17 Nov 2020
Venue: Online | Webex
The launch of a new report "Frequently Asked Questions on the 1992 Water Convention", organized within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network, took place online on 17 November 2020. This publication explains the obligations under the Water Convention and the way in which its institutional platform works, as well as the advantages for States to become Party to the Convention. It also addresses the relationship between the Water Convention and the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses.
ASK US YOUR MOST DIFFICULT QUESTION ABOUT THE WATER CONVENTION!
About the Water Convention
The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is a unique legal and intergovernmental platform which promotes sustainable use of transboundary waters. Originally adopted as a regional treaty in 1992, it became a global instrument in 2016. Many countries outside the pan-European region are now in the process of accession to the Convention.
About the New Publication
This new publication provides clarifications on the added value of the Water Convention at global, transboundary and national levels, its obligations and its global opening. The launch event was an opportunity for governmental experts and non-governmental stakeholders to ask their questions about the benefits of participation in the Convention and its relevance for countries sharing transboundary basins, as well as about the Convention’s legal provisions and institutional mechanism. The launch event highlighted the tools and mechanisms available to support countries preparing for accession to the Convention.
Head of Division, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany
Chief Legal Officer, Water Resources Commission, Ghana
Economic Affairs Officer, ESCWA
Vice-Chair, Implementation Committee under the Water Convention
Environmental Affairs Officer, Water Convention Secretariat, UNECE
The event was live on Facebook.
Welcome and Introduction | Iulia TROMBITCAIA
The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes was originally negotiated as a regional instrument but since 2016, the Convention is opened to all United Nations member states. There are currently 44 parties, of which three parties – Chad, Senegal and Ghana – come from outside UNECE region. There is an accession process in many more countries, it is already advanced in 15 countries and other 16 countries have expressed interest in the Convention. Recently the Iraq parliament has passed a law on accession to the Water Convention, there are still some steps to be taken by the country before it will formally become a Party to the Convention. Altogether, so far more than 120 countries took part in the activities of the Convention in the last decade.
In the past years, the Convention Secretariat received many questions about the obligations of the Convention, about the globalization process, and about the existence of two United Nations Water Conventions. This is how the idea of producing a Frequently asked questions publication on the Convention has emerged. This publication was produced in the past year by the Secretariat and the Convention Bureau with the involvement of the Implementation Committee of the Convention. It is already available in English and Russian and the French, Spanish and Arabic versions are under preparation. This publication is unique as it provides direct answers to the questions on the Convention that have been asked over the past years. It also includes a roadmap to facilitate accession processes which was prepared based on the experience of countries which recently completed the accession process.
Two Secretaries General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Guterres, have called member states to join the two Water Conventions and to strive for their full implementation. This publication is seen as a tool which will help countries in the process of making a decision on accession and properly implementing the Convention.
Presentation of the publication | Heide JEKEL
This publication covers over 50 FAQs about:
- the added value of the Convention at global, transboundary and national scales
- the global opening of the Convention
- the relationship with the 1997 Watercourses Convention
- the scope of the Convention
- the principles and obligation of the Convention
- the implementation, operation, capacity and compliance
- the accession preparation and process
Examples of FAQs:
- FAQs 1.2: What does my country achieve by becoming a party to the Water Convention? The Water Convention is a really good tool to support the achievement of the SDGs, especially the SDG 6 on water. The Water Convention provides a solid international legal framework because it was for a long time the only international tool existing on transboundary water cooperation. It has a developed institutional platform with a lot of working groups, events, and workshops where everybody can participate, so it is a good platform for sharing experience and giving advice among all the countries.
- FAQs 1.9: How can the Water Convention prevent conflicts and wars over transboundary waters? The daily cooperation with agreements and joint bodies increases trust and is a tool to talk with each other on a regular basis and to prevent conflicts and wars. This can be confirmed with the experience of Germany and its six international river basin commissions. For example, the Rhine commission was established after the second world war, so it was a tool to overcome the old roles during the war. This is a good example to see how trust building can work with agreements and joint bodies. The Water Convention is an institutional framework which assists countries on the ground to set up agreements and joint bodies (projects in Drin, Kura, Dniester and Chu-Talas basins, Senegal-Mauritania aquifer cooperation). The Convention has an advice and assistance body: the Implementation Committee – a body composed of legal and technical experts ready to provide advice to the countries.
