UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release

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Water and Health Compliance Committee launches consultation process to help States implement the Protocol

Geneva, 4 March 2011 --

At its sixth meeting (Geneva, 1–2 March 2011), the Compliance Committee under the Protocol on Water and Health outlined the main features for a new consultation process geared to help Parties implement their obligations under the Protocol. This is a fundamentally new approach and the procedure as envisaged does not have precedents under other international agreements.

The first reporting exercise under the Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, carried out in 2010, showed that a number of Parties were facing difficulties in implementation. To respond to this situation, the Compliance Committee decided to enhance its facilitation and assistance functions and agreed to enter into consultations with a number of Parties.

The objective of the consultations will be to support Parties in implementing the provisions of the Protocol. They will consist of advice and assistance which will vary depending on the specific conditions and needs of the Party involved, covering scientific, technical, legal and administrative aspects. Consultations are therefore fundamentally different from a compliance review procedure: they are not of an inquisitive nature and their objective is not to establish whether a Party is non-compliant. 

Possible results of the consultations could therefore be assistance to the Parties to develop an accurate analysis of their situation enabling them to set targets under the Protocol, recommendations to the Parties on how to improve their situation, as well as assistance in seeking support from donors, specialized agencies and other competent bodies, including assistance to prepare project proposals supporting the implementation of the Protocol.

The consultation process will not be confidential; however, the Committee would ensure the confidentiality of any information that has been provided to it in confidence by the Party concerned. Thus, if necessary to ensure confidentiality, the Committee will hold meetings in private.

This new procedure will offer great benefits to the Parties involved. It will provide a safe environment for discussing water and health problems, with a high degree of informality and at the same time a high level of expertise. It will offer Parties complex and comprehensive advice covering simultaneously and in an integrated manner a broad variety of issues, from legal and administrative to technical and scientific aspects. Such advice will not only be based on the Committee’s expertise but also on the knowledge and experience on how the Protocol is implemented throughout the region. Moreover, the process can help Parties to raise awareness on water and health issues at the national level and facilitate fund-raising for future activities.

As the consultations will be initiated by a request from a Party, at its sixth meeting, the Compliance Committee encouraged Parties to approach the secretariat for such requests.

Water and health problems remain widespread in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region, with mortality and morbidity caused by unsafe water and inadequate sanitation still unacceptably high, difficulties in ensuring access to water and sanitation to all, and an unsustainable use of the water resources. The UNECE/WHO-EURO Protocol on Water and Health aims to respond to these challenges by requiring Parties to tackle problems at their roots in a rational and coordinated way, looking at the entire water cycle and the related health consequences. The Protocol also recognizes that this is a complex and challenging process and builds a framework for mutual assistance that does not leave Parties alone in dealing with their problems. The new consultative process will be of major importance in that connection.

For more information on the Protocol and its Compliance Committee please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/water/text/text_protocol.htm

Contact:
Ms. Francesca Bernardini
Co-Secretary of the Protocol
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe
Environment, Housing and Land Management Division
Tel.: +41 22 917 24 63
E-mail: francesca.bernardini@unece.org

Ref: ECE/ENV/11/P06