Category: Global Governance

UN 2023 Water Conference: The Bridge Tank & IFGR hold a side event on hydro-diplomacy

On 23 March, Day 2 of the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, The Bridge Tank and Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers (IFGR) coorganised an official side event on hydro-diplomacy “Towards an inclusive, pre-emptive, and positive hydro-diplomacy.” The side event’s partner organisation included the French Water Partnership, the Geneva Water Hub, IHE Delft, the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), the Chair Technology for Change of École Polytechnique, and APCO Worldwide, which hosted the session.

The session was moderated by Dr Joel RUET, President, The Bridge Tank, and Economist at Institut Interdisciplinaire de l’Innovation i3t, École Polytechnique.

Participants included:

  • Minister Ms Mirela KUMBARO FURXHI, Minister of Tourism and Environment, Republic of Albania
  • Dr Erik ORSENNA, Chairman, Initiative for the Future of Great Rivers (IAGF, Initiative pour l’Avenir des Grands Fleuves), Academician at Académie française
  • Dr Christian BRETHAUT, Scientific Director, Geneva Water Hub (GWH), Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP)
  • Ms Marie-Laure VERCAMBRE, General Director, French Water Partnership
  • Ms Alyssa OFFUTT, Researcher, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education
  • Ms Clémence AUBERT, Head of Strategic Management, Compagnie Nationale du Rhône (CNR), France
  • Dr Suvi SOJAMO, Senior Research Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute, & Senior Advisor, Water Cooperation and Peace – Finnish Water Way

The panel discussion delved deeper into the topic of hydro-diplomacy, building on The Bridge Tank enduring commitment to the issue, which had already seen the organisation join forces with Initiatives for the Future of Great Rivers in March 2022 for a side event on hydro-diplomacy at the World Water Forum in Dakar. The Bridge Tank’s interest in contributing to this issue had reached another milestone on December 6th, 2022 with a high level panel on hydro-diplomacy in Paris, on the side of the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater 2022, coordinated by UNESCO.

This side event, titled “Towards an inclusive, pre-emptive, and positive hydro-diplomacy” explored a diversity of initiatives, tools, institutional mechanisms and understandings of hydro-diplomacy which are being developed around the world and which could be mobilized within an enlarged and renewed practice of hydro-diplomacy. Examples of the Vjosa River in Albania or the Rhone River in France, offered by Minister Kumbaro Furxhi and Ms Aubert respectively, provided two complementary approaches to sustainable multi-sectoral water resources management and renaturation programmes, one through a wild river national park – the first of its kind in Europe – the other through a company’s endeavor at renaturation.

The session aimed to expand the conversation and practice of hydro-diplomacy beyond the sole activity of diplomats, in order to make it more inclusive. Discussions therefore examined how to connect track 1 and track 2 diplomacy, integrating the scientific community and water practitioners within track 1 diplomacy, something Finland has notably excelled at in its approach and practice of hydro-diplomacy over the years. Furthermore, contributions stressed the central role of the Water Convention as a shared foundation and common language on which to build new water cooperation frameworks and agreements, as noted by Alyssa Offutt from the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, and the development of data, engagement, and tools as contributing factors to the establishment of long lasting peace, as the work of the Geneva Water Hub exemplifies.

The water services industry is nowhere near left out of this process; it has accomplished a notable environmental transformation, as can be seen with the French Water Partnership, which was the civil society backbone of “Team France” at the Conference.

Closing the session, Hamed SEMEGA, former High Commissioner of the Senegal River Basin Development Organisation (OMVS, Organisation de Mise en Valeur du fleuve Sénégal) announced the launch of Water for Peace Africa Foundation in partnership with The Bridge Tank, IFGR, and West African River Basin Organisations. The foundation will aim to promote full cooperation between all stakeholders throughout the region and for them to share information and good practices to sustain peace.

The recording of the session

G20/Business 20: Second meeting of the B20 India Task Force on Energy, Climate Change & Resource Efficiency

The Bridge Tank’s presence in New Delhi, India, for the CII Partnership Summit 2023 from 13-15 March saw Joel Ruet, President, The Bridge Tank, take part in the second meeting of the B20 India Task Force Energy, Climate Change & Resource Efficiency. As a member of the task force, The Bridge Tank had participated in its first meeting during the Inception Meeting of the Business 20 (B20) Engagement Group of the G20, on January 24th, 2023, in Gandhinagar, India.

The task force’s second meeting, on March 15th, raised three central topics: (1) accelerating net zero transitions, (2) a greater overall contribution of green energy, including green hydrogen and ammonia, and (3) an improved access to finance for these transitions. In keeping with one of the objectives of India’s G20 presidency, the task force has stressed the importance of including developing countries in these developments.

Notably, the stress was put on the fact that, while global ESR and non-financial standards as well as technology push through state support is needed, there is a capital cost advanatge for some countries which others do not have. Therefore, even more than human resources support or technology transfer assistance, to include developing countries, there is rather a need for a financial level-playing field, some argued, among which The Bridge Tank. While recommandations that Multilateral Developement Banks and private funds address this seriously were made, part of the debate revolved around the idea of focusing public money onto de-risking, and, The Bridge Tank argues, at involving local, national, and regional financial ecosystems into then de-risked project pipelines.

Besides, if one ventures out of the solutions only fitted for G20 countries – as India’s G20 presidency wishes to have G20 adhere to Africa’s issues for instance – then there is an debate opening up on the unequal data capacity across the world, which may add-up to capital cost inequality. This is a line of contribution we will keep feeding into the task force until its third meeting in April and final meeting in June.

Discussions and feedback between the task force’s first and second meeting raised numerous additional issues; these include establishing global standards for hydrogen, assessing the life cycle and scope for recyclables, setting provisions for domestic and international transactions on carbon and facilitating access to finance and technology. Furthermore, it is crucial to include and recognize the role mico, small, and medium entreprises have to play. As noted by some members of the task force, clear results and actions are required, as the cost of inaction on adaption to climate change would be dire, notably for coastal regions.

