James Carroll, uscpublicdiplomacy.org
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Effective management of Lake Victoria is paramount for sustainability of the area’s natural resources in the years ahead. The transboundary waters of Lake Victoria, which pose interrelated challenges, lead Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as international actors, to struggle in their quest for lasting solutions. At the forefront is the question of how to manage the resources in an inclusive and participatory manner, while promoting sustainable development. One approach that could prove to be a viable solution is to engage key demographics—specifically, populations living on islands of Lake Victoria.
A Better Approach Needed
Lake Victoria faces a range of issues that vary in complexity and magnitude. It already supports over 30 million people in three East African countries, and their populations are growing rapidly. The challenges facing Lake Victoria are well documented, ranging from unplanned urban growth to climate change. Some of these issues require governments to take leading roles, while others require innovative approaches due to their transboundary nature.
The challenge of finding solutions lies with how governments and large organizations engage key demographics and organizations around Lake Victoria. Too often, governments and international actors are detached from local populations where they are actively working. This disconnect between the two parties prevents governments and international actors from properly understanding the complexity of issues. These challenges have led governments and international actors to recognize the need for better approaches to the management of Lake Victoria’s resources.
Using Public Diplomacy as a Tool
Several institutions have been established by the East African Community (ECA) for international water governance of Lake Victoria. These include the Lake Victoria Basin Commission (LVBC) to promote sustainable development of the basin region and the Lake Victoria Fisheries Organization (LVFO) for the collaboration in development and management of the fisheries of Lake Victoria. While these organizations are working toward the aforementioned goal, both the LVBC and the LVFO would benefit from working closely with organizations that engage populations at the sub-national level.
One organization with which the LVBC has collaborated is the East African Communities Organization for the Management of Lake Victoria Resources (ECOVIC). ECOVIC is reestablishing the link amongst ethnic groups around Lake Victoria. Their tasks include strengthening and fostering greater participation of stakeholders in the sustainable management of Lake Victoria as well as giving formal participation to stakeholders in decision-making. ECOVIC is filling an important role for governments and international organizations by working with populations based on an identity other than nationality. Through the shaping of a shared identity amongst different people, actors who engage in public diplomacy will be able engage those populations more effectively. ...