A new step was taken by Panama in its process to join the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) with the organization of a national workshop on 6-7 December, which gathered more than 60 stakeholders to identify priorities for future implementation of the Convention, building on the Convention's 30 years of experience and tools.
"Water is what unites us. It knows no borders. Water is an instrument of peace among nations and sustainable development", stated Janaina Tewaney Mencomo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama.
The Chair of the Water Convention, Harry Liiv, welcomed Panama's progress towards accession and highlighted that the Convention provided an excellent framework for working on joint conservation of transboundary basins.
Why water cooperation matters in the region
The Deputy Minister of Environment, Diana Laguna, highlighted the importance of the accession and future implementation of the Convention to facilitate cooperation and decision-making based on common interests among transboundary basin stakeholders.
Panama has a unique geographic location, being a natural bridge and a vital biological corridor connecting the Americas. It is home to a variety of diverse ecosystems including tropical rainforests, mangrove wetlands and mountain ranges, as well as shared waters with neighboring Costa Rica and Colombia. Among the shared watercourses are the Sixaola and Jurado river basins, shared with Costa Rica and Colombia respectively. Panama and Costa Rica are working together to coordinate the development of the Sixaola River basin through a Binational Commission.
Benefits of accession for Panama
All UN member states have committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and in particular to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water through integrated water resources management, including through transboundary cooperation. In 2020, Panama identified some challenges to achieving that goal, including the lack of data and information, institutional fragmentation, and the increased risk and growing occurrence and severity of extreme weather events.
The Water Convention provides an effective legal and intergovernmental framework for global cooperation. It urges Parties to prevent, control and reduce negative impacts on water quality and quantity across borders, to use shared waters in a reasonable and equitable manner, and to ensure their sustainable management through cooperation. Accession to the Convention will enable Panama to benefit from global support and strengthen transboundary water management and regulation. The Convention also supports countries in adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change in transboundary basins, including through the Global Network of Basins Working on Climate Change Adaptation, to which the Sixaola River Basin belongs.
Building momentum in Latin America and the Caribbean
In Latin America, 71% of the total surface water comes from shared river basins. However, the region is not on track to meet SDG target 6.5, which requires transboundary basins to have operational agreements for water cooperation. Following the interest of countries including the Dominican Republic, Panama's accession to the Water Convention could be a catalyst to attract more countries in the region. Accession would also highlight Panama's commitment to transboundary cooperation before and during the United Nations Water Conference to be held in New York in March 2023.
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