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Central Asian countries discuss the role of UNECE Water Convention in strengthening transboundary cooperation

Published: 25 October 2011

Almaty and Geneva


An international high-level conference opened today in Almaty, Kazakhstan, to discuss ways for strengthening transboundary water cooperation in Central Asia and the role of international water law in finding long-term sustainable solutions for water management in this subregion. The conference is being organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Kazakhstan.

Efficient and sustainable management of water resources and related energy issues in the five countries of Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan— remains highly important for political, economic and environmental cooperation in this subregion and beyond. The most challenging situation with the management of transboundary water resources has emerged in the basins of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers, the largest rivers in Central Asia, which flow into the Aral Sea. Implementation of large-scale plans for the development of hydropower in the upper reaches of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya River basins is likely to further aggravate relations between the upstream and downstream countries regarding the types and regimes of water use, if no balance of interests, acceptable to all States, is found. Moreover, an increase in the river flow fluctuations and expected decrease in river flow in the Aral Sea Basin caused by climate change, along with the growing demands for water, will probably exacerbate the situation of water allocation in the Central Asian subregion. In addition, Afghanistan is likely to increase its use of water in tributaries to the Amu Darya River.

UNECE assists Central Asian countries in improving their institutional and legal frameworks for transboundary water cooperation and enhancing integrated water resources management at national and transboundary levels. Being a custodian of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) — the only international framework convention for transboundary water management in force — the UNECE pays specific attention to the promotion of international water law in Central Asia. UNECE facilitates dialogue, exchange of experience and good practice on the platform of the Water Convention, which has been the basis for many bilateral and multilateral transboundary water agreements across the UNECE region.

Opening the conference, Andrey Vasilyev, UNECE Deputy Executive Secretary, noted: “Whichever solutions for water resources management are to be reached by Central Asian States, they have to be based on international law, of which the UNECE Water Convention is part and parcel. The Water Convention enshrines a balanced approach to the obligations of riparians, based on equality and reciprocity. It does not offer ready-made solutions to specific problems. However, its implementation ensures the continuous cooperation of States under common legal frameworks, towards agreed objectives, and with support from the Convention’s institutional mechanisms. Such cooperation ultimately leads to finding solutions to specific problems at the local, national and transboundary levels”.


The international high-level conference will be followed by a workshop on the Protocol on Water and Health (26–27 October 2011). This Protocol aims to protect human health and well-being by better water management, including the protection of water ecosystems, and by preventing, controlling and reducing water-related diseases. It is the first international agreement of its kind adopted specifically to attain an adequate supply of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for everyone, and effectively protect water used as a source of drinking water.

The meetings are being organized in the framework of the “Regional Dialogue and Cooperation on Water Resources Management in Central Asia” programme, financed by the Government of Germany through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH under the Berlin Water Process. Organizational support to the meetings is provided by the Executive Board of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

For further information please visit:

Contact information:

Mr. Bo Libert
Regional Adviser
UNECE, Environment Division
E-mail: and


Note for editors:

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) of 1992 aims to strengthen national measures and transboundary cooperation for the protection and ecologically sound management of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. Thirty-seven States and the European Union are Parties to the Water Convention. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are Parties to this instrument.

The UNECE-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health of 1999 to the UNECE Water Convention is the first international agreement adopted specifically to ensure, by linking water management and health issues, the adequate supply of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Twenty-five States are Parties to the Protocol.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is an international cooperation enterprise for sustainable development with worldwide operations, which supports the German Government in achieving its development policy objectives.

The Berlin Water Process was launched at the first “Water Unites” Conference (Berlin, 1 April 2008). The Process is an important part of the water and environment pillar of the European Union’s Central Asia Strategy. The Transboundary Water Management in Central Asia Programme is implemented by GIZ under the Berlin Water Process to optimize cooperation in the Central Asian water sector and improve the lives of people in the region.

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