the COP 27 in Egypt, contend China continues to isolate itself further and further from the international sphere. The lack of information and transparency regarding the biodiversity COP 15 only reinforces what was said by the observers of the climate COP 26. Moreover, the COP 15 is the first major global conference within the United Nations system officially labeled under the concept of “ecological civilization”.

The European Union has been setting ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050. For Europe, both the COP 15 and the COP 26 have largely been seen as mere continuations from the IUCN World Conservation Congress, which took place in September 2021 in Marseille, France and culminated in the “Marseille Manifesto,” also referred to as a ‘roadmap’ to international negotiations, calling governments to commit to ambitious plans for the conservation of nature.

The COP on biodiversity lacks an equivalent of what the “Paris agreement” is to the COP on climate change. China had a role to play in supporting this event. As a sign of China’s self-centeredness, the communication, upstream and downstream of the Kunming COP event, is more than poor. The Chinese low profile has contributed to aggravate the lack of awareness and communication to the general public on biodiversity issues on the international stage.

In this international calendar, The Bridge Tank has positioned itself on the topic and has written a report. Read our further analysis here.

European tour OMVS – The Bridge Tank for the promotion of hydrodiplomacy

The Bridge Tank has partnered with the OMVS (Senegal River Development Organization) for a European tour to promote hydro-diplomacy which took place from June 9 to 24, 2022 in Geneva, Oslo, The Hague, Paris and Brussels. Hamed SEMEGA, High Commissioner of the OMVS and member of the Board du Bridge Tank, and Joël RUET, President of the Bridge Tank, met with many interlocutors to discuss topics related to hydrodiplomacy: the international law of international water resources, sustainable hydro-development, peace built by the shared management of cross-border basins, or even the preservation of the headwaters of major rivers.

The Bridge Tank and the OMVS have decided to organize a workshop on these issues next fall with all the actors with whom they have exchanged and by extending it to many political leaders and associations.

This tour follows the joint work carried out during the World Water Forum 2022, in which The Bridge Tank was associated. The OMVS was then honored with the Hassan II Grand Prize for water. According to the jury, the West African organization based in Dakar, which brings together Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea, was distinguished for its action in favor of the “achievement of water and food security” of the greater basin. cross-border, but also for its action for “peace, prosperity and territorial development” of its member countries. Hydrodevelopment and hydrodiplomacy have indeed been at the heart of the organization’s model. The OMVS has, in fact, operated for more than 50 years independently of national or international tensions in the region it covers; it served as a model for the revitalization of its sister organization for the Gambia River, and the organization regularly receives visits from river organizations from all over the world, including Central Asia.

Water issues, in particular those around basins, are generally tackled in a utilitarian approach, i.e. through access to water. This vision is consensual within international organizations and at international events. However, the pessimistic evolution of aquifer ecosystems impacted by climate change raises the question of the sustainability of these resources.

It is in this perspective, rooted in international and UN legal aspects, that the delegation began its tour in Geneva during the conference “Lessons and perspectives on water cooperation for Africa and Europe: from the Forum from Dakar in 2022 to the United Nations Water Conference in 2023 at the Palais des Nations. Mr. Semega thus presented the work and the potential of the OMVS, which is often recognized as a model organization, on the organizational, political, legal and investment levels.

To deepen the subject, the delegation then met Professor Mads Adenaes, specialist in international law at the University of Oslo in Norway. This exchange was an opportunity to discuss the perspectives of international water law. They insisted on the fact that water must be approached in a holistic way, as a common good, that is to say that water must no longer only be an object of rivalry between powers, but be a good vital common to share. This is what basin organizations seek to advocate, which do not focus on the state scale, but on the resource scale.

In terms of hydrodevelopment, water is a major element of ecosystems, societies and economies, which is why it is necessary for their proper development. Mr. Semega had the opportunity to discuss with actors from the world of development, in particular Mrs. Marie-Noëlle Reboulet, President of GERES and Mr. Pierre Jacquemot, President of the Initiatives Group, whose core business is energy solidarity, Climate and Social Affairs and Mr. Lars Andreas Lunde, Head of the Nature and Climate Section of the Norwegian Development Agency, NORAD. These structures have made it possible to draw the following conclusion: a multitude of solutions exist on the ground, with a strong bottom-up dimension, which requires greater knowledge, consultation and coordination to act and share know-how.