- FAQs 2.1: The Water Convention was originally drafted as a regional agreement. Why was a decision taken to open it to all United Nations Member States? This happened because it is a successful instrument and it has demonstrated usefulness during two decades. The Parties were convinced that the principles and provisions of the Convention are valid worldwide and could broaden political support for transboundary cooperation. A lot of countries that were not part of the UNECE region had already participated since years in the institutional framework of the Convention. The interest was increasing so Parties decided to open this instrument. The Parties also wanted to learn from other regions and to share their experience.
- FAQ 3.2: Can a country that is already Party to the 1997 Watercourses Convention accede to the 1992 Water Convention? What are the benefits? The two Conventions are fully aligned and compatible. Countries can accede to both without legal complications to have a very good package for cooperation on transboundary waters. 17 countries are Parties to both, Germany and Ghana for example. The Water Convention is a more operational platform, it has an institutional platform and supports implementation on the ground. There are some differences between the two Conventions but hey are not dramatic and the differences complement each other. There is a publication on how the two Conventions’ texts work together.
- FAQ 6.1: Can a country accede to the Water Convention if it cannot implement all its requirements due to the lack of resources and capacity? Countries can and should accede in such a case. The Water Convention is a flexible instrument. It takes the countries from where they stand at the moment. Most obligations are “due diligence” ones, meaning that Parties shall take “all appropriate measures” into the direction of fulfilling the requirements. It is a step-by-step implementation. The measures should be proportionate to the economic, financial and other capacity of the Party, and to the degree of risk of transboundary impact. It is an adaptative instrument. For new Parties, it will be good to have an Implementation Plan for the implementation in the long term.
Importance of the Water Convention for Germany | Heide JEKEL
For two decades the Water Convention was the only UN instrument in force on transboundary water management. Germany has been a Party since 1995. The Convention has been a basis for river basin commissions in which Germany cooperates with other countries. The Convention also influenced EU water law, for example the EU Water Framework Directive which deals also with transboundary water cooperation.
The Water Convention covers countries in transboundary basins, which are not EU Member States. The Water Convention provides a common language, shared principles and jointly developed products for all countries. It is a practice oriented document as it gives a checklist for necessary ingredients for successful transboundary water cooperation. It is an important platform for exchanging experience and knowledge, and a very friendly framework.
What makes the Water Convention of interest to countries from other regions
Ghana and Africa | Bernadette ADJEI
Insuring availability of water is one of the major global challenges of our time. Climate change, population growth and urbanization are major causes of water insecurity in most countries. Giving the complexity and scale of the challenges, strong cooperation is needed as major watercourses are transboundary. On 20 September 2020, Ghana officially became a Party of the 1992 Water Convention and the 1997 Watercourses Convention. They are seen as legal instruments necessary for cooperation.
The transboundary river basins and shared aquifers of Ghana cover 75% of the country and generates 80% of fresh water flow of which 30% flows outside the country from Burkina Faso, the Ivory Cost and Togo. The transboundary river basins and shared aquifers provide substantial domestic water supply, hydropower, irrigation, industrial needs. There are flooding and pollution occurrences in the transboundary basins, which are a great concern to Ghana and its co-riparians. Such interdependence and occurrences call for urgent action to deepen cooperation and formalize agreements and protocols. In addition, there are now international calls for Ghana to look at the management of the transboundary basins to achieve the SDGs, in particular Goal 6.4 on water use and scarcity and Goal 6.5 on water resources management. This is why the government of Ghana in 2018 recognized the need for an international legal instrument, especially the 1992 Water Convention and the 1997 Watercourses Convention. Both Conventions cover international watercourses and serve as a mechanism to guide, foster and ensure international cooperation.
