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Two global transboundary water
conventions: a catalyst for cooperation on
shared waters
Nick Bonvoisin & Chantal Demilecamps, UN Economic
Commission for Europe
Alistair Rieu-Clarke, Centre for Water Law, Policy and
Science, University of Dundee
Why the need for global
framework instruments?
• Significant reliance upon
transboundary waters
• Fragmented system of legal
• Supports several scenarios
– Where no specific legal and institutional
arrangement exists at the basin level
– Where weak legal and institutional
arrangements exist at the basin level
– Where not all basin states are party to
a basin agreement
• Support ≠ replace
• Fosters harmonisation between basins and
• Consolidates, clarifies and develops
customary international law
• A platform for sharing experiences and
good practice
• Supports capacity building and strengthen
• Develops a legal regime through
protocols, soft law instruments, etc.
• Strengthens ‘transboundary water’ profile
at the global level, and fosters synergies
with other global initiatives, eg climate
• Permanent framework for the continuity
and sustainability of transboundary
cooperation over waters
What is the added value of
global legal frameworks for
your work?
Evolution and current status
1997 UN Watercourses
• 1959 UN General Assembly call for ‘preliminary studies
on the legal problems relating to the utilisation and use
of international rivers’
• 1970 – 1994 Text developed by International Law
Commission, in collaboration with UN Member States
• 1996 - 1997 Convention negotiated by UN Member
States in 6th Committee of UN General Assembly
• 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational
Uses of International Watercourses adopted by UN
General Assembly
– 103(+3) votes in favour
– 3 votes against
– 27 abstentions
1997 UN Watercourses
• 35 States required for entry into force
• 31 contracting States so far
1992 UNECE Water
• Negotiated in 1990-1992 through an
intergovernmental process under the auspices of
UNECE, largely relying on ILC Draft Articles process
• Negotiated originally as regional instrument
• Adopted on 17 March 1992, in force since 6 October
• Protocol on Water and Health adopted in 1999, entered
into force in 2005
• Protocol on Civil Liability adopted in 2003
Status of ratification of the
Status of ratification
of the Convention
38 countries and the
38 countries and the
European Union
European Union
Countries in accession
Countries in accession
Non Parties
Non Parties
2003 Amendment
• Opening up the Water Convention to all UN Member
States => the Convention becomes a global
• Aims:
- apply the principles and provisions worldwide
- share the experiences of the Convention
- learn from other regions of the world
• Amendments entered into force 6 February 2013
• Possibility all UN Member States to accede from late
2013-early 2014 when all 2003 Parties ratify the
• More than 40 non-ECE countries already participated
in Convention’s activities and many announced their
interest to ratify (Iraq, Tunisia, Jordan..)
Two global transboundary
water conventions –
contradictory or
Comparing the Conventions:
Similarities – great!
• Protection, preservation and management of
international watercourses (UNWC & UNECE
• A ‘package of norms’ approach to substantive
– equitable and reasonable utilization
– due diligence obligation of no-harm
• Principle of cooperation as catalyst for the
implementation of the two substantive norms
• Almost same provisions with regard to dispute
Comparing the Conventions:
Differences – even better!
Two Conventions provide a stronger
package of norms
• Existing watercourse agreements
– Obligation to harmonise (Art 9(1), UNECE WC)
– Recommendation to harmonise (Art 3(1), UNWC)
• Future watercourse agreements and joint
– Obligation to create (Art 9(1)&(2), UNECE WC)
– Recommendation to create (Art 8(2) & 24), UNWC)
• Scope of Transboundary Waters
– Surface water or groundwater (Art 1(1), UNECE WC)
– Surface water and connected groundwater (Art
2(a), UNWC)
– Nb: 2008 ILC Draft Articles on Transboundary
Comparing the Conventions:
Differences – even better!
Two Conventions provide a stronger
package of norms
•Transboundary EIAs
• Explicit obligation (Art 9(j), UNECE WC)
• Implicit obligation (Art 7, UNWC)
•Public information
–Explicit obligation (Art 16, UNECE WC)
–No provision under UNWC – implicit?
Comparing the Conventions:
Differences – even better!
More detailed provisions in one instrument
can inform the other
• Appropriate measures to prevent harm
– Detailed guidance under UNECE WC on appropriate
measures (eg, Art 3, UNECE WC)
• Equitable and reasonable
• List of factors (Art 6, UNWC) can guide
implementation UNECE WC
• Exchange of information & planned measures
• Obligation under both Conventions (Art 13 UNECE WC,
Art 9, UNWC)
• Generally more detailed under UNECE WC, although
developed provisions on planned measures under Part
III of the UNWC
Comparing the Conventions
• UNECE WC Institutional Framework, Part
• No formal structure under UNWC
• How can joint implementation be
Comparing the Conventions –
• Relationship of interpretation
– ‘When several norms bear on a single issue they
should, to the extent possible, be interpreted so as to
give rise to a single set of compatible obligations’ (ILC
Report on Fragmentation, 2006)
– ‘The globalisation of the [Water] Convention should
also go hand-in-hand with the expected entry into
force of the United Nations Watercourses Convention.