The meeting was convened by some of India’s leading industry captains:

  • Mr Sajjan Jindal, Chairman & Managing Director, JSW Group, chair of the task force
  • Mr Vineet Mittal, Chairman, Avaada Group, vice chair of the task force
  • Mr T V Narendran, Managing Director, Tata Steel, vice chair of the task force
  • Mr Chrstian Cahn von Seelen, Executive Committe memebrr Volskwagen, vice chair of the task force
  • Mr Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, Chairman of the Board, ENGIE, vice chair of the task force (represented by his head of staff)

G20/Business 20 : The Bridge Tank takes part in the B20 India Inception Meeting

After Indonesia’s tenure in 2022, the turn of the year saw India assume the presidency of the G20 for 2023.

From 22 to 24 January 2023, the city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat, India, hosted the Inception Meeting of the Business 20 (B20) Engagement Group of the G20 to discuss the global economy and some of the most pressing issues facing our world with the business community. The meeting gathered Indian Ministers and delegates, as well as influential international business leaders and policy makers.

As a member to the B20, The Bridge Tank attended the summit in Gandhinagar, represented by its chairman Joel Ruet. Besides the public sessions at the Mahatma Mandir, the Inception Meeting notably marked the launch of the B20 Task Forces and Action Groups, to which The Bridge Tank will be an active contributor in the year to come.

Focussing its participation on three great themes: sustainability, research & innovation, and bridging the gap between Africa and the G20, at the invitation of the Indian Presidency of the G20, The Bridge Tank is now member to both the B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency, and the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration.

Joel Ruet at the B20 Inception Meeting
Setting the tone for India’s 2023 G20 presidency

Organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which has taken up the B20 India Secretariat, the Plenary Sessions of the B20 Inception Meeting, held at the Mahatma Mandir on January 23rd, set the tone for the summit and for India’s year presiding over the G20.

The inaugural session highlighted the vision, thematic priorities, and values which will drive the B20 India. Mr Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), reminded participants of the acronym R.A.I.S.E – Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable business – which will serve as the cornerstone of B20 India.

“The theme of the B20, which has been formed under the umbrella of G20 Presidency of India, is R.A.I.S.E. – Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable business.”
Mr Chandrajit Banerjee
Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

During his opening address on the requirements to deliver a successful B20 India, Mr N Chandrasekaran, Chair, B20 India, and Chairman, Tata Sons, stressed the role of reducing inequality thanks to digital transformation. He went on to underline some of the main priorities identified for B20 India, including sustainability, energy transition, mobility, biodiversity, water management and the UN SDGs.

"B20 presidency is an opportunity for India to showcase and share best practices as well as work towards developing specific recommendations on bringing equality using digital transformation.”
Mr N Chandrasekaran
Chair, B20 India & Chairman, Tata Sons
Sustainability and energy transitions:  B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency

The centrality of the fight against climate change and the place of energy transitions and sustainable development in the B20 India priorities were introduced during the plenary session by Mr Som Parkash, Hon’ble Minister of State for Commerce & Industry​.

Minister Parkash said that “India, under G20 Presidency, needs to work towards prioritizing fight against climate change and environment degradation through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy.”

This priority, in line with B20’s R.A.I.S.E motto, was echoed one day later, on January 24th, during the first meeting of the B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency, which The Bridge Tank attended as a member of the Task Force.

The meeting, chaired by Mr T V Narendran, B20 India Co-Chair of Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency and CEO & MD Tata Steel Ltd, presented the task force’s priorities and expected outcomes.

Hoping to accelerate energy transitions, resource efficiency, and adaptation measures in G20 economies, the task force’s priorities were pointed out to be in broad alignment with G20 priorities on climate change.

The goal is thus to address the following key issues :

  1. global net zero transitions;
  2. energy security and energy access;
  3. just transitions;
  4. circular economy and resource efficiency;
  5. climate finance and technology innovation;
  6. adaptation and resilience.
“India, under G20 Presidency, needs to work towards prioritizing fight against climate change and environment degradation through efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy.”
Mr Som Parkash
Hon’ble Minister of State for Commerce & Industry

The Task Force’s Priorities cover a variety of themes including:

  • Enhancing global cooperation in accelerating net-zero transition through global industry-specific coalitions, and channelling investments and financing towards global priorities and pathways;
  • Improving investments, development and commercialisation of green-energy technologies;
  • Improving climate finance through new financing pathways for energy transition, setting clear energy mandates for multilateral development banks, and harmonizing the development of national carbon markets;
  • Improving resource efficiency through regulatory frameworks, policies, business and financing models which encourage circular economy;
  • Implementing adaptation policies taking ecosystem-based approaches to provide resilient infrastructure, ensuring gender-inclusive adaptation, and mobilising finance for the implementation.

The expertise The Bridge Tank has accumulated over the years in energy trajectories and energy transitions, in addition to its various research and consulting projects centred on climate finance and blended finance but also contributing to the development of circular economy and sustainable development models will serve as valuable building blocks of The Bridge Tank’s contribution to the B20 Task Force, which will meet again on 14-15 March 2023.

Connecting Africa and G20: B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration

Addressing B20 India’s efforts to represent the issues relevant to the global economy, Mr Sanjiv Bajaj, President of CII & Chairman & Managing Director, Bajaj Finserv Ltd, introduced the audience of the Plenary Session to the focused agenda and Action Council on the Economic Integration of Africa, which hopes to strengthen ties between African economies and the G20.

As a long-time advocate for a greater integration of the African continent in G20 actions and now a contributing member of the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration, The Bridge Tank salutes this initiative.

On January 24th, the last day of the Inception Meeting, The Bridge Tank thus also took part in the introductory session of the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration, which discussed the objectives and priorities of the council.