In 2018, Ghana in cooperation with the WWF, Green Cross International and the 1992 Water Convention secretariat hosted a major international forum devoted to seeking ratification to the two water Conventions. All participants agreed that Ghana needed to ratify the two instruments to benefit directly from the existence of a stronger international legal framework. Next steps were to develop and submit the national accession toolkits and engage with the Government and the Parliament, as well as undertaking wide education campaigns on the two Conventions.
The Conventions embody a number of principles such as equitable and reasonable use, the obligation not to cause significant harm, general obligation to cooperate, regular exchange of data and information, notification and response on planned measures, protection and preservation of ecosystems, prevention and reduction and pollution control and other issues. Ghana’s accession signals to other countries and international organizations and financial institutions the willingness of Ghana to cooperate on the basis of international standards. Ghana is currently the chair of the Council of Ministers of the Volta Basin Authority, a key international platform for transboundary basin cooperation. Both conventions provide support to Ghana for the establishment of the agreements and institutions for the other shared basins, as well as the framework for development of infrastructure projects on shared rivers. In the area of data sharing, Ghana has agreement with Burkina Faso for sharing data on water discharges and on planned measures and developments. The six countries of the Volta are now working on allocation for major water uses and agreeable minimum flows allowed into down streamed countries of Ghana especially in the dry season. The Water Convention will help to resolve these critical matters. The Watercourses Convention also provide joint training programs and meetings on exchange of data. Another benefit to Ghana is the implementation of obligations especially the obligation in the prevention, control and reduction of the transboundary impacts. The application of standards and obligations on the impacts such as the flow of pollution from the Bia river in Ghana to the Ivory Coast is crucial.
The Convention also has step-by-step mechanisms such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration that countries can use to pursue conflict prevention and resolution.
Accession to the Convention has been discussed within the Volta Basin Authority and its six riparian countries have agreed to proceed with accession. Benin, Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast already ratified the 1997 Watercourses Convention and have agreed to do the same for the 1992 Water Convention.
With Ghana accession completed the next step is to help the process of the implementation of the Convention. It is hoped that the 1992 and the 1997 Conventions will serve Ghana in improving transboundary water cooperation, overcoming the water crisis and achieving the SDGs.
UN-ESCWA | Ziad KHAYAT
In the Arab region most of the states depend on the water supply of transboundary rivers and aquifers with 2/3 of all water supply coming from outside the region. The region has a number of transboundary surface water basins. Some of these water basins are shared with Arab States, others with non-Arab states, some are in conflict zones, and some are under occupation. The management of these transboundary water resources and the alteration of their natural river flows have allowed for the development of large irrigation projects, hydropower generation and the storage of reserves that can be drown upon to support domestic and agriculture demand. However, the quantity, quality and seasonality of these flows for different purposes must be considered across riparian states for potential negative impacts and conflicts that those schemes could have on down stream users and especially with the impact of climate change. Furthermore, most of the Arab countries have also a heavy reliance on ground water which is found in a number of transboundary aquifers.
The number of transboundary groundwater resources in the Arab region outnumbers the transboundary surface water basins, with 21 out of the 22 countries sharing transboundary aquifers. Transboundary groundwater covers almost 58% of the Arab region in terms of area. Large volume of this groundwaters are nonrenewable. In such water scare region, cooperation thus becomes the imperative. Transboundary cooperation has been identified as one of the most important instruments for achieving sustainable development in the region. Cooperation modalities over shared water exist in the Arab region. A number of formal inter-states agreements exist with more or less developed cooperation framework.
In this region, the Arab countries have also shown great interest in global cooperation mechanisms and global frameworks. In fact almost nearly 50% of the Arab countries have joined the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention and at least five countries have showed high interest in joining the 1992 Water Convention. So, the Convention and its principles and most importantly the active Secretariat of the Convention provides an operation framework for countries to advance cooperation on transboundary waters in the region, moving towards water security and the achievement of the SDGs.
The UNECE Convention and its institutional apparatus is responsive to the needs of the countries and helps the countries to make the best choice and decision on how they can promote sustainable water management and transboundary cooperation. Although our discussion today focuses on transboundary cooperation, this publication will be very helpful for the countries to improve water management at the national level as well. The tools and mechanisms of the Convention allow to engage better in sustainable water management and transboundary cooperation.