These two instruments are based on the same
principles. They complement each other and should
be implemented in a coherent manner’ (UN
Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, 28 November 2012)
• As a package of norms both conventions
reinforce each other
• States have joined both conventions (14 so far)
Tools for promotion and
Promotion – Raising the
profile of International Water
• Global awareness raising activities
– e.g. Stockholm World Water Week, Marseille World Water
Forum, 6th Meeting of the Parties to the UNECE Water
• Regional awareness raising and training activities
– e.g. SE Asia, East Africa and Latin America Workshops
• National training and awareness raising activates
– e.g. Cambodia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Viet Nam, Kyrgyzstan
• Future activities
– France proposal to host first meeting of the parties to
1997 Watercourses Convention
– Awareness raising at global, regional and national levels
critical to adoption and effective implementation
Implementation – UNECE Water
• 20 years of experience in supporting
transboundary water cooperation
• Capacity to adapt to changing conditions and to respond to
countries demand
• Continuity of efforts that ensured sustained progress and
long-term results
• Strong drive and ownership by Parties and the close
involvement of non-Parties
• Capacity to build trust
• Concrete deliverables
• Significant diversity within UNECE region
• Water challenges
– Growing problem of water scarcity
– Extreme events
• Political landscape
• Economic and social conditions
UNECE Water Convention
Work programme 2013-2015:
Area 1: Support to implementation
Area 2: EU Water Initiative National Policy
Area 3: Quantifying the benefits of
transboundary cooperation
Area 4: Adapting to climate change in
transboundary basins
Area 5: Water- food-energy-ecosystems nexus
Area 6: Opening of the Convention
Area 7: Promotion of the Convention and
establishment of strategic partnerships
Programme area 3: Quantifying
the benefits of transboundary
water cooperation
• Objectives: Support countries to estimate the full range of
potential benefits of transboundary water cooperation to
encourage the broadening of cooperation
• Methodology: Development of a Policy Guidance Note on
Identifying, Quantifying and Communicating the benefits of
transboundary water cooperation
• Activities:
– Expert framing workshop (June 2013)
– Workshop during the GEF IWC7 (October 2013)
– Workshop to gather & share experiences (22-23 May
– Expert Workshop to finalize the policy guidance note
and discuss next steps (Nov. 2014, tbc)
More info at: benefits_cooperation.html
Programme area 4: Adapting to
climate change in transboundary
• Programme of pilot projects and global network of
transboundary basins working on adaptation to climate
change- GEF projects and basins are welcome to join!
• Global platform for exchanging experience: annual
workshops with participation of GEF projects since 2011,
next one on 113-14 October 2014
• Collection of good practices and lessons
learned to be prepared by 2015
• Based on the UNECE Guidance on
Water and Adaptation to Climate change
Programme area 5: Water-foodenergy-ecosystems nexus –
assessment of selected basins
• A conceptual picture of the nexus developed,
substantiated with indicators & quantification of
selected aspects, future scenarios
Identification of synergies and opportunities for
benefits from co-management, inter-sectoral
coordination & transboundary cooperation through a
participatory inter-sectoral process and supporting
• Some 6-8 basins to be assessed in Africa, Asia and
• The methodology piloted on the Alazani/Ganyh (GE,
AZ); basin assessments Jan 2014-April 2015; report
Support to implementation
through soft law development
Water pollution by hazardous substances (1994)
Water pollution from fertilizers, pesticides (1995)
Licensing of wastewater discharges (1996)
Monitoring & assessment of rivers & lakes (1996)
Monitoring & assessment of transboundary
groundwaters (2000)
Sustainable flood prevention (2000)
Safety of pipelines (2006)
Payments for ecosystem services (2007)
Transboundary flood management (2007)
Safety of tailing management facilities (2009)
Water and adaptation to climate change (2009)
Guide to Implementing the Water Convention
Transboundary groundwaters (2012)…
Practical support to establish
cooperation: Tajik-Afghan
Establishing cooperation on hydrology and
environment in upper Amudarya:
bilateral working group
exchange of hydrological data
visits to hydrological monitoring stations
cooperation with border guards
first steps: cooperation in flood management
and emergency situations, agreeing on
compatible hydrological monitoring equipment,
methods, models
– vision for the future: integrating Afghanistan in
the Aral Sea cooperation (IFAS)
Intergovernmental bilateral Dniester Basin
Treaty of the Republic of Moldova and
Ukraine (Rome, 29 November 2012)
– taking the best of the two Conventions
The Water Convention and the
• Cooperation in joint workshops:
– Workshop on transboundary water cooperation: Latin
American and Pan-European regions: sharing
experiences and learning from each other (11 - 12
June 2013)
– International Roundtable on Transboundary Water
Resources Management in the Southern
Mediterranean (26 - 27 November 2012)
– GEF IW projects African Workshop (November 2012)
– Workshop on Adaptation to Climate Change in
Transboundary Basins (2013, 2012, 2011)
• Cooperation within projects:
– Work on the Alazani / Kura river basin on Nexus
Assessment: existing GEF project
– Work on the Drin basin: initiated a GEF project
Cooperation in the Drin River
• Drin Dialogue was facilitated by
UNECE and GWP-Med using the
platform of the UNECE Water
Convention and the Petersberg
Phase II/Athens Declaration
• 5 Drin River Riparians signed a
MoU on a Shared Strategic
Vision for the Sustainable
Management of the Drin River
• A GEF project will contribute to
the further development of
cooperation in the basin
Which tools are useful to
How could the Conventions
support your work further?
Thank you!
More information
[email protected]
[email protected]