Cooperation through joint bodies

According to the Convention, a "joint body" means any bilateral or multilateral commission or other appropriate institutional arrangement for cooperation between Riparian Parties.  

The following compilation gives information on joint bodies that have their own secretariats. For the other joint bodies, please contact the focal points (see addresses). 

I.  Joint Bodies in the European Region

A.   Danube

International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR)
Internationale Kommission zum Schutz der Donau (IKSD)

Executive Secretary
Vienna International Center
P. O. Box 500
A-1400 Vienna
Tel: (+43 1) 260 60 5738
Fax: (+43 1) 260 60 5895

Joint bodies were also established for first and second order tributaries to the Danube River. These joint bodies are made up of representatives of two or more riparian countries that are usually senior staff members of Environment/Water Ministries. For further information, please contact the focal points from the Danube countries.

International Sava River Basin Commission

Nova Ves 11
10000 Zagreb

tel: +385 1 4886960
fax: +385 1 4886986

B.   Elbe

Internationale Kommission zum Schutz der Elbe (IKSE)

Dr. Slavomír VOSIKA
Executive Secretary
Postfach 1647 / 1648
Fürstenwallstrasse 20

Tel.: (+49 391) 400 03-0 
Fax: (+49 391) 400 03-11

C.   Meuse

Internationale Commissie voor de Bescherming van de Maas (ICBM)
Commission Internationale pour la Protection de la Meuse (CIPM)

Secretary General
Palais des Congrès Esplanade de l'Europe 2
B-4020 LIEGE

Tel: (+32 4) 340 11 40
Fax: (+32 4) 349 00 83

D.   Rhine Basin

1. Rhine downstream Lake Constance, except Moselle and Saar
Internationale Kommission zum Schutze des Rheins
Commission Internationale pour la Protection du Rhin
Internationale Rijn Commissie

Executive Secretary
Postfach 200253
D-56002 Koblenz

Tel.: +49 261 12495
Fax: +49 261 36572

2. Moselle and Saar
Internationale Kommissionen zum Schutze der Mosel und der Saar (IKSMS)
Commissions Internationales pour la Protection de la Sarre et de la Moselle(CIPSM)

Mr. Daniel ASFALD
Executive Secretary
Güterstrasse 29a
D-54295 TRIER

tél.: +49 (0)651-73147
fax: +49 (0)651-76606

3. Sub-basin: Lake Constance
Internationale Gewässerschutzkommission für den Bodensee(IGKB)

Dr. Martin GRAMBOW
Executive Secretary
Lake Constance Commission

Tel: 089 92 14 4302
Fax: 089 92 14 4300

For further information on the Lake Constance Commission (in German) and the contact addresses in Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland see:

E. Rhone Basin

1. Sub-basin: Lake Geneva
Internationale Kommission zum Schutz des Genfersees
Commission Internationale pour la Protection des Eaux du Léman (CIPEL)

Mr. Martin RAPIN
Executive Secretary
CP 80
CH - 1000 Lausanne 12

Tel.: (+41 21) 653 14 14
Fax: (+41 21) 653 14 41

Internationale Scheldecommissie (ISC)
Commission Internationale de l'Escaut (CIPE)

Mr. Arnould LEFEBURE
Theaterbuilding - Italiëlei 124

Tel.: (+32 3) 206 06 80
Fax: (+32 3) 206 06 81

G.   Oder
International Commission for the Protection of the Odra River against Pollution

Mr. Piotr Baranski
Executive manage
Sekretariat MKOOpZ
ul. M. Curie-Sklodowskiej 1
50-381 Wroclaw

Tel. +48 71/326-74-70
Fax +48 71/328-37-11

H.  Aral Sea basin
Interstate Commission for Water Coordination of Central Asia

The Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic on the Use Of Water Management Facilities of Intergovernmental Status on the Rivers Chu and Talas

II.   Joint Bodies in North America

A.   Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Riverand other transboundary waters shared by Canada and the United States
International Joint Commission (IJC)
Commission Mixte Internationale

United States Section
1250 23rd Street, NW
Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20440
Fax: (202) 467-0746

Section Canadienne
234 Laurier Ave. West
22th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 6K6
Fax : (613) 993-5583

B.    Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River
Great Lakes Commission(GLC)

Eisenhower Corporate Park
2805 S. Industrial Hwy, Suite 100
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-6791

Tel.: 734-971-9135
Fax: 734-971-9150

III.   Activities of Joint Bodies

The Convention in its article 9, paragraph 2, lays down that the agreements or arrangements to be drawn up or revised according to the Convention's basic principles shall provide for the establishment of joint bodies.Per definition, a joint body means any bilateral or multilateral commission or other appropriate institutional arrangements for cooperation between the Riparian Parties. Paragraph 2 also enumerates tasks of joint bodies which shall be carried out without prejudice to relevant existing agreements and arrangements, and paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 deal with cooperation among various joint bodies as well as cooperation between joint bodies and coastal States. In 1999, a questionnaire was sent to UNECE Member States in order to examine which of these tasks became already part of the operational activities of joint bodies, and which conclusions on good practice could been drawn. This information was compiled for consideration by the Parties to the Convention at their second meeting in The Hague (23-25 March 2000). The next update will be compiled by the third Meeting of the Parties in November 2003.

A.   Water Bodies dealt with by Joint Bodies

It follows from the replies to the questionnaire that, as a rule, joint bodies focus their activities on the protection and use of transboundary surface waters, i.e. transboundary rivers and international lakes. This is mostly driven by the great number of rivers, and the important role which transboundary surface waters play in the region.