Question 1: Zebedee Njisuh. Why did you decide to develop this publication? It seems to be a very valuable product.
Answer by Iulia: The Convention has about 15 countries which are now in a process of very active national discussion about joining the Convention. These countries are sending their requests to the various bodies of the Convention with questions on the Convention, its obligations and on its relationship with the 1997 Water Convention. They have figured out that these questions have a lot of similarities and they summarized the answers in this publication. At the same time, this publication includes very specific questions because they tried to capture everything that would be useful for a country considering accession to the Convention or considering how to improve its implementation of the Convention.
Answer by Heide: This publication is very useful not only for countries who want to accede to the Convention but also useful for countries that are already part of the Convention.
Question 2: Debarshee Dasgupta. We see more countries in Africa and Europe accede to these Conventions compared to South Asia? What challenges remain in South Asia? Is the water security threat leading to acceding to these Conventions?
Answer by Iulia: Of course there are security challenges everywhere and there are some particular regions with water scarcity but this kind of challenges call for cooperation between countries even more. South Asia has basically the same prerequisites for being interested in the Convention as many other regions. It is probably a matter of time and capacity of the Secretariat to reach out and support certain regions. They are now trying to diversify their support from the Secretariat so there are people who are responsible for particular regions within the Secretariat. They believe that the Convention can be as useful for South Asia as it is to other regions. Last week, the Convention organized a webinar which specifically focused on the South Asia region, on the challenges that this region is facing. Vietnam has expressed interest in the Water Convention through official letter and at the recent meeting to the Parties of the Convention, and a national discussion has already started. Mongolia announced its interest to accede to the Convention at the last meeting of the Parties. There has also been interest from Bangladesh, which expressed its interest in 2019. South Asia can benefit from the Convention as much as other regions.
Question 3: Zebedee Njisuh. How does Ghana see the linkages between water management and wetlands, and how many management plans have they put in place to manage these wetlands to ensure sustainable management of water?
Answer by Bernadette: In 2007, Ghana’s water policy adopted an integrated water management framework that requires that basins plans are developed to manage basins. So, they have a national integrated water management plan and basins specific ones. Wetlands are integrated in water management plans. Different institutions manage these on a common platform to come up with plans. Ghana has also a national special planning authority which develops plans for land management and uses that take into consideration how wetlands are managed. So, one this particular issue, there are plans, implementation measures that take into consideration water and wetlands management.
Question 4: Zephaniah Ajode. Apart from Ghana, are there other countries from Africa which have subscribed to the Convention?
Answer by Iulia: Currently the Convention has two Parties – Senegal and Chad – in Africa in addition to Ghana, but there are many more countries which are in the accession process: Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo (Republic of), Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.
Question 5: Debarshee Dasgupta. Are both the principles like “no harm principle” and principle of “equitable and reasonable apportionment” part of the Convention? How are these two principles implemented and are they complimentary to each other?
Answer by Iulia: Indeed these two principles, the no harm rule and the equitable and reasonable utilization, sound largely academic and it is difficult to say what they actually mean in practice. For this, the Convention has a principle of cooperation which operationalizes these academic principles into practice. Through cooperation, through meetings, through the conclusion of specific agreement and joint bodies, there is a possibility to figure out how to achieve equitable and reasonable utilization and no significant harm in your own basin. When countries have particular meetings with their joint bodies they start doing joint planning and they start making studies developing rivers and basins management plans and strategies which actually exactly say what is equitable and reasonable utilization and what is no significant harm in a particular basin.
Question 6: Ryad Awaja. What can the UNECE Water Convention bring to the other UN Water Conventions? Knowing that Israel is part of the UNECE Water Convention, Israel decided in 1967 to put all Palestinian water resources under Israel´s military jurisdiction with several military orders on water use against Palestinians. We have a complete denial from Israel on Water sharing, especially the Jordan River Basin agreement.
