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Celebrating 20 years of the Water Convention and its global opening

Celebrating 20 years of the Water Convention and its global opening

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), adopted in Helsinki on 17 March 1992, entered into force 20 years ago, on 6 October 1996. Over the past two decades, the Water Convention, which is serviced by UNECE, has become a globally recognized instrument for protecting shared waters and establishing cooperation through bilateral and multilateral agreements. Today, most transboundary rivers in the UNECE region are covered by an international agreement and a joint institution. Many of these river basin agreements are based on the Convention, such as the Danube River Protection Convention, the agreements on Lake Peipsi and on the Sava, Meuse, Chu and Talas, Rhine and Scheldt Rivers, and the bilateral agreements between Belarus and the Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukrainian, and many others. Negotiated originally has a regional framework, following an amendment procedure the Convention has become universally available: since 1 March 2016 all United Nations Member States can accede to it.

The eleventh meeting of the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management, held on 18 and 19 October 2016 in Geneva, celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Convention, the achievements in its framework, and its global opening. The meeting brought together more than 120 participants from 53 countries, including 25 from outside the UNECE region.

Countries shared their past experiences with the Convention and expressed their expectations for the future. Representatives of numerous Parties, such as Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, Romania and Serbia expressed their appreciation for the Convention and provided examples of how it had directly improved cooperation on and the management of their water resources. Others, such as Czechia, pledged their readiness to share their experiences with new members of the Water Convention family from outside the region. Finally, delegates from countries outside the region, such as Senegal, expressed their hopes that the Convention could assist them in better applying the principles of integrated water resource management.

Several non-UNECE countries have either already formally started to prepare for accession, while others are considering the issue. In a panel discussion, delegates from some of these countries — such as Chad, Iraq and Tunisia, which have already begun the process of accession — shared information on their countries’ progress towards accession, as well as their expectations.

Looking to the future, the Working Group also took several other important decisions: it started discussing the strategy for implementation of the Convention at the global level, which is expected to be finalized by 2018. It also decided to implement the first reporting exercises under the Convention including in the template information that will also allow monitoring progress towards transboundary cooperation under the Sustainable Development Goal 6 and clean water and sanitation.

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or contact:
Ms. Francesca Bernardini
UNECE Water Convention Secretariat
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 1193
E-mail: [email protected]