The meeting raised three main expected outcomes to bolster the economic integration of the African continent:

  1. The formulation of a Technical Assistance Facilities (TAFs) Programme by G20 members, in order to accelerate the AfCFTA implementation through technical and financial assistance to the 54 African nations
  2. Commitments by G20 states to each enter into customized Preferential Trade Agreements with at least 20 African nations (with a minimum of 100 tariff lines on products or services being liberalized in each of these agreements)
  3. Commitments by G20 states to each launch a minimum of 3 development finance programmes benefiting at least 5 African nations (either bilaterally or through multilateral institutions), covering themes like: industrial park programmes, energy or transport infrastructure projects, health, education and skilling initiatives, or micro, small, and medium enterprises funding programmes.
Expanding on these expected outcomes, Joel Ruet, Chairman, The Bridge Tank, put forward the idea of an origination fund for climate resilience & adaptation projects originating from and funded by the G20. In addition to that, the G20 could help derisk projects originated from African countries and companies.
The Bridge Tank will continue its efforts within both the the B20 India Taskforce on Energy, Climate Change and Resource Efficiency, and the B20 India Action Council on African Economic Integration in the coming months.

The Bridge Tank’s Davos Innovation Lunch 2023 : Fostering cooperation on biosecurity during the World Economic Forum

On the last day of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos and for the third edition in a row, The Bridge Tank held its now traditional “Innovation Lunch” on Davos’ Promenade, partnering with our board member Judit Arenas, APCO Worldwide, and the San Diego-based biotechnology company Illumina to discuss biosecurity and the prevention of bioterrorism.

Participants to this roundtable discussion included renowned specialists, researchers, and C-suite executives, including:

  • John Frank, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Illumina
  • Richard Hatchett, CEO, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
  • Matthew McKnight, General Manager, Biosecurity, Gingko Bioworks
  • Frank-Jürgen Richter, Chairman, Horasis
  • Megan Palmer, Executive Director of Bio Policy & Leadership Initiatives, Stanford University
  • Eric Christopher Cioe-Pena, Founding Director of the Center for Global Health of Northwell Health
  • Margery Kraus, Founder and Executive Chairman, APCO Worldwide
  • Raphael Schoentgen, Board Member, The Bridge Tank, and CEO, Hydrogen Advisors

The session’s moderation was carried out by none other than John Defterios, former CNN economic analyst and anchor, and senior advisor, APCO Worldwide, and Joel Ruet, Chairman, The Bridge Tank.

John Defterios
John Defterios
Joel Ruet
Joel Ruet

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the real-life risk of bioterror and the disruption biological agents can cause to our societies. The participants to this luncheon discussion highlighted the fragility – if not the absence – of appropriate national and international biosecurity frameworks and the lack of necessary biosecurity infrastructure.

With the acceleration of technological innovation and the proliferation of unregulated laboratories for biological experimentation, the risks of bioterror or biowarfare must be taken up by the international community. To quote one of the speakers, “every war starts with one technology and ends with a different one.”

John Frank
Richard Hatchett
Matthew McKnight
Frank-Jürgen Richter
Richard Hatchett

Parallels were notably drawn between biosecurity and national security & cyber-security, as efforts must start at the national level. Cooperation between public health and national security organisations will have to be strengthened, as both are directly affected by the disruptions caused by new pathogens or biological agents. To expand the range of actions and biosecurity safeguards, public sector efforts need to increasingly mobilise and support private sector solutions.

Due to health’s nature as a public good, communication, multilateralism, and coalitions will however also have to be bolstered. The sharing of data could be an entry point to international cooperation and the building of trust to prove that non-cooperation will have more dire consequences than the cost of cooperation.

Eric Christopher Cioe-Pena
Megan Palmer
Raphael Schoentgen
Judit Arenas & John Defterios


The quality of the discussions and the ever-growing importance of biosecurity in the shaping of our world revealed the necessity to push these issues to the fore but also for The Bridge Tank to keep them on the agenda of the 2024 edition of the Innovation Lunch in Davos.

Frank-Jürgen Richter & Joel Ruet

Davos 2023: The Bridge Tank’s takeaways from the World Economic Forum

The third week of 2023 saw the world gather once again for the World Economic Forum in Davos. From January 16th to 20th, political, economic, and civil society leaders from around the globe met in the Swiss Alps to discuss the economic future of our world.

This year’s focus on “Cooperation in a fragmented world” proved a theme of particular interest for The Bridge Tank to exchange views with participants from all over the world on the state of international cooperation, particularly with regard to South-South and South-North cooperation.

The Bridge Tank was in Davos during annual meeting of the WEF, represented by its chairman Joel Ruet and board members Judit Arenas, from Mexico, Raphael Schoentgen, from Belgium, and Pranjal Sharma, from India.

This active presence on the ground saw our board members discuss the place of the Global South in the digital revolution, explore new financial mechanisms of South-North cooperation, organise events on global public goods, and provide an overview of the diverse ambitions and paths of major emerging markets.

Pranjal Sharma (left) at the TCS Reception
Judit Arenas at the Innovation Lunch
Raphael Schoentgen (right) at the House of Switzerland
The digital revolution and the Global South

A regulard speaker at the WEF, our board member Pranjal Sharma highlighted the role of the Global South, acting as a structuring force to shape the future. Pranjal Sharma particularly pointed to India’s role in strengthening digital economies in the Global South and the country’s efforts in bringing the digital revolution to new communities and new languages.

Building on this question of digital revolution, Mr Sharma convened a WEF panel discussion on “Tackling Harm in the Digital Era,” in which he addressed user safety in online environments and how to build safer digital spaces.

The high-level panel gathered the European Commission’s Vice-President for Values and Transparency, the UK’s Office of Communications Chief Executive, and the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium to discuss regulatory frameworks and technological innovations to tackle harmful content, violence, and abuse online.