Answer by Iulia: The other Convention of 1997 doesn’t have the institutional platform. The existence of an institutional platform and regular cooperation in the framework of the meeting of the Parties is the major added value of the UNECE Water Convention compared to the Watercourses Convention. Neither Israel, nor Palestine are Parties to the 1992 Water Convention. Palestine participates quite regularly in the Water Convention activities and their participation is welcomed as well as any other actors in activities under the Convention, because it helps learn, it helps share experience, it helps better understand each other, and of course Israel as UNECE member state is welcome to participate on this platform as well. The major added value of UNECE Water Convention compared to the Watercourses Convention is the availability of the institutional mechanism and the availability of support from the community of Parties.
Answer by Dinara: It is up to the countries if they want to join both conventions or either of it. So, they can say that it has to go in package but if you look at these two Conventions you will see that they work very well together because in the 1997 UN Convention, you have more options for procedural cooperation on notification on transboundary harm etc., and in UNECE Convention you have more concrete steps and minimum requirements on how to avoid and prevent transboundary harm which can be beneficial for all countries. The UNECE Convention also focuses on collective management and it has a lot of tools that can help countries and complement bilateral and multilateral level cooperation. The Implementation Committee is a group of experts that act in their personal capacity and they have a mandate from the meeting of the Parties to consider requests of the Parties or non-Parties on the difficulties in implementing the Convention. It also can consider self-submission from the Party or Parties if they are not able to comply with certain provision to the Convention. Another function is Party-to-Party submissions when a country thinks another country has difficulty to comply with the Convention. This group of experts help countries to advance their obligation. Currently they are considering a request for advice from two countries which have an agreement and joint institution at the basin but still want to make use of an opportunity to discuss their water-related matters under the UNECE Convention to find a joint, sustainable solution. The Implementation Committee doesn’t take decision for them, it just advises them on how to promote cooperation and how to build cooperation in a way that they can prevent transboundary impacts. This kind of package of interlinkages at the bilateral, regional basin and global level can supplement the action at the national level.
Question 7: Mohamed Sahr E. Juanah. Can a country join one convention without the other one? Is it advisable to join both?
Answer by Iulia: Indeed it is possible for a country to join either Conventions. However, currently the most strategic decision would be to join both Conventions because through joining both conventions a country can receive a more complete package of norms and a more comprehensive and detailed package of legal norms and at the same time it makes itself available the institutional platform of the 1992 Water Convention. Joining both Conventions allows to influence the development of water law in the future because being a Party to both Conventions permits to have a more direct influence and a more effective influence into how these two instruments will develop in the future. So this package of the two Conventions is definitely what the Water Convention Secretariat is promoting and supporting.
Question 8: Hassan Partow. One of the major challenges to the convention is that it is largely of interest to disadvantaged countries, particularly those that are downstream. What incentives are there for countries with a ‘water hegemony’ position, for example upstream to join the convention?
Answer by Heide: Germany is both upstream and downstream. It is an upstream country with regards to the Netherlands in the Rhine. It is also a downstream country, since above of it there are France, Switzerland and Austria. So Germany is in the middle. If you only look at water quantity perhaps downstream countries are more interested in the Convention than upstream countries. But the river basin is a complete huge ecosystem and everybody has to work on improving it. It is of course about quantity, but it is also about ecological issues, for example, in Europe they want to reestablish a lot of former fish species and if you don’t open up the river in the downstream countries, the fishes coming from the sea such as the salmon, will never get up to an upstream country and you can’t improve aquatic biodiversity. This is an issue in a lot of European river basins. An added value to be part of this Convention as an upstream country is that the country will get access to a legal framework in which it can work together with other countries in the whole basin. It gives the country a good ground to discuss with downstream countries. If it didn’t have this framework, it will not be much more difficult to address issues with upstream and downstream countries. This is the procedural added value of the Water Convention. Widely acknowledged principles are covered by the Convention so if a Party joins it, it has a good ground for discussion with upstream and downstream countries. This is why Germany has joined the two Conventions, first the Water Convention and a lot of years later the Watercourses Convention, because they think it is a really good package. In the publication already mentioned, there is a lot of information about why the two Conventions are so complementary. The Water Convention is the more practical one and the UN Watercourses Convention is more the international legal umbrella under which they work. These both aspects, operational and legal framework of the two Conventions fit very well together.