Work on the protection and use of transboundary groundwaters is still in its infancy. This is particularly true of joint bodies established by more than two Parties, for example, the International Commissions for the Protection of the Elbe, Danube, Meuse, Moselle, Rhine and Saar. Reasons include:

(a) The existing staff of joint bodies is trained in the management of surface waters rather than groundwaters;

(b) The knowledge on the existence of transboundary groundwaters is still rather limited although a recent survey identified some 100 transboundary aquifers in western and central Europe and more of them are expected to be identified in other parts of the UNECE region;

(c) Water supply from groundwaters is usually not an activity supervised by a joint body, and licensing of water abstraction from transboundary groundwaters and other work linked to groundwater management is not part of activities of joint bodies;

(d) According to the mandate of joint bodies, these bodies inform water supply companies and other entities about critical situations which may have adverse impact on groundwaters, however, action to protect groundwaters is - as a rule - the responsibility of the supply companies.

The picture regarding groundwater management is different for bilateral agreements. Most noticeable is the work of bilateral joint bodies in which Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine, respectively, are represented. By way of example, most of these countries also contributed to the drafting of the guidelines on monitoring and assessment of transboundary groundwaters (MP.WAT/2000/9 - English, French, Russian).

As regards transboundary estuaries, a study carried out in 2002 by the Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment revealed that estuaries are generally included as a part of wider monitoring programmes covering freshwaters, coastal waters or surface waters in general. Estuaries are most commonly included in river agreements and often also in coastal marine agreements as well as being encompassed in general bilateral agreements concerning all transboundary waters. However, in reality the implementation of the bilateral agreements is often lacking and the actual level of cooperation may be much lower than aimed for in the agreement. However, many of the countries that reported poor cooperation on the governmental level also reported good cooperation and information exchange on the level of the scientific research community. The future implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive will have direct implications on both the monitored variables and the level of coordination and cooperation between riparian countries. Examples on the work of joint bodies linked to estuaries include the Finnish-Russian Joint Commission on the Utilization of Frontier Waters, and the work of the International Commission for the Protection of the Schelde related to sea water and brackish water.

B.   Specific Tasks of Joint Bodies

The following presents examples of good practice and/or conclusions and recommendations on activities to be undertaken by joint bodies.

Identification of pollution sources, inventories and exchange of information on pollution sources, joint monitoring programmes, warning and alarm procedures, emission limits for waste water:

The above four obligations are complied with by all joint bodies that replied to the questionnaire. The level of performance achieved by the joint bodies is being examined by the task force on monitoring and assessment of transboundary waters.

Effectiveness of control programmes:

The assessment of the effectiveness of control programmes is still a week point of the activities of many joint bodies.

An example of a good practice is given by the International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine. This commission has defined water-quality objectives, and the joint monitoring programme provides the basis for regular evaluation of the water quality against these objectives. This evaluation leads to a certain "indicator" for further action: as long as the water-quality objectives are not met further emission reduction measures have to be developed/undertaken. Other joint bodies, established by Finland and the Russian Federation, by the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, and by Slovakia and some of its neighbouring countries, also undertake such evaluations, however, details were not given.

Cooperation and exchange of information on the best available technology:

Three joint bodies informed about their approaches to promote cooperation and exchange of information on the best available technology.

Good practices include:

(a) On-site visits of industrial and other installations which are organized back-to-back with meetings of the joint bodies or its subsidiary organs to provide information, establish contacts among potential partners and exchange reference material (Finland and Russian Federation);

(b) Creation (by Polish authorities) of a database on research and development;

(c) Identification of best available technology for the following branches of industry: surface treatment, paper and pulp, organic chemistry, cellulose (International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine).

Implementation of environmental impact assessment (EIA):

EIA has become a usual practice in almost all countries that replied to the questionnaire, however, only a few joint bodies were involved in EIA of proposed measures to be undertaken in the catchment areas of transboundary waters.

Criteria use for carrying out EIA were the same as listed in the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. Finland and Norway have developed a specific methodology to take account of sub-regional climatic and other conditions and agreed on Guidelines for EIA in the Arctic sustainable development and utilization, published by the Finnish Ministry of the Environment.

Specific experience of joint bodies to act as "Forum for the exchange of information":

Good practice of joint bodies include:

(a) Representatives from local authorities are involved in the joint body (Finland and Russian Federation);

(b) Water management and other concerted action plans are distributed to municipalities, interest groups, and libraries;

(c) In bilateral joint bodies, the representatives of joint bodies from the downstream country participate in national meetings on water, organized by the up-stream country, and vice versa (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia).

Cooperation with joint bodies responsible for the marine environment, and cooperation among joint bodies that exist in the same catchment area:

To comply with the relevant provision on cooperation with joint bodies responsible for the marine environment (article 9, paragraph 4), focal points are designated by the respective joint bodies to participate as observer in meetings.

As concerns such cooperation between the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube and the Black Sea Environmental Programme, joint activities include the exchange of experience on technical and scientific issues, elaboration of joint proposals regarding the protection of water quality in the Black Sea to control, for example, eutrophication of the Black Sea.

To comply with the relevant provision on cooperation among joint bodies that exist in the same catchment area, joint bodies agreed - as a rule - to grant each other observer status if they consider that the work of the other joint body is of particular importance.

As a good practice, it is worthwhile mentioning that one of these joint bodies, the International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe, cooperates with the respective bilateral border commissions and working association of German and Czech water works and sewage treatment plants.