The discussion highlighted the challenges facing lawmakers, as Mr Sharma asked them how to manage digital harm at scale and how to ensure protection for communities not only in developed countries but also in emerging economies, as billions of people and new communities are coming online.


Blue Finance: International rivers as a vector of South-North cooperation

The WEF also allowed discussing new forms of South-North cooperation. One such innovative mechanism on the blue finance front was discussed during  an exclusive event on “Innovative Impact Investing through Blue Peace Bond,” organised by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) at the House of Switzerland.

The event, which Joel Ruet and Raphael Schoentgen attended, presented the Blue Peace Financing Program and the creation of the Blue Peace Bonds, which aim to facilitate access to capital for river basin organisations and similar local and regional entities working toward multi-stakeholder transboundary cooperation around water. This innovative tool to finance infrastructure and social development hopes to work as a peace dividend, by making water an entry point for peace and cooperation.

As pointed out by the interventions of Mr Ruet and Mr Schoentgen, this South-North cooperation must not only involve the Global North’s financial institutions but needs to incorporate the Global South financial institutions and financial services providers to serve as an opportunity for the Global South to develop and leverage its own financial ecosystem.

This session and the financial tool built on cooperation around water it presented came as a welcome contribution to The Bridge Tank’s research for new tools to mobilise within an expanded practice of hydro-diplomacy, just a few weeks after the launch of the World Water for Peace Conference.

The Bridge Tank’s Innovation Lunch 2023: Strengthening biosecurity cooperation

Concluding the week on the theme of cooperation, Joel Ruet and Judit Arenas joined forces on the last day of the forum to co-organise a luncheon discussion on Davos’ Promenade on the issue of biosecurity and bioterrorism. The event was the result of a partnership between The Bridge Tank, APCO Worldwide, and the American biotechnology company Illumina.

The session moderated by Joel Ruet and John Defterios, former CNN economic analyst and anchor, and senior advisor, APCO Worldwide, highlighted the fragility of national and international biosecurity frameworks and the lack of necessary biosecurity infrastructure, and called for greater public-private cooperation on this matter.

The select group of participants consisted of around 25 renowned biosecurity and cybersecurity specialists, high-level academics, and C-suite executives, like John Frank, Chief Public Affairs Officer, Illumina, Richard Hatchett, CEO, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), or Frank-Jürgen Richter, Chairman, Horasis.

Frank-Jürgen Richter, Chairman, Horasis, & Joel Ruet
John Defterios

Focus on the pavilions and thematic sessions in Davos

The vibrant activity of the different national and corporate pavilions made for vivid discussions and for events on themes of interest for The Bridge Tank, i.e. emerging economies, sustainable development, and structuring energy transitions.

The India Lounge was an important meeting point at this year’s WEF. Joel Ruet attended a panel discussion on India’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments and a business-government debriefing on the world’s – and particularly the US’ – readiness to reengage with China. One of the conclusions stressed that whether investments will remain in China or be relocated is something India will have to follow closely.

This presence at the India Lounge was also an opportunity to meet with Samir Saran, President of the T20 Secretariat, and discuss The Bridge Tank’s involvement in the T20 during India’s 2023 G20 presidency. With themes of cooperation and inclusive growth at the heart of India’s presidency, The Bridge Tank will provide an active contribution to the T20 on themes of blue and green finance and bridging the gap between the African continent and the G20.

Samir Saran & Joel Ruet
Indonesia: Setting the course for a net zero future

Indonesia, which only recently handed over the presidency of the G20 to India, proved to be very active in Davos as well.

The Indonesian pavilion thus hosted a session on “Indonesia Net Zero Pathway: Opportunity & Challenges,” on January 17th.

A presentation by Muhammad Yusrizki, Chair of KADIN Net Zero Hub, Indonesia Chamber of Commerce, introduced some of the objectives and challenges ahead for Indonesia’s green transition, including how to finance the energy transition and de-risk investments in renewable sources in Indonesia but also the need for policies and institutional frameworks to accelerate the country’s journey to net zero.

Mr Yusrizki particularly stressed the need to protect and regenerate mangroves, as these have huge potential for carbon storage in a country home to more than 20% of the world’s mangrove areas.

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, introduced Indonesia’s pathway and sectoral priorities to achieve net zero by 2060. Such a pathway would be based on industrialisation and economic development, Mr Pandjaitan said, as he reminded attendees that Indonesia’s per capita CO2 emissions were lower than the global average.

Indonesia’s green economy will be built on five pillars:

  • a decarbonized power sector – helped by the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), which hopes for renewable energy to comprise 34 percent of Indonesia’s power generation by 2030;
  • low-carbon transportation – through the development of electric vehicles;
  • alternative fuels, e.g. biofuel;
  • green industries, e.g. by developing an EV battery supply chain;
  • carbon sinks – involving carbon capture and carbon offset market.

Indonesia hopes to make transportation an important pillar of this green economy. As the ASEAN’s largest automotive market, Indonesia represents 30% of the ASEAN 4-wheeler market and 50% of its 2-wheeler market. While the country still relies on imports, Indonesia hopes to become a production hub in the region, particularly for EVs, for which Indonesia is working to develop its own value chain.

Indonesia also aims to become a global leader in climate mitigation and in the carbon offset market. Replanting mangroves and restoring degraded ecosystems and lands are expected to be some of the key action areas, as panellists noted.

Africa House : Discussing AfCFTA & unlocking the continent’s future potential

The African continent provided its own contribution to this year’s WEF’s pursuit of cooperation in a fragmented world. Davos’ Africa House hosted a trade panel, titled “Deep-dive into the AfCFTA, exploring how far it has come and unlocking the continent’s future potential,” on January 18th.

