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FAQs part 7

7. Accession Preparation and Process

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Water Convention include the replies to over 50 questions grouped in seven thematic parts. The FAQs are also available as a publication.


7.1 How should an accession process be organized?

There are no mandatory steps to be followed in the accession process to the Water Convention and there is no universal blueprint. However, some good practices have emerged that help to effectively organize the process. As a number of countries are in the process of accession, the Water Convention secretariat has prepared a Road map to facilitate accession processes to the Water Convention. The Road map is advisory in nature and is based on lessons learned from Parties having completed their accession processes. It describes in detail the following possible steps:

  • Step 1: Preliminary discussion and expression of interest by the Ministry in charge of water. 

This step may include:
o    Nomination of focal points and participation in activities under the Convention. 
o    Discussion on the Convention, article by article, by technical and legal services in order to establish the steps required for compliance with the Convention’s provisions. 
o    Presentation on the Convention and discussion among relevant departments of the Ministry.
o    Sending a letter to the secretariat expressing the country’s interest in accession. 

  • Step 2: Broader discussion involving relevant sectoral ministries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as other relevant actors. 

This step may include:
o    Discussions in an informal or formal framework (by establishing an interministerial committee or a working group).
o    Preparation of a list of questions and topics related to the benefits and opportunities derived from accession to the Convention, to be discussed during a national workshop. 

  • Step 3: National workshop on the Convention. 

The national workshop is an occasion to discuss the benefits of the Convention and the challenges of implementation among key actors (relevant sectoral ministries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Parliament, Office of the Prime Minister, basin organizations, civil society, etc.), as well as experts on the Water Convention (Water Convention secretariat, international experts), and technical and financial partners. 

  • Step 4: Undertaking the formal procedure for the ratification of treaties (for accession). 

This procedure varies depending on the country, but requires close cooperation between the Ministry in charge of water, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister, Parliament, the Office of the President, and the Water Convention secretariat. It culminates with the deposit of the instrument of accession with the Treaty Section of the United Nations Secretariat in New York.

Additional resource:

7.2 Who can provide help during the accession process?

The Water Convention secretariat, the Bureau, Parties to the Convention and Convention partners can provide assistance in the accession process. This includes replying to questions from countries seeking clarifications of the provisions of the Convention. If needed, and subject to the availability of resources, the secretariat can also co-organize and support a national workshop on the Convention. The secretariat can share Convention materials (the text of the Convention, publications, brochures, standard presentations, etc.) with the country preparing for accession. It can help the country preparing for accession in establishing contact with a country that has recently become a Party in order to share experience on the accession process and the first steps in the implementation of the Convention. Furthermore, assistance can be provided by the Convention’s Implementation Committee (e.g. by replying to questions related to clarifications on the provisions of the Convention) and by the Parties to the Convention (e.g. through their participation in the national workshop on the Convention).

Should support from the Water Convention secretariat be required, an official letter expressing the country’s interest in the Water Convention can be sent by the Minister in charge of water to the secretariat in order to facilitate such support.

In addition to the Water Convention secretariat, many international organizations support countries on their road to accession to the Convention. Support to the accession process is provided by other United Nations Regional Commissions, regional economic organizations, and many river basin organizations.

Additional resources:

7.3 What should an accession instrument look like?

The accession instrument should make it clear that the country accedes to the Water Convention as amended.

The accession instrument of a State from outside the UNECE region should make reference to Decision VI/3 of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention because, through this decision, the Meeting of the Parties in 2012 gave a blanket approval to any future request for accession by United Nations Member States that are not members of the UNECE.

The Water Convention secretariat can provide advice and share a template of an instrument of accession, if required.

The instrument of accession is to be deposited with the Treaty Section of the United Nations Secretariat in New York. It is recommended that this step be coordinated with the Water Convention secretariat.

Additional resources:

7.4 Can a State intending to become a Party to the Water Convention formulate a reservation concerning some of the provisions of the Convention?

The Water Convention is silent on reservations. The general regime of the law of treaties and the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties would thus apply. A State may formulate a reservation when acceding to the Water Convention, but reservations that go against the object and purpose of the Convention would be inadmissible. As at mid-2020, only one Party has made a reservation at the time of ratification.

Additional resources:

7.5 How can a State intending to become a Party to the Water Convention prepare for the implementation of the Convention?

In order to prepare for the implementation of the Water Convention, a State in the process of accession is recommended to ensure: i) awareness of the Convention’s obligations among the relevant institutions and stakeholders; ii) sufficient political attention to implementation; iii) technical, administrative and financial capacity; iv) coordination among relevant implementing authorities; and v) cooperation with prospective Riparian Parties. In particular, a State preparing for accession is encouraged to review its laws and regulations, and bilateral and multilateral agreements in order to identify any steps needed for the implementation of the Convention. It is also encouraged to adopt the necessary administrative measures and to ensure that sufficient human, financial and technical resources are available for implementation. Obviously, there is no need to enact laws, enter into agreements, or establish administrative measures or structures if the existing ones are responding to the Convention’s requirements.

While it is recommended that all initial measures, in particular legal, administrative and financial ones, are in place at the national level upon accession to the Convention, measures taken to implement the Convention should be proportionate to the level of development and the economic, financial and other capacities of the State concerned.

A good practice in preparing for the implementation of the Convention is to develop a plan for the implementation of the Convention, which would assess the needs and requirements for implementation and specify measures, a timeline and resources. Such a plan can facilitate the provision of technical support for the implementation of the Convention.

See the reply to the related question:

7.6 What are the consequences for a Party that decides to withdraw from the Water Convention?

There are no consequences to withdrawal provided for in the Water Convention. The general regime of the law of treaties and the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties would apply in this case.

Additional resources:

Last update date: January 30, 2021