The discussions were fruitful to the point of organizing a new meeting with GERES and the Initiatives Group of which the OMVS is a member, in the coming weeks. These discussions were also able to continue thanks to the organization of a side event in Brussels, by The Bridge Tank and the OMVS, during the “Africa Energy Forum” on the theme “Water-energy infrastructure for peace in the Sahel”, in the presence of Minister Amal Mint Maouloud, former Mauritanian Minister of Equipment and Transport, Mr. Abdoulaye Dia, Managing Director of SEMAF/OMVS and Mr. Romain Cres, Economic Development Specialist within GERES.

The actions of the OMVS are carried out in favor of peace, since according to the High Commissioner “whoever knows how to share water, can share everything”. This message was repeated many times during the European tour, in particular during the meeting with the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, President of Leaders for Peace.

Mr. Raffarin and Mr. Semega agreed on the importance and role of basin organizations in contributing to hydrodiplomacy and peace in the world. Hydrodiplomacy has a more global dimension than hydropolitics, which remains reserved for States. Hydrodiplomacy underlines the idea that the management of water and basins is no longer the business of the States, but of everyone around a resource within the territories.

On this subject, The Bridge Tank was at the initiative of a working lunch between the High Commissioner and Mr. Erik Orsenna, President of the Initiative for the Future of the Great Rivers (IAGF) in the presence of influential personalities in the field around the situation of natural resources in West Africa and hydrodiplomacy in the Senegal River Basin, on the occasion of which our Board Member Ambassador Stéphane Gompertz and Me Jean-Claude Beaujour were present.

Last but not least, the delegation held working meetings with the Norwegian Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of International Cooperation in The Hague, IOWater and the International Network of Basin Operators and the STOA infrastructure investment fund in Paris.

On its own continent, the OMVS has been entrusted, within the International Association of River Basin Operators, with the technical secretariat of the association bringing together its active members on the African continent. As peace goes through development but also through democratic decisions, the OMVS has set up a committee of river basin users, an original body for open consultation with civil society. Aware of its responsibilities, the OMVS, an organization which was created in 1972, is today engaged in a forward-looking reflection on its future, and on the future of its contribution to Africa and to the world.

In this context, the exchange tour with peers, experts and leaders from all areas of society in all the capitals of peace and the areas of river innovation, nature conservation and in particular source river ecosystems, aims to share the results of this success story with stakeholders from the United Nations GA, the African Union, the academic and civil society communities, work with which The Bridge Tank is associated.

Joël Ruet participates in a webinar on “COP26 and the Brahmaputra: A New Perspective based on the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework”

Our President, Joël Ruet participated in the webinar on May 5th, 2022 on the topic “COP26 and the Brahmaputra: A New Perspective Based on the Underwater Domain Awareness (UDA) Framework”. This is the 5th in a series of webinars organized by the Maritime Research Center and M/S NirDhwani Technology Pvt Ltd.

His participation was an opportunity to continue the conversation on the blue economy started with key stakeholders, such as the Maritime Research Center.

As there are many solutions on « environmental engineering » coming from the global south towards river aspects, in particular from the Indo-African side, Joël Ruet suggested enhancing cross learning in terms of environment and engineering, notably water storage for hydroelectricity, navigation regulation and velocity regulation can have a positive impact on avoiding disasters and protecting biodiversity. At the condition of a step by step learning. The COP26 that dealt about integration of environment to adaptation and adaptation to mitigation towards cobenefits and nature based solutions opened an avenue and Joel Ruet has high hopes for the next COP which will be held in Egypt in November. Thanks to the various exchanges about the Brahmaputra region, he was able to appreciate the vast amount of knowledge that should be shared during COP 27 – “We must learn from the experience of Brahmaputra”.

The Bridge Tank at the BOAO Forum for Asia 2022: Promote Energy Integration and Build Green World

The BOAO 2022 Forum was held from April 20 to 22 in a hybrid mode, aiming to conduct an open dialogue in a post-COVID world and on the prospects of common development in the world of tomorrow.