Participants to the panel included:

  • Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General, AfCFTA Secretariat
  • Samaila Zubairu, President & CEO, Africa Finance Corporation
  • H.E. Princess Alanoud Bint Hamad Al Thani, Chief Business Officer, Qatar Financial Centre

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) encompasses 54 countries across the continent, with 44 state parties having already ratified the agreement. This free trade area however constitutes only 2.1% of global trade and 3% of the world’s GDP.

In his opening address to the panel, Wamkele Mene therefore noted that individual African countries will not be globally competitive on their own. Mr Mene went on to stress the African continent’s need for greater integration in order to develop economies of scale and overcome its reliance on the export of commodities of primary necessity.

The panel encouraged an accelerated implementation of the AfCFTA, as it provides a blueprint for Africa’s collective development and industrialisation. The COVID-pandemic played an important role in revealing Africa’s need to establish alternative supply chains. With Africa at the back of the queue for masks and vaccines, the need for the continent to become self-sufficient has arguably become more pressing.

Prof. Landry Signe & Wamkele Mene

Samaila Zubairu, President & CEO, Africa Finance Corporation, highlighted the fact that the value chains of products like cocoa, cashew nuts, and cotton are not in Africa; the processing of this production is carried out abroad before being re-imported. The same applies to EV vehicles, despite Africa being an important source of strategic materials with huge solar energy potential, Mr. Zubairu noted, before concluding that Africa suffered from a 100 billion infrastructure deficit, weakening its ability to grow.

While panelists commended AfCFTA’s efforts in interconnecting supply chains and regulations and appeared optimistic about the agreement’s success – finding inspiration in the process of European integration started at the end of WW2 which resulted in today’s European Union – considerable challenges remain to reach such a level of integration. A notable limitation is the absence of a protocol on freedom of movement between parties, as pointed out by a question from the attendance.

The Future of Supply Chains and Investments in Emerging Markets

A session organised at the DP World pavilion on “Unlocking Investments in Emerging Economies” addressed the significance of supply chains in today’s world, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Panellists noted that the lack of investments in the less developed parts of the world created disruptions in supply chains. A greater integration of supply chains and investments in infrastructure would however allow the transmission of benefits to emerging countries.

The diversification of supply chains post-COVID, therefore, has the potential of benefiting countries like the Philippines or India, panellists noted, as they could take over parts of China’s role in supply chains. These changing dynamics have begun redistributing roles in international supply chains. The wish of countries like the US and Canada to bring supply chains nearer to home would for example benefit a country like Mexico.

The session’s moderator Frederic Sicre, Managing Partner, Tardis Advisors, therefore shed light on this evolving understanding of emerging markets, mentioning the acronym BIMCHIP (i.e. Brazil, India, Mexico, Chile, Indonesia and Peru) as a possible replacement for the BRICS label.

Participants however also pointed to the challenges resulting from current financial uncertainty, which has made access to capital more difficult. This financial uncertainty will dampen the investment potential in emerging markets, as investors will prioritize less risky investments in developed markets, panellists noted.

Hydro-diplomacy: The Bridge Tank launches the World Water for Peace Conference

Since the year 2000, the share of conflicts over transboundary freshwater resources has been on the rise. Simultaneously, the rate of institutionalising cooperation, i.e. treaties and river basin organisations, has been declining, which the UN processes exemplify.

Fortunately, ideas, tools, and initiatives developed by practitioners and thinkers from the field are plentiful; exchange networks of water practitioners are deepening. As a result, the potential to expand and disseminate current innovative approaches is considerable, as The Bridge Tank

– researched and documented during field visits over the last two years, followed by

– an engagement tour across Europe in June 2022 to promote a renewed practice of hydro-diplomacy.

Indeed, despite alarming trends and media fixation on notorious cases, less documented but lasting success stories do exist, with resilient institutional innovations and good practices in co-management of transboundary waters sustained across the globe, as inspiring cases from Africa, Central Asia, or Europe show. They all have innovative structures to display, either in management, scale, coordinated care of cross-sectoral objectives, tools in common, or cooperative approaches to natural resources. Backed with high local willingness among water practitioners, these innovative features have in return fostered political will.

We argue that this wealth of experiences allows for new pathways to be conceived on the front of hydro-diplomacy itself. Rethinking hydro-diplomacy and its practice assumes multi-stakeholder approaches involving a wider range of actors and the creation, development, and enhancement of tools and practices, e.g. river basin organisations, shared infrastructures, or shared data, research and incubation programmes.

Recognising both the existing gaps in the present understanding and practice of hydro-diplomacy and its considerable potential, The Bridge Tank:

– framed a policy brief, which called for a renewed and enlarged practice of hydro-diplomacy;

– convened a closed-door high-level panel on hydro-diplomacy in Paris, on December 6th, 2022, to put these ideas and hypotheses to the test. This event gathered field experts and development actors familiar with the challenges on the ground, academics and legal experts thinking out institutional tools and legal frameworks, and political decision makers which have worked to ensure a sustainable management of water resources.

These exchanges across practices and geographies created a de facto platform of dialogue on a broadened hydro-diplomacy transcending borders, backed by the range, replicability, and limitations of existing tools and practices. These discussions confirmed the necessity to root these existing tools and practices in this renewed understanding of hydro-diplomacy and work towards an appeased management of water resources, serving as a base for “river basins peace”.

In order to build on the momentum created during this first dialogue, The Bridge Tank is proud to announce the launch of the World Water for Peace Conference.

The World Water for Peace Conference aims to question and enrich the premises of hydro-diplomacy and of the management of transnational rivers,

1) away from a defensive hydro-diplomacy assuming rivalry over access to water resources between users, to a positive hydro-diplomacy, based on shared tools and forums;

2) away from a hydro-diplomacy practised mostly by diplomats toward a holistic one encompassing the plurality of actors.

We believe this paradigm shift through tools and practices will allow to move away from water wars to river basin peace, in short to move away from water wars to water for peace.

