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UNECE Water Convention Workshop

UNECE Water Convention Workshop

26 July 2018
Kathmandu Nepal

On 26 July, a workshop was organized on the UNECE Water Convention in Kathmandu, Nepal, bringing together government officials, civil society organizations, and participants from Transboundary Rivers of South Asia (TROSA) Annual Learning Forum 2018. The workshop was organized as a joint effort of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, ICIMOD and Oxfam, back-to-back with the TROSA’s Forum. The TROSA is a five-year (2017-2021) regional programme working to support poverty reduction among communities living in the transboundary river basins of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna and the Salween. Some 40 participants from the countries sharing these basins attended. The TROSA programme is funded by the Government of Sweden and implemented by Oxfam and partners (national and regional).

The workshop was designed to provide for a dialogue with and among participants from South Asian countries about the implications and benefits of joining the community and regime of the Water Convention and how it can support management of transboundary waters, including stakeholder participation.

To start with, the programme involved a general introduction to familiarize the participants with the history of international water law and the other global framework convention on freshwater, the UN Watercourses Convention. This introduction was followed by a discussion on international water law, its instruments and its key principles in the regional context.

Of the long-term Parties to the Water Convention, the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry shared experience on Finland’s cooperation with Russia and with Sweden. Integrated management, assessing and communicating impacts as well as knowledge sharing were highlighted as key to successful transboundary cooperation.

The programme then familiarized the participants with the tools and activities of the current and future Programme of Work under the Water Convention. The thematic activities include, for example, benefits of transboundary cooperation, intersectoral resource management (water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus issues), monitoring and assessment of waters and climate change. To illustrate the interaction and complementarity with other Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the Aarhus Convention was presented on, which supports effective public participation in transboundary water management in the context of the obligations of the Water Convention.

As a participatory exercise, the participants voted on the greatest challenges for institutions of transboundary cooperation in South Asia. Financial sustainability came at the top, followed by exchange of information and data together with early warning mechanisms. The Water Convention’s recently published Principles for Effective Joint Bodies, which synthesize relevant good international practice for developing institutions of transboundary water cooperation, triggered considerable interest. This in particular in the light of the results from the global reporting on the Sustainable Development Goal indicator 6.5.2 measuring progress in transboundary cooperation which show a lack of response or of information or only a limited number of operational cooperation arrangements in South Asia.   

A discussion on the possible role of partners in promoting accession to the Water Convention in the region concluded the workshop. Among the conclusions was that a number of tools developed under the Convention have application potential in the region. It was also clear that the civil society organizations and regional organization could play an important role in raising awareness and improving also the understanding about the challenges that the Governments in the South Asia region face in developing their bilateral and basin level cooperation.

Documents ENG FRE RUS
Agenda PDF    
International Water Law
- Ram Babu Dhakal, Nepal
General introduction to the Water Convention: the scope,
obligations, institutional framework, soft-law instruments developed
- Annukka Lipponen, UNECE Secretariat
Finland-Russia cooperation: Balancing hydropower, flood protection and environmental needs
Working with different stakeholders in the Finnish-Swedish Transboundary River Commission
- Minna Hanski, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Finland
Frequently Asked Questions PDF    
Programme of Work under the Convention
- Annukka Lipponen, UNECE Secretariat
Support from the Aarhus Convention to effective public participation in transboundary water management in the context of the obligations of the Water Convention
- Vadim Ni, Ecoforum of NGOs, Kazakhstan
Measuring transboundary water cooperation: Sustainable Development Goal indicator 6.5.2 PDF