Since 2018, The Bridge Tank has participated in the annual “Chinese Davos” event. Our President, Joel Ruet spoke at a high-level panel in the presence of Mr. Ali Obaid Al Dhaheri, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to China, Mr. Baodong Li, Secretary General, BOAO Forum and former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, Mr. Mr. Jizhen Liu, Academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering and Director of State Key Laboratory of Alternate Electrical Power System with Renewable Energy Sources, Mr. Hailiang Song, President of China Energy Engineering Group Co, Mr. Jianhua Hu, President of China Merchants Group and Mr. Haiping Xiang, Chief Engineer of China National Energy Administration.

In his speech, Joël Ruet spoke about the global issues related to energy integration and trajectories. He stressed the importance of “deep decarbonation technologies” in accelerating net zero emissions by 2035-2040. Until then, he added that each country or territory will have a role to play to have its own “transition trajectory”, not only adding renewable energies but also integrating them into the networks with a more rational and efficient use.

Joël Ruet addressed the issue of adaptation, which must no longer be looked separately from other issues. He illustrated his remarks through the example of carbon sinks, which have be created from optimized ecosystems everywhere, not only in forests, but also in savannahs or mangroves.

Dr. Ruet also demonstrated that energy trajectories are already low-carbon, which is particularly the case for Africa and most of the G77 countries. It is important that these trajectories are recognized as such and therefore funded by the North and that technology and know-how transfers are funded accordingly.

In response to the question of how to implement global support to energy trajectories of the global south, the President of The Bridge Tank proposed two solutions: first, allow the South to manage itself with more funding to create local champions, keep the gas trade open to them, and ensure that their carbon sinks are recognized as an incentive to develop them; and second, enable their local financial entities to play a larger role by recognizing that “risks” are over rated there in comparison to actually high profitability.

As in the 2021 edition, Joël Ruet was one of the three French speakers, representing the circle of Think Tanks, alongside Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Henry Giscard D’Estaing, who respectively represented the political and economic worlds.

Read here the agenda of the BOAO Forum 2022.

Analytical report: China’s value chain strategy on cobalt – lessons for EU

Strategic materials are ubiquitous in all sectors relevant for the green economy and the energy transition. Regarding cobalt, it owes its current visibility to its increasing use in low carbon technologies, also called green technologies (renewable energy and rechargeable batteries). Cobalt is used as an input in the magnets of wind turbines, and for the production of the cathodes of lithium-ion and nickel metal hydride batteries, which are then incorporated in electric or hybrid vehicles. In the current context of the electrification of mobility, cobalt is therefore regarded as a strategic material. The production of cobalt is however one of the prime examples of the unequal distribution of the earth’s resources, the metal being extremely concentrated in one country: the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who represents 70% of global production, and the DRC’s reserved are controlled substantially by what has now become an unavoidable actor in the cobalt value chain: China.

As a continuation of our work on analysis China’s materials strategy, we have developed a report to analysis how China has imposed itself on the cobalt value chain, both upstream and downstream, and has progressively managed to build itself a comparative, if not absolute, advantage. This report aims to conduct a combined analysis of the strategies that have been implemented both by the Chinese government as well as industrial actors in order to gain this hegemonic position on the value chain. These strategies have allowed for the constitution of a resilient and dominant Chinese ecosystem around the cobalt value chain on the international stage.

Read our report here

The Bridge Tank and French Development Agency launch their final workshop on Blue Economy

On March 16, 2022, The Bridge Tank held the final workshop in a series of three with the mandate of the French Development Agency on blue economy in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka). This workshop aimed at the identification of possible bilateral and regional cooperation with the contribution of the French know-how in the maritime field. It also aimed at open up the conversation to design solutions which the French side could contribute in response to the challenges identified during the first two workshops in collaboration with key players in the Bay of Bengal region.