Answer by Bernadette: The basin is seen as the whole so the management, negotiation and discussion seek to see the basin as a complete whole. Fisheries and infrastructure projects become an incentive, instead of each country developing different projects, they can have a joint project where they share the benefits. Each country can benefit from that and this becomes an incentive for being part of a platform that discusses and cooperates in the management of the basin.
Answer by Ziad: Once a country signs-in into this Convention, it become part of a cooperation community. The principle of cooperation embodied in this Convention takes the country beyond the water quantity with so many factors depending on the transboundary waters: agriculture, industry, tourism, climate change effects… Joining this community of cooperation empowers upstream and downstream countries to think beyond the traditional management of these water resources which has led to the degradation of the quality and the quantity of these water resources. Being part of this elite community of water cooperation that believes in that principle is what is going to take countries beyond the old-school of water quantity. This is the only path to sustainable development under the many pressures we are facing, including COVID-19. Faced with these challenges it doesn’t matter if you are upstream or downstream. It is only if a country is part of a cooperation community that it is empowered to take steps to be more resilient in facing all of these challenges.
Question 9. How these two Water Conventions can be useful at subnational level for better cooperation?
Answer by Dinara: These Conventions can be very useful because equitable use and, no harm principles initially emerge from the national level, from the relations within the federal states. Both Conventions provide concrete steps to what a country can do at the national level in order to reduce transboundary impacts on the environment, with a very broad understanding of what “environment” means. The Convention has a very unique and useful institutional structure that help countries to discuss this in a innovative way of application of the principles in different setting, for example for the relation between upstream and downstream countries, the program of work of the Convention include such issues as benefit sharing, nexus assessment and transboundary water allocation. It takes away the discussion between downstream and upstream in a more innovative way to think at the basin scale. The Convention is developing a guidance on transboundary water allocation where they discuss about water allocation at the subnational level.
Question 10. If a country like Bangladesh access to the Convention how will it help in ensuring water cooperation between India and Bangladesh until India access to it as well?
Answer by Iulia: If one country accedes to the Convention and other riparians are not Parties to the Convention, this country will not have obligations vis-à-vis to its riparians by virtue of the Convention. It will still have the obligations under international customary law of which the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and of no harm are part of. By virtue of the Water Convention there will be no obligations by a country Party vis-à-vis its riparians which are not Parties. But it is really important to understand that somebody needs to be the first one. Basically, when Ghana acceded to the Convention it also didn’t expect that everybody around will join the Convention in a month. There is a need for a first one and to show a positive example for a country to its riparians. Ghana is now calling its riparians in the Volta river basin to accede the Convention. At the same time there are immediate benefits that a country receives when it joins the Water Convention even if the riparians are not Parties. These benefits are the improvements of national water management because the Convention includes some standards which apply to the national water management.
Question 11: Maria Karasani. How could water Convention of 1992 support the water, energy and food nexus solutions?
Answer by Iulia: Under the Water Convention, they have one big area of work dedicated to water, energy, food and ecosystems nexus. They started to develop this area of work after 2011. The methodology for water, energy, food and ecosystems nexus assessment has been fully developed under the Convention and it has already been applied. There are many basins which already apply the participatory approach of the methodology. It is very important that solutions on the water, energy, food and ecosystems nexus are developed through the involvement of all sectors and stakeholders in the basin. This is what the Water Convention has been promoting in the past years. They have done the assessment in quite many transboundary basins and also for some aquifers but they are now moving towards helping countries to apply the solutions which come from these transboundary assessments. This will be an important area of work under the future program of work of the Water Convention that will be adopted in the Meeting of the Parties next year.
Answer by Ziad: The Convention has worked on the transboundary aquifer nexus assessment in the North Western Sahara Aquifer System shared between Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. There is a shared publication coming out between UNECE and ESCWA that addresses this topic. The Water Convention gives that framework to expand cooperation beyond the water dimension. This nexus approach widens the scope of cooperation. Sometimes the cooperation on water is stuck and the involvement of other sectors allows for more cooperation and offers more windows for advancing this cooperation. This is one of the great entry point to cooperation in many places where the water discussion has been stuck at a certain quantity point.