The World Water for Peace Conference’s ambition is to seek out innovative ideas and concrete solutions on three great questions:

  1. The politics and practices of transboundary water peace
  2. Innovative legal and institutional tools of inclusive cooperation for hydro-diplomacy
  3. River science, technical innovation and entrepreneurship incubation

The World Water for Peace Conference shall provide a valuable contribution to the practice of hydro-diplomacy by mobilising all stakeholders involved in or impacted by water and its management, from spring heads to deltas, across borders and social and economic sectors:

  1. Political decision makers
  2. Hydro-diplomacy thinkers and system developers
  3. Water practitioners and water users across economic sectors
  4. Scientists and incubators
The Bridge Tank commits to serving as a secretariat to the World Water for Peace Conference. Benefiting from active members from diverse skills, geographies and experiences, we shall make use of the ties we have built over the years across sectors, communities, and countries and build on our position at the crossroads between the political sphere and the scientific community to host this platform of constructive exchanges and gap-bridging.
The next milestones in The Bridge Tank’s efforts in favour of promoting the World Water for Peace Conference will be in Davos, at to the World Economic Forum in January 2023, and at the landmark UN 2023 Water Conference in New York, in March – the first such conference since 1977.
The voices of transboundary water peace

We now stand at a crossroads where “water will either be a vector of peace and prosperity for all or a weapon like energy is now becoming.” This important choice ahead was described by Hakima El Haite, Board Member of The Bridge Tank and former UNFCCC Champion for climate, during the high-level panel discussion on December 6th. “Water and development are two sides of the same coin, which is the coin of peace,” Ms El Haite went on to say.

“Water will either become a vector of peace and prosperity for all or a weapon like energy is now becoming.”

Hakima El Haite, Board Member of The Bridge Tank and former UNFCCC Champion for climate

The urgency of the situation was also underlined by Erik Orsenna, Chairman of the Initiative for the Future of Great Rivers (IAGF) and Member of the Académie Française, in his opening remarks to the panel. “If we do not change the mechanisms of war into tools of peace, we are doomed,” Mr Orsenna said, calling for water to be turned into a tool for peace, despite, or precisely because of its close proximity to future threats.

“If we do not change the mechanisms of war into tools of peace, we are doomed.”

Erik Orsenna, Chairman of the Initiative for the Future of Great Rivers (IAGF) and Member of the Académie Française

This paradigm shift is arguably no easy feat. Hamed Semega, Board Member of The Bridge Tank and former High-Commissioner of the Senegal River Basin Development Authority (OMVS), turned to the UNESCO preamble for guidance: “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”

Hydro-diplomacy should thus be seen as a source of hope, for which “political will combined with necessity can really transform what is a conflictual issue into building stability and peace,” Mr Semega stressed during the conference in Paris. The basic foundation for water cooperation is knowledge; common knowledge of the river, shared information, and science are key, so Mr Semega.


“Political will combined with necessity can really transform what is a conflictual issue into building stability and peace.

Hamed Semega, Board Member of The Bridge Tank and former High-Commissioner of the Senegal River Basin Development Authority (OMVS)

However, “we cannot achieve one goal without looking at the others.” This acknowledgement of water as an important component of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the assessment of its interconnectedness with other issues was provided to the panel by Irina Bokova, Co-chair of the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability of the International Science Council (ISC) and former Director General of UNESCO.

Ms Bokova underlined the importance of approaching water from a wider point of view, as a human right and a societal question. This wider view, outside of the water silo, requires shared approaches due to water’s huge impact on food security, energy security, gender equality, social inclusion, on the climate, and on the economy.

Ms Bokova pointed to the need to mobilize all different sectors, to involve scientists, innovation, and technology, and to create platforms and institutions in order to establish concrete solutions.

Agenda 2030 is universal and interdependent, we cannot achieve one goal without looking at the others.

Irina Bokova, Co-chair of the Global Commission on Science Missions for Sustainability of the International Science Council (ISC) and former Director General of UNESCO.

How to best approach water and the management of the resource was also addressed by Claus Sorensen, Former Director General of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).

Mr Sorensen highlighted that both community action, at the bottom, and support from those who set the framework, at the top, were needed. “If we can link the bottom with the top, then I think we are unto something very important,” he added.

“We need community action from the bottom and support from those that set the framework. If we can link the bottom with the top, then I think we are unto something very important.”

Claus Sorensen, Former Director General, European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO)

The existing disconnect between the different stakeholders was pointed out by Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director, Friendship NGO, Bangladesh, who noted that while solidarity of thought existed, there was still a considerable lack of “solidarity of action between between the different stakeholders, from scientists to activists, to people on the ground, to decision makers.”

“We still do not have enough solidarity of action between between the different stakeholders, from scientists to activists, to people on the ground, to decision makers.”

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director, Friendship NGO, Bangladesh

In an address to the December 6th panel, Minister Sidi Toure, Minister of Animal Resources and Fisheries, Côte d’Ivoire, presented possible actions from a policy makers’ perspective, recognising the need to adopt innovative policies, strategies and programs for better protection, safeguarding and management of water resources.

According to Minister Toure, the optimal use of water resources in Africa must be based on 2 essential levers:

  1. The development of infrastructures, in particular hydraulic infrastructures to combat food insecurity (livestock, agricultural resources, and people)
  2. The establishment of appropriate institutional arrangements, which is decisive in the effectiveness of resource protection and equity in its allocation to the various actors.

“Taking into account the plurality of actors and their visions gives an original tone to policies. On the international level, dynamics are already at work. At the local level, the adaptation of techniques and resources are the preferred avenues, particularly in the case of community groups and associations,” Minister Toure noted.

“Africa is very rich in water. The optimal use of this resource must be based on 2 essential levers:
1. The development of infrastructures, in particular hydraulic infrastructures to combat food insecurity
2. The establishment of appropriate institutional arrangements, which is decisive in the effectiveness of resource protection and equity in its allocation to the various actors.”