The discussion was based on 6 main takeaways in terms of needs and gaps identified from the first two workshops:

  • The role of blue economy in the region
  • The role of data
  • Improving coordination
  • Strengthening private and public cooperation
  • Promoting institutional capacity building in front of data collection and coordination
  • Developing pilot projects

This workshop was comprised of three closed-door panels:

Panel 1: Institutional cooperation and ambitions at regional level with the support of French know-how

Moderator: Dr. Joël Ruet, President, The Bridge Tank

  • Dr. (Mrs) Hélène Djoufelkit, Research Director of the AFD
  • Mrs. Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of the Friendship NGO
  • Mr. Daniel Fernando, Chairperson, Blue Resources Trust, Sri Lanka
  • Dr. Arnab Das, Executive Director & Founder, Maritime Research Centre, India
  • Mr. Matthieu Piron, Policy officer for international affairs, Directorate for Sea Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ministry for the Sea
  • Mr. Benoît Gauthier, Head of the Regional Economic Service, Embassy of France in India
  • Vice Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, Director-General, National Maritime Foundation, India
  • Dr. P. Krishnan, Director, Bay of Bengal Inter-Governmental Organization (BOBP-IGO), regional

Panel 2: Developing nationally and regionally viable projects to enhance the value chains of blue economy

Moderator: Dr. Joël Ruet, President, The Bridge Tank

  • Mr. Manish Singhal, Deputy Secretary General, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), India
  • Mr. Martin Lemenager, Senior Program Manager for Infrastructure, AFD Office in Indonesia
  • Mr. Loïc Monod, Bioeconomy research officer, France AgriMer
  • Mr. Nicolas Vuillaume, Indian Ocean Representative, Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS)
  • Dr. Mostafa A. R. Hossain, Professor, Aquatic Biodiversity & Climate Change, Department of Fish. Biology & Genetics, Bangladesh Agricultural University, consultant with AFD Bangladesh
  • Dr. Arnab Das, Executive Director & Founder, Maritime Research Centre, India
  • Mr. Aruna Maheepala, Senior Research Officer of National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency of Sri Lanka
  • Mr. Shri Aditya Dash, Vice Chairman, Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), India
  • Mr. Bruno Bosle, Country director of the AFD Office in India
  • Mr. Reda Souirgi, AFD Sri Lanka, represented by Mrs. Panchali Ellepola, Project Officer
  • Mr. Benoît Chassatte, Country director of the AFD Office in Bangladesh

Panel 3: Enhancing shared resources through a regional network & general conclusion

Moderator: Dr. Joël Ruet, President, The Bridge Tank

  • Mrs. Afifat Khanam Ritika, Research Officer Bangladesh Institute of Maritime Research and Development
  • Mr. Pattabhi Rama Rao, Group Director, Ocean Observations, Modelling and Data Assimilation Group, Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)
  • Dr. (Mrs) Hélène Djoufelkit, Research Director of the AFD
  • Dr. Joël Ruet, President, The Bridge Tank
  • Mr. Jacky Amprou, Regional Director for South-Asia, AFD


The spirit of this project is to organize a series of three workshops, co-hosted by The Bridge Tank and the French Development Agency. The first workshop, which was organized in November 26th, 2022, aimed at gathered strategic thinking of the participants ahead of developing a growing interaction between them and institutes and policy makers in the second workshop, in January 21st, 2022.

Read our report here and our executive summary here 

Watch the replay of our workshop here

HORASIS 2022 USA – Biden’s first year, Ukraine, and EU’s leadership

During the 2022 Horasis USA Meeting, held March 4, The Bridge Tank participated in a conference on Joe Biden, the European Union and Ukraine, alongside Esko Aho, Former Prime Minister of Finland, Finland, Michael D. Brown, United States Shadow Senator, District of Columbia, USA, Yves Leterme, Former Prime Minister of Belgium, Belgium, Jed Rakoff, Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, USA, and chaired by Jerry Hultin, Chair, New York Academy of Sciences, USA.

The discussion centered on the American president and his responsibility as the head of a leading democratic state, particularly in light of the war in Ukraine, as well as his potential future actions. How far will the Biden leadership go? What can we expect him to accomplish before the 2024 American elections?

