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Countries of the Caucasus meet in Tbilisi to address common challenges on Water and Health issues

A workshop to address and improve the situation of water and health in the Caucasus was held in Tbilisi on 27 and 28 May 2013. Specifically, the meeting gathered over 40 representatives of major governmental and non-governmental stakeholders from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to discuss the challenges related the implementation of the Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, which obliges countries to set targets for improving health-related water indicators in their countries.

The workshop, part of a subregional project supported by Finland, was organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia, in cooperation with the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) and the Global Water Partnership Georgia.

At the opening session, the Deputy Minister of Environment Protection and Natural Resources of Georgia, Ms. Nino Sharashidze, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Georgia, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, delivered welcoming statements highlighting the importance of achieving progress in ensuring safe drinking water supply and adequate sanitation in Georgia and the Caucasus.

During plenary and working group sessions participating countries exchanged experiences on health-related water issues, such as small-scale water supply and sanitation, water and sanitation safety planning, wastewater treatment, access to water and sanitation in rural areas and public participation under the Protocol. It was underlined that all three countries had achieved important progress in access to improved drinking water in rural areas: during 2005–2012 Azerbaijan had seen an increase from 69 to 74 per cent and Georgia from 80 to 96 per cent, while Armenia had achieved an increase from 92 to 94 per cent in the period 2008–2012. However, access to sanitation in rural areas has not seen any substantial improvement in recent years.

Currently, Azerbaijan is the only Party to the Protocol in the Caucasus, while Armenia and Georgia are moving towards its ratification. In this regard, the workshop focused on the implementation of the core obligation under the Protocol, reflected in its article 6, which requires Parties to establish national and/or local targets and target dates in different areas to achieve or maintain a high level of protection of human health and well-being and for the sustainable management of water resources. All three countries committed to intensifying their efforts to officially set relevant targets under the Protocol that would serve as a comprehensive policy framework to work towards improving situation in water supply and sanitation for the benefit of the entire subregion.

For more information, please visit: www.unece.org/env/water.html

or contact:

Mr. Nicholas Bonvoisin
UNECE-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health secretariat
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 1193
E-mail: nicholas.bonvoisin@unece.org


Note for Editors:

The UNECE-WHO/Europe Protocol on Water and Health, which entered into force on 4 August 2005, is the first international agreement that, by linking water management and health issues, specifically ensures the adequate supply of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. The Protocol has 26 Parties, which include Albania, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.