Answer by Heide: Water is a really good basis to start with for cross-sectional discussions. In the river basins where Germany is sharing water with other countries they have a lot of problems upcoming with climate change, low water and dry periods, and the cooperation in these existing agreements and bodies really helps to start a discussion even if the issues are really difficult. It really helps if there is a framework in which countries can discuss even if they don’t share always the same views. The water uses are getting more and more important not only water protection but also water uses, and this is starting to get into conflict. The activity of the Water Convention on this nexus but also the discussions on these issues in the river basins can only be done if there is a very good framework like the Convention or agreements and bodies that are based on this Convention.
Question 12: Sola Ojo. As you may know, there are various national laws and regional laws on transboundary water management in existence in many countries, are there plans to integrate some of aspect of these laws into the global conventions?
Answer by Iulia: Many obligations under the Water Convention require the adoption of measures by Parties in their national legislation. This is the case for example with regard to the requirements to have prior licensing of wastewater discharges or to apply specific measures to prevent the pollution of groundwater. Implementation by the Parties of these requirements promotes harmonization of national legislation across Parties to the Convention.
During the meetings under the Convention and through the regular reporting process Parties exchange information on national laws which are of relevance for the management of transboundary waters. Such exchange of information supports the improvement of national legislation and wider application of good practices.
Question 13: Zephaniah Ajode. The convention presents a great framework for minimizing conflicts and strengthening cooperation on shared water resources, however, there also probabilities that it might contradict with existing ones such as the Nile treaty. We understand the long-term conflict in the Nile dam, how can we use this convention to help leverage and provide a solution?
Answer by Iulia: The Water Convention requires its Parties to “adapt existing agreements, where necessary to eliminate the contradictions with the basic principles of this Convention”. This provision aims to ensure that existing agreements between Parties do not contravene the fundamental provisions of the Convention. When existing agreements do not contradict the “basic principles” of the Convention, there is no need to revise them. The experience of the current Parties to the Convention shows that in most cases a revision of existing agreements upon becoming a Party to the Convention is not required because the vast majority of agreements is anyway based on international customary law.
In the moment, none of the Nile riparian countries is Party to the Water Convention.
Question 14: do customary and national laws feature in transboundary cooperation?
Answer by Bernadette: The general provision of the two conventions provide good procedural and substantive norms for cooperation. However, it’s a customary law principle and also a norm that cultural relativism is considered. In negotiations cultural norms must be considered to satisfy the needs of states party.
Conclusion | Iulia TROMBITCAIA
The Water Convention is much more than just a legal instrument, it is a platform to support countries in their day-to-day cooperation and it has various tools and mechanisms. The Program of work is designed every three years based on what the countries need and how the Convention can provide support to them.
This Frequently asked questions publication on the Convention is a little stone of this supportive framework that the Convention provides to its Parties. In terms of accession of countries from outside the UNECE region, the Convention now has a very structural support available. There is a 2018 Strategy for the implementation on the global level which was adopted by all Parties to the Convention and which clearly says what are the responsibilities, the possible options, the various tools available to the countries which want support in the accession process. Such support is provided to countries interested in accession and it is also provided to basin organizations. In the framework of such support the Convention bodies reply to the requests of information, share information and organize national workshops in countries interested in accession and regional or basin consultation meetings are held in various parts of the world.
There is a lot of support available in the framework of the Convention by UNECE and many other organizations in the UN system, by regional economic communities and many river basins organizations, promoting the Convention among their members. Many activities have the support of the European Union project promoting accession to the Water Convention.
This publication is being translated and printed into several languages with support of the project. Many other donors support activities to promote the Convention in countries interested in accession.
It is hoped that this support will be effective and will result in the growing membership in the Convention and in the better implementation of the SDGs, in particular, SDGs 6.5 which relates to transboundary water cooperation and integrated water resources management.
- Frequently Asked Questions on the 1992 Water Convention
- Presentation made during the event