The Institute of Foreign Affairs organized a policy dialogue on “Building Resilience through Payment for Ecosystem Services: A Roadmap for the Nile River Basin” on November 25, 2023.

The dialogue aimed to develop a new roadmap that would strengthen Ethiopia’s negotiating capacity on GERD and promote the concept of PES in the Nile Basin. Its goals were to recognize Ethiopia’s role in protecting the basin’s ecosystem, formulate a research agenda for payment for Nile ecosystem services, consider the need for a legal and institutional framework, identify the next agenda for the Nile River in terms of payment for ecosystem services at the national and regional levels, and explore the potential of using PES as a bargaining tool for Ethiopia in the upcoming GERD negotiations.

Three research papers were presented in the program. The presenter of the first research paper was H.E. Engineer, Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Water and Energy, Mr. Gideon Asfaw, who discussed “Paying for Building Resilience in Ecosystem Services: Nile River Basin Roadmap – The Case of the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project.” The second research paper focused on “Advocacy for GERD negotiations in the Blue Nile River Basin” by Mr. Tizazu Ayalew, PhD Candidate, Addis Ababa University. The final topic of discussion was “Toward Sustainable Solutions of the Nile Problems: The Case for Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES)” presented by H.E. Former Minister of Planning and Development of Ethiopia, Mr. Mersi Ayangu.

Mr. Jafar Bedru, Deputy Director General of the Institute of Foreign Affairs (IFA), gave the welcoming speech, highlighting Ethiopia’s important role in protecting forest landscapes and the need for recognition and reward for its contribution to ecosystem health and services. The Nile River, a lifeline for over 257 million people across 11 countries, is facing unprecedented challenges due to unsustainable practices and climate change. From past experiences and ongoing research that “business as usual” is no longer a viable option for managing this transboundary basin and building resilience to emerging challenges. New, innovative approaches are needed that recognize the links between healthy ecosystems, the services they provide, and human well-being across the region.

Payment for ecosystem services has the potential to do just that by monetizing natural capital and incentivizing conservation at the source of services. Mr. Jafar emphasized that Ethiopia plays an outsized role as both a major contributor of waters through its rivers and protector of forest landscapes. Yet this essential contribution and role in maintaining ecosystem health and services have not been properly acknowledged or compensated. Harnessing the concept of PES could go a long way in addressing this inequity while promoting sustainable management of shared resources for current and future generations across the Nile Basin. The dialogue had the participation of experts, diplomats, policymakers, and stakeholders to discuss a critical issue that has far-reaching implications for the Nile Basin and beyond.

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