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A nexus approach to transboundary cooperation: The experience of the Water Convention

Published: September 2018

Understanding the interactions between water, food, energy and water-related ecosystems in river basins can be vital in ensuring different and often competing needs are met in a coherent manner. This is even more important in transboundary basins, where identifying intersectoral synergies and mutually beneficial solutions can help in reducing trade-offs and potential conflicts, not only across sectors, but also across borders, and support the decision-making process to enhance sustainability. The international community explicitly calls for a nexus approach in efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

UNECE has been helping to respond to this challenge through its participatory intersectoral “nexus” assessments in transboundary basins. These processes involve the basin-sharing countries jointly identifying intersectoral resource management issues and then proposing more sustainable and collaborative ways of development and stewardship of water, energy, land and environmental resources.  The overall aim is fostering cooperation and reconciling different interests.

This brochure summarizes lessons on interlinkages, trade-offs and benefits in managing water, energy and land/agriculture, as well as on protecting the environment derived from several transboundary river basins in Southern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and one aquifer system in North Africa. These lessons are the result of the collective experience of Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) and other States, joint bodies for transboundary cooperation, and other stakeholders who participated in carrying out these assessments from 2013 to 2018.

A key dimension of the methodology is the facilitation of multistakeholder dialogues, which convene sector Ministries from riparian countries with often diverging interests in developing and benefitting from a river basin  ̶  be it for irrigated agriculture, eco-tourism or energy generation.  With the nexus approach, trade-offs and impacts but also mutual interests are identified. This step is subsequently followed by determining jointly with the authorities and stakeholders packages of policy and technical measures to address the problems identified. This intersectoral transboundary dialogue is coupled with a structured analysis, considering technical aspects and governance across sectors.
The assessment process can assist countries seeking to initiate, broaden or revisit transboundary cooperation. Furthermore, the resulting insights can also help reinforce national efforts to optimize resource use (e.g. through improved efficiency), improve policy coherence and achieve co-management benefits.

ECE/MP.WAT/NONE/12

Download this technical material in English

The publication containing the methodology, the lessons learned and an overview of tools is available here.