Dams in West Africa: report now available in French

25 January 2012 | News story

Ten years after the publication of the World Commission on Dams report, IUCN commissioned a study to look at the approaches to decision-making around large dams. This report is now available in English and French.

In close collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the report informs the current regional Consultation on Large Infrastructures Projects in the Water Sector of the ECOWAS Zone. More information on the ‘Dialogue Régional sur les Grandes Infrastructures Hydrauliques’ can be found here.

The purpose of the study has been to review the diversity of decision-making around environmental and social aspects concerning the development of large dams in both developing countries and in emerging economies. Case studies were carried out of the Lom Pangar Hydropower Project in Cameroon, and of the Senegal River Water Charter (la Charte des Eaux du Fleuve Sénégal).

IUCN is committed to the international debate on dams and benefit sharing, particularly through the regional dialogue with ECOWAS and the Global Water Initiative with IIED. Its strategy is to strengthen the ongoing processes through knowledge research, support for the participation of all stakeholders, in particular the civil society, and the promotion of good environmental and social practices, to take up the challenges posed by the World Commission on Dams”, says Ousmane Diallo, Regional Water and Wetlands Programme coordinator, IUCN Regional Office for West and Central Africa.

The report proposes a simple framework of analysis for different levels of practice, and emphazises the importance of extending the traditional core commercial and financial transactions relating to finance for large infrastructure. Extending this framework to include the environmental and social aspects as project components, embeds social and environmental aspects at the core of the financial decision making, rather than these critical elements appearing as bolt-on additions to a robust financial transaction process.
In preparing the report, perspectives of key informants representing a range of interests were gathered, including review of five policies at international level (the World Bank’s Safeguard Policies, the IFC Performance Standards, the ‘Equator Principles’, the ‘Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol’ and the report of the World Commission on Dams).

The report states: ‘Review of five leading international policies has helped to identify the niche of each policy in relation to the design of dam projects where leading actors share common ground, and where they advocate differing approaches. Key to creating good projects is bringing together the perspectives of commercial contracting and public policy-making. The Lom Pangar project in Cameroon is a good example of this interaction, the project preparation process has been aimed at designing a project which is both economically viable and environmentally and socially sustainable’.

This report helps us capitalize on developments in policy and practice, to promote dialogue and active participation of all stakeholders in decision-making and aim for a better integration of environmental and social aspects in the financial processes of dam projects”, said Jerome Koundouno, Regional Coordinator of the dam project, Global Water Initiative, IUCN Regional Office for West and Central Africa.

The author of the report was Peter Newborne, researcher and consultant. The views expressed in this report are those of the persons consulted and the author, not of IUCN.