By Raphael Oni
The ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the Government of The Gambia held the 2nd ECOWAS Hydromet Forum and Disaster Risk Reduction Platform Meeting from the 20-22 April 2021.
The Biennial Forum was held in collaboration with the World Bank and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and with the financial support of the ACP-EU Building Disaster Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa Program funded by the European Union. The Forum brought together over 503 registered partners from bi-lateral and international organizations, river basin originations, civil society, private sector, research, academia, women and youths, persons with disabilities, and the Disaster Risk Reduction, Gender, Metrology and Hydrology Focal Points of the ECOWAS Member states.
Experts from Hydrology, Meteorology, Disaster Risk Reduction, and Gender Agencies of the ECOWAS Member States, deliberated on the three strategic documents developed and presented by the ECOWAS Commission namely, the ECOWAS Hydromet Initiative, the ECOWAS Flood Risk Management Strategy, and the ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction Gender Strategy and Action Plan (GSAP).
The Forum also featured plenary and parallel technical sessions on key important topics germane to Hydromet, Disaster Risk Reduction services and Gender with keynote speakers and panelists providing useful knowledge and insights into innovations, best practice examples, science and technology ideas relating to Hydromet and Disaster Risk Reduction.
On the final day of the meeting, the Ministerial session was Chaired by the Honorable Minister for Communications and Digitalization of the Republic of Ghana, Mrs. OWUSU-EKUFULU Ursula Gifty, with a formal opening by the Vice President of The Republic of The Gambia, H. E. Dr. Isatou Touray, on behalf of the Republic of The Gambia.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Sekou Sangare presented the ECOWAS Hydromet Initiative and highlighted the scope and the challenges to hydromet services in the region and informed the meeting that investment needs estimated to be at US$324.5 million were required to support interventions in member states and at the regional level to gradually improve and sustain service levels.
The Commissioner Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne presented the Flood Risk Management Strategy of the ECOWAS Commission and underscored the purpose of developing the strategy as a framework to respond to the gaps in knowledge management and governance in flood risk reduction at national and regional levels. The strategy focuses on four strategic objectives aimed at providing guidance to intergovernmental organisations, Member states, national bodies, and river basin authorities on flood risk management, to reduce the associated potential negative impacts.
The Commissioner Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne also presented the Disaster Risk Reduction Gender Strategy and Action Plan (GSAP) as a framework for strengthening the effective implementation of a comprehensive ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction and Risk Management at the regional level with the full integration of gender and youth-related concerns to enhance resilience to natural hazards. The Strategy also aims at ensuring that women are key pillars for resilience and disaster risk preparedness and response.
The Ministers in charge of Hydrology, Meteorology, Disaster Risk Reduction and Gender unanimously endorsed the strategic documents and made some recommendations. The Ministers underscored the importance for the ECOWAS Commission to provide strong regional leadership and to work in concert with the ECOWAS Member states and development partners to mobilize the needed financial resources for the implementation of the key priority actions in the strategies.
The Forum closed with the adoption of the 2nd ECOWAS Hydromet Forum and Disaster Risk Reduction Platform Communiqué and with a strong statement of commitment by the Honorable Minister for Communications and Digitalization of the Republic of Ghana, Mrs. OWUSU-EKUFULU Ursula Gifty Ministers on behalf of the ECOWAS Ministers, also the ECOWAS Commission and Development Partners committed to developing operational plans to mobilize resources for the implementation of the strategies.