Sidi Toure, Minister, Ministry of Animal Resources and Fisheries, Côte d’Ivoire

Minister Diaka Sidibe, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, Guinea, used her contribution to the panel to highlight existing areas of action and share her testimony on progressive water policies in Guinea.

In order to preserve Guinea’s water sources, in particular the Fouta Djallon, which is commonly referred to as the “Water Tower of West Africa,” Minister Sidibe stressed what she considered to be crucial points of action:

  • the need for more qualitative and quantitative data on water resources, in order to appropriately adapt the planning and sustainable management of these resources
  • develop technologies to process this data, supercomputers for forecasting and optimisation and spatio-temporal knowledge
  • develop territorial diagnoses with universities and research centers.

“Failure to act today to safeguard the Fouta Djallon Highlands threatens water security for our children and future generations,” Minister Sidibe concluded.

“To preserve sources of water, it is crucial to have more qualitative and quantitative data on water resources, in order to appropriately adapt the planning and sustainable management of these resources.”

Diaka Sidibe, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, Guinea

The importance of addressing questions of transboundary water, however contentious they might be, was also underlined by Pascal Delisle, Head, Economic, Development, Environment and Digital Issues, European External Action Service (EAES), Geneva.

The European External Action Service has thus made this one of its priorities in preparation of the 2023 UN Water Conference.

“It has been important for the European External Action Service to be pushing politically for transboundary water to be a priority topic at the 2023 UN Water Conference.”

Pascal Delisle, Head, Economic, Development, Environment and Digital Issues, European External Action Service (EAES), Geneva

But what actually determines the effectiveness of the existing tools and mechanisms of hydro-diplomacy and water management? How can these be best applied?

These were some of the key questions addressed during the conference by Susanne Schmeier, Associate Professor, Water Law and Diplomacy, Institute for Water Education (IHE), Delft. Sharing her expertise in the field, Susanne Schmeier pointed to the importance of questioning the effectiveness of these mechanisms and tools, something she described as “sharpening the tools.”

This is all the more important to precisely assess what is functioning and what is not in terms of hydro-diplomacy, tools, and notification processes.

“We need to sharpen the tools that we have in water diplomacy, moving beyond the mere assumption that having a treaty, a river basin organisation or a notification process is enough, in order to really enable these mechanisms to deal with all the changes ahead.”

Susanne Schmeier, Associate Professor, Water Law and Diplomacy, Institute for Water Education (IHE), Delft

Mara Tignino, Lead Legal Specialist, Geneva Water Hub, and Christian Brethaut, Scientific Director, Geneva Water Hub (GWH), Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP), shared their knowledge and the expertise of the Geneva Water Hub with the other panelists.

Summarising some of the important conclusions of the thematic session he moderated on “Innovative tools for a revisited hydro-diplomacy,” Mr Brethaut noted that when “talking about the tools themselves, the simple process of implementing the tools can already lead to trust building. It is then also a lot about focussing on the process, rather than seeing the tools as a means for itself.”

Ms Tignino introduced one of those possible innovative ideas and tools for hydro-diplomacy with the perspective of the rights of nature and the process of attributing a legal personality to a river, presenting both national and international trends. Ms Tignino particularly stressed the importance of involving local communities in this process of attribution.

“It is very important that the process of attribution of the legal personality goes through a community level process. It is very important to involve the local community.”

Mara Tignino, Lead Legal Specialist, Geneva Water Hub

The stakes are high to take action to ensure the preservation and sustainability of water resources. Mats Karlsson, Former World Bank Vice President & Former State Secretary for development, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden, reminded the panel of the centrality of water in the development of future generations, saying that:

“There is no more important element in early childhood development than clean water. And there is no investment that has greater long term impact than investment in early childhood development.”

“There is no more important element in early childhood development than clean water. And there is no investment that has greater long term impact than investment in early childhood development.”

Mats Karlsson, Former World Bank Vice President & Former State Secretary for development, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Sweden

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.

COP 27: From Distrust to Trust: Towards a balanced, empowered North-South blended climate finance for mitigation and adaptation

As COP 27 slowly draws to a close, The Bridge Tank continues its efforts in favour of climate justice in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

On Thursday, November 17th, 2022, The Bridge Tank and Liberal International joined forces to organise a side event on climate finance – “Towards a balanced, empowered, North-South blended climate finance for mitigation and adaptation.” The Bridge Tank was represented by Dr. Joel Ruet, President, and our board member Dr. Hakima ElHaite, President of Liberal International.

The Bridge Tank made use of its long experience on the topic of climate finance, having contributed to the Task Force on “Climate change and finance” of the T20 for the past 6 years.

Participants to the panel included Ms. Kadiatou N’Diaye, former Minister of the Environment, Water, and Forest of Guinea, representatives of the Brazzaville Foundation, directors of the Agricultural Bank of Niger, and the President of the Egyptian conservative party.

The panel discussion addressed the current state of climate finance and adaptation finance. While a doubling of efforts for the latter was included in the Glasgow Climate Pact, bringing adaptation finance from around USD 20 billion to USD 40 billion, many challenges remain, as some of the wealthiest countries are not keeping their side of the bargain.

The President of the Congo Basin Blue Fund thus left COP 27 to denounce this lack of financial support. In 2021, US President Joe Biden pledged USD 50 million to the Adaptation Fund but the contribution never materialised. This year, Biden increased the United States’ promise to USD 100 million. The example of the Congo Basin is emblematic of the gap between institutional promises and the actual reality on the ground.

Today’s USD 82 billion in climate finance for the Global South are 60% of private loans. Despite facing the most dire effects of the current environmental crisis, the African continent only receives 5% of these funds. This shows “neither a form of obligation nor of solidarity”, claimed Hakima el Haite. The political consensus in the Global South is therefore that funds are lacking, which is all the more alarming when considering the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) forecast that only 8 years are left before the situation becomes critical.

