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FAQs – becoming a Party

FAQs – Becoming a Party to the Protocol

Countries that are considering becoming a Party to the Protocol may have questions of a legal or technical nature. Discover some of the most frequently asked questions! 

QUESTION 1. How does a country join the Protocol?

Countries and regional organizations can become Parties to the treaty by means of accession, ratification, acceptance or approval. The difference between these processes is formal and typically depends on national law.  

While each country has its own administrative organization and procedures that correspond to its domestic legal order, some steps that may be undertaken are:  

  • preliminary discussion and expression of interest by the ministry responsible for water and the environment and/or the ministry of health;  

  • broader consultation involving other relevant ministries and actors, in either an informal or formal setting (such as an interministerial working group);  

  • a national workshop on the Protocol to mobilize all stakeholders who would be engaged in the treaty’s implementation, as well as technical and financial partners;  

  • the official accession process in accordance with national legislation on the ratification of treaties, which may include preparation of a cabinet memorandum, preparation and discussion of a draft ratification law, plenary discussion in parliament by relevant committees, signature of the ratification instrument by the head of state of the country (ending the process at the national level) and publication in the country’s official journal. 

The procedure culminates with the depositing of the instrument of accession, ratification, acceptance or approval with the Treaty Section of the United Nations Secretariat in New York.  

Note: on demand, the joint secretariat can support countries with accession to the Protocol by assisting them in understanding its benefits, assessing their needs and providing advice on the accession procedure. 

QUESTION 2. Which entities can become Parties to the Protocol?

Currently, only the following entities can become Parties to the Protocol: 

  • States members of the Economic Commission for Europe and States members of the Regional Committee for Europe of the World Health Organization;  

  • regional economic integration organizations constituted by the above-mentioned sovereign States, with competence over matters governed by the Protocol.  

Nevertheless, the Protocol tools and guidance material can be used by all countries around the world, whether they are Parties or not. 

QUESTION 3. Will a country receive assistance if it becomes a Party to the Protocol?

The main responsibility for implementing the Protocol lies with countries. Nevertheless, a dedicated area of work under the Protocol is on technical assistance to support implementation at the national level. Countries are supported in setting targets and implementing measures to achieve them, as well as in other capacity-building activities in the Protocol’s technical areas of work.  

Tailor-made assistance is provided through:  

  • National Policy Dialogues on water supply and sanitation, facilitated by the UNECE in cooperation with partners and supported by the EU;  

  • biennial collaborative agreements or country cooperation strategies between ministries of health and the WHO Regional Office for Europe; 

  • other specific projects funded by international donors under the framework of the Protocol; 

  • the Consultation Process provided by the Compliance Committee, for which only Protocol Parties are eligible.  

In addition, countries can benefit from the general capacity-development and knowledge-sharing activities undertaken under the Protocol, including using the practical tools and guidance material developed. 

QUESTION 4. How is the Protocol implemented at the national level?

The Protocol’s work is supported at the country level by national focal points designated by Parties from their ministries responsible for health and environment/ water, in line with the intersectoral nature of the Protocol. Focal points play a key role in furthering implementation at the national level, including by: 

  • actively promoting the objectives of the Protocol, its tools and the programme of work; 

  • coordinating technical work and capacity-building activities;  

  • participating, or identifying relevant experts and policymakers to participate, in meetings and workshops;  

  • generally acting as a communication channel between the joint secretariat and national, regional and local stakeholders. 

QUESTION 5. Does a country have to be a Party to the Water Convention to become a Party to the Protocol?

No, this is not a requirement: a country does not need to be a Party to the Water Convention to become a Party to the Protocol. 

QUESTION 6. How does the Protocol relate to transboundary basins?  Is it relevant if a country does not share any?

Most of the Protocol’s provisions are national obligations, including those to establish intersectoral targets, submit regular reports and establish and maintain systems for surveillance and response to water-related diseases. Therefore, the Protocol is a very relevant instrument for countries that do not share transboundary basins.  

Most of the obligations stemming from articles 11–14 outlining the transboundary dimension of the Protocol are met, in principle, if Parties cooperate in good faith within the institutional framework provided by the treaty. For aspects that go beyond the institutional mechanism, the Protocol’s obligations largely correspond to those of the Water Convention for Parties to this treaty and to those arising from customary international law for all countries. 

QUESTION 7. What is the Compliance Committee?

The Compliance Committee was established in 2007 to review compliance with the obligations of the Protocol and to support implementation. It is a transparent, nonconfrontational and nonjudicial body constituted by nine elected international experts, both legal and technical. The following functions are exercised by the Committee:  

  • considering submissions by Parties, referrals from the joint secretariat, or communications from the public relating to specific issues of compliance;  

  • preparing, at the request of the Meeting of the Parties, a report on implementation of the Protocol;  

  • monitoring, assessing and facilitating implementation of the Protocol’s reporting requirements;  

  • organizing consultation processes with Parties to provide targeted advice and assistance.