Our President Joel RUET flagged that:

  • Beyond US energy package, there ought to be some joint US-EU effort to quick land green finance,
  • He called for joint technology programs and shared industrial platforms
  • In line with Prime Minister Aho’s view that viewing NATO as an internal lose-win game between the US and the EU, Joel Ruet emphasized this situation has brought opportunities to jointly look at joint security issues, and have NATO evolve from defense to security,
  • In reply to Jerry Hultin’s point on the view the Global South has on Russia’s assault to Ukraine and on China, Ruet mentioned that many African countries feel they have gained much of what they could from China and leveraged on this onto other countries, and that many of them now observe the new set of tools used on Russia, advising the “West” and notably the EU to engage into a conversation on these economic tools with its strategic partners in the South, not to alienate them, and, positively, to mutualise the treatment of the Russia-Ukraine crisis through real global tools,
  • Lats but not least, echoing some concern by shadow Senator Brown, Joel Ruet offered that, even though they differ from one country to another due to history, so called ‘racial issues’ ought to be discusses more globally, not intra-societies.

Watch the full discussion here on our youtube.

The Bridge Tank and French Development Agency launch their 2nd workshop on Blue economy: implementation issues

On January 21, 2022, The Bridge Tank held the second workshop in a series of three with the mandate of the French Development Agency on blue economy in the Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka). Whereas the first workshop aimed at earmarking new blue economy priorities for various actors and nations in the Bay of Bengal, this second workshop: Blue Economy in the Bay of Bengal – Implementation Issues, aimed to open discussions between experts, policy makers and economic actors to identify gaps and challenges that impede a concrete and efficient implementation of blue economy value chains in the Bay of Bengal region. By linking research and operational approaches, this workshop conducted a collective inventory of data gathering and treatment systems, logistic and financial resources and gaps for sustainable blue economy activities (value chains and social and natural resilience) implementation and acceleration.

This workshop was comprised of two panels; the first panel, open to the public, was dedicated to exploring the importance of data collection towards the improvement of monitoring blue economy assets. The second panel, a closed-door round table, centered on engaging discussion between public and private entities, researchers and implementers towards the implementation of a sustainable blue economy.

Among the challenges identified, the speakers all agreed on the following 5:

  • Lack of information and coordination within countries and in the region;
  • Need for institutional capacity building;
  • Enhance resources (fisheries) enhancement; 
  • Need for increasing public and private cooperation;
  • Need for more regional joint research studies and projects. 

Panel 1: Data collection for improved monitoring of the blue economy’s assets


  • Dr. Shailesh Nayak, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), India
  • Ms. Akshita Sharma, Biodiversity Portfolio Manager, AFD Delhi
  • Mr. Nishan Perera, Blue Resources Trust, Sri Lanka
  • Mr. Abu Saleh Khan, Executive Director, Institute of Water Modelling, Bangladesh

Discussion participants:

  • Dr. (Mrs.) Hélène Djoufelkit, Research Director of the AFD
  • Arnab Das, Director, Maritime Research Center, India
  • Md. Adbul Wahab, EcoFish Team Leader, World Fish Bangladesh Wing
  • Dr. (Mrs.) Chime Youdon, Associate Fellows, National Maritime Foundation, India
  • Saurabh Thakur, Associate Fellows, National Maritime Foundation, India

Panel 2: National framework for improved coordination between public, private entities, researchers and implementers

  • Short presentation of take-aways from experts’ workshops and objectives by Joël Ruet, President of The Bridge Tank & Jacky Amprou, Regional Director for South-Asia, AFD
  • Round table – 5 minutes pitch of projects, initiatives or solutions from each speaker
  • Open discussion across panelists

Speakers and guests:

  • Mr. Shri Aditya Dash, Vice Chairman, Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA), India
  • Ms. Dharshani Lahandapura, Chairperson, The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), Sri Lanka
  • Mr. Khairul Majid Mahmud, Director, Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Bangladesh
  • Ms. Panchali Ellepola, Project Officer, AFD Sri Lanka
  • Mr. Ameya Prabhu, Vice-President, Indian Chamber of Commerce, India
  • Ms. Soma Mitra-Muckerjee, Director, Head of Projects, The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, India
  • Mr. Pattabhi Rama Rao, Group Director, Ocean Observations, Modelling and Data Assimilation Group, Indian National Center for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)
  • Mr. Reda Souirgi, Country Director Sri Lanka, AFD

With the participation of the panelists from the panel 1.

The third and final workshop in this series will be held mid-March 2022 and will aim to identify political ambitions in the sector and willingness/possibility of regional cooperation with the contribution of the French know-how in the maritime field.

Read our report here and our executive summary here.

Watch panel 1 and panel 2 of the workshop on our Youtube.r

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