Having established that, the panel discussed concrete ways of adapting financial tools to make for a more efficient and balanced climate finance. Some of the main challenges raised here were the difficulties of accreditation for the Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund. Mobilising necessary funds was likened to an uphill battle. While being indeed accessible, the mobilisation of sums around USD 10 million is slowed down by protracted procedures. The challenge is even greater for scale up projects with funding needs in the hundreds of millions USD.

The panel thus sought to find innovative funding sources and efficient disbursement channels.

Profit sharing agreements could be one possibility. These would require national frameworks for private contracts establishing profit sharing agreements where private and public funding would be poured into a common public fund dedicated to concrete projects. This procedure is for example already used by oil companies.

Despite only being a parallel mechanism, carbon credits could also include a direct transfer to public assistance beneficiaries.

Discussions on alternative financing seem to have abandoned the idea of taxation of the Global North since COP21-22. Solidarity is therefore not an appropriate description of the current financial processes. With 80% of African oil production being operated by foreign companies, the USD 100-billion climate finance pledge should be defined as a debt the North owes the South. But the current climate finance’s reliance on loans has the opposite effect, creating additional South to North debt.

Other ideas are centred around a renewed system of governance. The lack of bankability, transparency and competence associated with the Global South reflects the North’s lack of confidence in the South. While challenges to co-management and co-financing are also partly found in a mismanagement of African resources and wealth, which impedes its ability to effectively finance adaptation and mitigation itself, new mechanisms must be developed to turn this North-South defiance into mutual confidence.

Establishing incubators working towards large-scale structuring projects could be one way of achieving this. Working on co-management and co-governance is thus an encouraging prospect, as it is already well established within other structures, e.g. business angels or investment funds.

Another key point discussed on the panel was the idea of reversing conditionalities and for Africa to have the power to impose conditionalities. These could for example include the requirement for funders to be present on the ground and thereby encourage the emergence of local research departments and local development companies. One main challenge is therefore for both states and international funders to support the emergence of African and sub-regional multinational companies.

The issues of human resources and insufficient administrative capacity building in the South must also be connected to the complexity of international procedures. Encouraging signs can be found in the successful examples of the Micro Finance Program of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) which facilitates administrative procedures.

Finally, questions of innovative bottom-up finance provided another key talking point to the panel. To ensure complex assets have simpler assets as securities, a pan-African fund of security and risk mitigation would be needed.

The question of land guarantees also needs careful attention in order to develop a system which would aim, for example, for projects to be funded at 95% through grants and 5% coming from the community or guaranteed by private banks. The question remains whether these would be accepted by bilateral agencies.

Nevertheless, commercial banks, as the example of Niger shows, are ready to go ahead with such projects because of the emergency to take action. Every year Niger loses 100,000 ha to desertification, making the need for funding all the more pressing.

An eventful first week at COP 27 in Sharm el Sheikh for our board member Hakima El Haite

The first week of the COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh saw the world gather in the Egyptian coastal city to exchange on the many pressing issues of the world’s environmental crisis. One of those leaders taking part in the discussions and the seeking out of concrete solutions to combat climate change in Sharm el Sheikh is The Bridge Tank’s board member, Hakima El Haite, President of Liberal International.

Through her frontline presence at COP 27, Hakima El Haite not only underlined the danger of putting climate action on the back burner in the current times of geopolitical and economic uncertainty, she took a strong stance in favour of climate justice.

During an event organised by The New York Times “On the Verge of Progress: Where Will COP 27 Take Us?” on November 8th, with Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, and Laurence Tubiana, France’s Climate Change Ambassador and Special Representative for COP21 and founder of IDDRI, Hakima El Haite stressed the urgency of climate action and reaching net-zero emissions. She did so while pointing out the increase of global subsidies for fossil fuels and the rebound of CO2 emissions worldwide. The need for increased funding to fulfil the $100 billion pledge by the wealthiest nations, the goal of $40 billion dedicated to adaptation finance, and the importance of greening the financial sector were also addressed during this event.

The transition to cleaner energy sources and the potential offered by green hydrogen were additional topics on the agenda of this first week of COP 27. Hakima El Haite took part in the launch event of the “Africa Extraordinary Green Hydrogen Potential” study with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the International Solar Alliance, United Cities and Local Governments of Africa, and the Government of the Republic of Mauritania. The report “combines an analysis of investment opportunities with a roadmap of technical, economic, environmental and financial solutions to unlock commercial development” of green hydrogen in Africa, so EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle.

Our board member Hakima El Haite’s commitment to climate justice came once again to the fore at COP 27, as she put special emphasis on the necessity of tackling the environmental crisis in those countries and regions which have been disproportionately affected by climate change or which are least prepared to face its effects.

Her continued efforts in favour of the African continent were also at the heart of her interventions at this year’s climate change conference. The continent, home to 17% of the world’s population and responsible for less than 4% of the world’s CO2 emissions, is facing the most dire effects of the unfolding environmental crisis.

Through her participation in the release of the Institute for Economics and Peace’s “Ecological Threat Report 2022,” Dr. El Haite called for concerted international efforts to effectively face the climate crisis and for greater solidarity and concrete actions on the side of developed countries to support developing countries. She especially emphasized the urgency of investing massively in adaptation and mitigation in Africa. According to the “Ecological Threat Report 2022,” two thirds of the hotspot countries facing catastrophic ecological threat, water stress, and food insecurity are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Finally, Hakima El Haite used her presence at COP 27 to defend another key aspect of climate justice, namely the role and voices of women in the efforts to combat climate change. With the climate crisis affecting women to a greater extent than men, working to include and promote women’s voices has been a cause central to Dr. El Haite’s efforts in Sharm el Sheikh.

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