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Helsinki Declaration

as adopted by the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes at Helsinki (Finland) on 4 July 1997

Following the entry into force of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (hereinafter referred to as the Convention) on 6 October 1996,


gathered at Helsinki, Finland, from 2 to 4 July 1997 on the occasion of our first meeting, have committed ourselves to its full implementation and further development. We see this Convention as a major instrument of international cooperation.

The problems that we are facing are not unique to transboundary waters. They should be seen in the context of integrated water management. Thus, our cooperation on transboundary waters will also help to improve the management of internal waters and ensure consistency in the protection and use of both internal and transboundary waters. We will apply, as appropriate, the principles of the Convention when drawing up, revising, implementing and enforcing our national laws and regulations on water.

Our cooperation will focus on five programme areas in our work plan: joint bodies, assistance to countries with economies in transition, integrated management of water and related ecosystems, land-based pollution control, water supply and human health.

We will ensure the protection and sustainable use of transboundary waters by cooperating closely at the regional, sub-regional, national, provincial and local levels. We will delegate relevant activities to the lowest appropriate level.

We encourage all ECE member countries to ratify the Convention, and all other countries to draw on its provisions when formulating and implementing their water policies. We encourage all ECE member countries to ratify under the umbrella of this Convention relevant conventions and agreements, such as the Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River.

We call on ECE member countries which have not yet become Parties to base their cooperation relating to transboundary waters on bilateral and multilateral agreements consistent with the Convention. At their request, we will support them with advice in drawing up or adapting such agreements.

We invite the executive bodies of related conventions as well as relevant organizations and institutions to cooperate actively in our activities so that both sides can benefit from one another's experience. We call upon them to take into account the provisions of the Convention. We express our readiness to advise them on the implementation of their activities relevant to the Convention.

Broad public participation is essential for implementing and developing further the Convention. We support public involvement through the participation of representatives of major groups in activities under the Convention. We need an ECE-wide water partnership to foster the dialogue between representatives of Governments, public and private sector organizations, joint bodies established for the protection and sustainable use of transboundary inland waters and the marine environment, NGOs, the scientific community and all those involved in water management and environmental protection.

We encourage all ECE member countries to organize conferences, workshops, training courses and study tours for the implementation of the Convention, subject to the availability of human and financial resources.

We will implement the decisions of the 1995 Sofia Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" relevant to transboundary waters. We will contribute to the preparations for the 1998 Aarhus Ministerial Conference and the 1999 London Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health and will consider our role in any follow-up.

By 1999, we aim to prepare jointly with the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO/EURO) an international instrument to address the problem of water-related diseases to be submitted for adoption at the 1999 London Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health.

We will promote the regional implementation of Agenda 21 by protecting waters against pollution and unsustainable use in accordance with the results of the special session of the General Assembly (New York, June 1997). We offer to share our experience with other regions in the world.

We encourage countries with economies in transition which are riparian to the same transboundary waters to prepare and implement joint projects on human resources development and institutional capacity-building to resolve existing water-management problems and prevent future disputes over water resources. We will support the ECE Regional Advisory Service Programme in facilitating the preparation and implementation of such joint activities under the Convention. We call on financial institutions and funding mechanisms which carry out assistance projects (such as the World Bank, GEF, PHARE, Tacis and CREDO) to give high priority to such joint country initiatives when deciding on funding.

As a result of this cooperation, we are convinced that transboundary waters in this region will be used in a sustainable way to the benefit of all countries. We firmly believe that the conditions of these waters will improve, since we are committed to cutting pollution, improving the quality of aquatic ecosystems, protecting human health and safety, and making the best sustainable use of water.

We, the Parties, note with appreciation that at this meeting ECE member countries which have not yet become Parties have associated themselves with this declaration.

We welcome the offer of the Government of Netherlands to host the second meeting of the Parties in the year 2000.


© United Nations Economic Commissions for Europe – 2013