With water stress on the rise in shared river basins and aquifers, over 30 governments and organizations decide to join forces to push for greater cross-border water cooperation.
This year's terrible floods and droughts in almost all corners of the planet illustrate the critical importance of water to all aspects of society and the environment. Ahead of the second ever United Nations conference on water to take place on 22–24 March 2023, governments and institutions from around the world have come together to form the Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition. The Coalition, a multistakeholder partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, regional integration organizations, international financial institutions, academic institutions and civil society organizations, will work to highlight the critical importance of cooperating over shared water resources for water security and sustainable development.
“More than 3 billion people depend on water that crosses national borders. This makes transboundary water cooperation a crucial foundation for peace, sustainable development and climate action. Accelerating transboundary water cooperation requires a broad partnership of actors to bring this key issue to the forefront of the global agenda. We have a lot to do: from the strengthening of the legal and institutional frameworks, including on the basis of the UN Water Convention, to enhancing capacity, making data available, increasing financing, and sharing knowledge. UNECE is proud to be a member of the Transboundary Water Cooperation Coalition launched today and encourages all governments to announce their commitment to joining the Water Convention at the 2023 UN Water Conference”, stated UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova on the occasion of the Coalition’s launch on 8 December 2022 during the UN-Water Groundwater Summit in Paris, France.
Speaking at the launch of the coalition, Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Minister of Water and Sanitation of Senegal, stressed: “I call upon all governments to demonstrate firm political commitment to transboundary cooperation as did Senegal by including it as a fundamental axis of the Blue Deal for Water Security for Peace and Development at the 9th World Water Forum in 2022. As recommended by the Dakar Action Plan for River, Lake and Aquifer Basins, we need to act promptly and without delay, especially in transboundary basins and aquifers, which are often most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In this regard, as a member of the Coalition, we urge governments and stakeholders to make concrete commitments to improve transboundary cooperation at the 2023 Water Conference.”
Welcoming the establishment of the Coalition on behalf of Slovenia, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Tanja Fajon and the Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning Uroš Brežan emphasized: “Transboundary water cooperation is about management of shared water resources, shared interests, constructive reciprocity and building trust. Slovenia, a predominantly upstream country and a party to the International Sava River Basin Commission as well as to the UNECE Water Convention, has first-hand experience of water as a conduit to regional peace and security. This has motivated us to become a cheerleader for transboundary water cooperation and to join a coalition of like-minded countries and organizations. We wish to inspire action and commitments at the upcoming 2023 UN Water Conference and beyond. Our goal is a water secure world. With more than 60% of freshwater crossing national borders, this goal can only be achieved through effective transboundary cooperation, which we are practicing on a daily basis.”
Also joining the coalition, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, stressed: “Water is a key political, climate, environmental and development issue for the 21st century. We need to make it a matter of partnership rather than an arena of competition. This is why France is fully mobilized to support transboundary water cooperation at the basin level to ensure the sustainability of water resources and the resilience of our societies: in the last 15 years, we have granted more than 40 million euros in this regard. The Helsinki and New York UN Water conventions constitute also crucial tools that we support. I therefore warmly welcome the launch today of the Coalition on transboundary water cooperation. France is very committed to work with all partners to ensure that the UN 2023 Water Conference is an historical success, including for transboundary water cooperation.”
On the occasion of the launch Saroj Kumar Jha, Global Director for the World Bank Group’s Water Global Practice, said: “Improved cooperation over shared water resources is a prerequisite for development and the advancement of climate change agenda and the demands of growing population, balancing the needs of people and the environment. The World Bank Group is committed to an increased focus on cooperation around transboundary water management that will help advance peace, stability and build climate resilience. We stand ready to work jointly with our partners and support effective transboundary cooperation.”
Bringing in the voice of many organizations working on integrated water resources management on the ground, Eric Tardieu, Secretary General, International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), highlighted: “In an uncertain world and in a changing climate, strengthening cooperation for the management of the transboundary basins of our lakes, rivers and aquifers is essential to meet our common objectives of water, energy, food and ecological securities our societies depend on. Transboundary water cooperation is an accelerator for the achievement of our global Sustainable Development Goals!”
While 153 countries worldwide share transboundary river, lake or aquifer basins, only 24 of them have all their transboundary basins covered by operational arrangements, as demonstrated by the 2020 monitoring exercise for Sustainable Development Goals indicator 6.5.2, led by UNECE and UNESCO.
Through its incredibly diverse set of members that support transboundary water cooperation on policy, governance, capacity development, technical support and finance, the Coalition aims to:
Lift the voice of the transboundary water community in a unified manner
Demonstrate and communicate the benefits of transboundary water cooperation, both for upstream and downstream countries and in the adaptation to new climate challenges
Provide impetus for concrete commitments related to transboundary water cooperation
Catalyze support to initiate, sustain and further transboundary water cooperation
The Coalition will encourage concrete commitments to advance transboundary water cooperation by countries and organizations from around the world to be submitted as contributions to the Water Action Agenda, one of the main outcomes of the United Nations 2023 Water Conference.
The Coalition was launched on 8 December 2022 during the UN-Water Groundwater Summit in Paris, France, hosted by UNESCO.
The Coalition includes: Dominican Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Namibia, The Netherlands, Panama, Senegal, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uganda, Inter-American Development Bank, Organization of American States, World Bank, Global Environment Facility, UNECE, UNESCO, UNEP, UNDP, ESCWA, UNCDF, International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC), Centro Regional para la Gestión de Aguas Subteranneas de América Latina y el Caribe (CeReGAS), Global Water Partnership (GWP), IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Geneva Water Hub, EcoPeace Middle East and the University of Kinshasa.
The United Nations Conference on the Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028, or the “United Nations 2023 Water Conference” will convene in New York, from 22 to 24 March 2023, as mandated by the UN General Assembly resolutions 73/226 and 75/212. One of the interactive dialogues at the UN 2023 Water Conference will be devoted to “Water for Cooperation”, including the topics of Transboundary and International Water Cooperation, Cross Sectoral Cooperation, including Scientific Cooperation, and Water Across the 2030 Agenda. Key outcomes of the UN 2023 Water Conference will include the Water Action Agenda – a set of voluntary commitments taken by governments and stakeholders to accelerate implementation towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 6 and other water-related goals and targets.