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UNECE Water Convention goes global

Published: 06 February 2013

17 years after its entry into force, the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is turning into a global convention. Having received the necessary number of ratifications, the amendments to the UNECE Water Convention opening it for accession to all United Nations Member States enter into force today, 6 February 2013. This is a groundbreaking development as the Convention was originally negotiated as a regional instrument by countries of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. It is also a major milestone of the International Year of Water Cooperation celebrated in 2013.

Commenting the entry into force of the amendments, UNECE Executive Secretary Sven Alkalaj said: “Water is the critical resource of our century. While demands for water continue to increase, availability is dwindling. What is not often called attention to is that the water crisis is a transboundary water crisis. As sixty percent of the world’s freshwaters are transboundary, water cooperation is critical to avoid conflicts and ensure effective and sustainable use of shared resources. This is where the legal and intergovernmental platform of the Water Convention as well as the experience accumulated under it are vital.”

In his address to the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties on 28 November 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had stated: “Your experience and the lessons you have learned will be invaluable. I encourage countries outside the UNECE region to join the Convention and contribute to its further development.”

And this is already happening in many respects, as more than 30 countries from outside the UNECE region already actively participate in activities under the Convention. Several countries have already indicated their interest in becoming Parties. At the last session of the Meeting of the Parties, the Iraqi Minister of Water Resources, His Excellency Muhaned Al-Saidi, declared: “Since its launch twenty years ago, this Convention has significantly enhanced the integrated norms and standard for cooperation, which makes it a best practice model at the international level. The State of Iraq expresses the will to join the Convention once it is open to non-UNECE countries.” It is expected that this will be possible as of the end of 2013.

The Convention’s globalization is considered a strategic priority by its current Parties from the Pan-European region as it brings many advantages. The entering into force of the amendments will create a strong legal base for present and future Parties to the Convention to join their forces to protect transboundary waters and the benefits deriving from them. It will also broaden the pool of experience available and foster exchange. Moreover it will strengthen political support to transboundary water cooperation.

For further information, please visit

or contact:

Ms. Francesca Bernardini or Sonja Koeppel
UNECE Water Convention Secretariat
Phone: 41 (0)22 917 2463


Notes to editors:

The UNECE Water Convention is currently the only international legal framework in force governing the management of transboundary water resources. In the past 21 years since its adoption, the implementation of the Convention has made a great difference on the ground and has led to significant improvement in transboundary water management in the UNECE region, making it the most advanced in this respect worldwide.

Building on the successes achieved, the Parties to the Convention amended it in 2003 to open it up to non-ECE countries. As of 8 November 2012, the sufficient number of countries needed for the entry into force of the amendments was reached. At the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties, they adopted a decision on simplifying the procedure for the accession of non-UNECE countries to the Convention. Any future request for accession by any member of the United Nations will be considered as approved by the MoP, once the amendments to articles 25 and 26 to the Convention enter into force for all the Parties that adopted them in 2003.

This decision reconfirms the conviction of the Parties that the Convention is an effective instrument beyond the UNECE region, as well as the unanimous desire to enable accession by non-UNECE countries as soon as possible, without distinction from the procedure for UNECE countries. While the amendments enter into force on 6 February 2013, for the accession of countries outside the UNECE region to the Convention, all the States and organizations that were Parties to the Convention on 28 November 2003 need to ratify the amendments. It is expected that this will happen by the end of 2013.

Sustainable water management and transboundary cooperation is also among the topics under discussion for the post-2015 development agenda and the potential future sustainable development goals. From 11 to 17 February the currently on-going online consultations will focus on this topic of “water for peace”.

Contribute to the discussions under:

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Information Unit

Palais des Nations, 

CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Tel.: +41 (0) 22 917 44 44

Fax: +41 (0) 22 917 05 05