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Latin American countries express interest in UNECE experience in transboundary water cooperation

Published: 14 June 2013

All Latin American countries, with one exception, as well as two Caribbean countries – Haiti and the Dominican Republic - met in Buenos Aires to discuss transboundary water cooperation at the invitation of UNECE and partners on 11-12 June. The strong participation from the region proved the importance of this topic, and recognized the need to reinforce cooperation in this field.

Participants – lawyers, diplomats and technical experts – exchanged experience between the regions on topics including adaptation to climate change and reconciling different uses in transboundary basins. There were particularly intense discussions on the global legal and institutional frameworks for transboundary water cooperation, being debated in detail for the first time at a regional level.

The workshop provided a forum to build awareness of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) as a solid legal framework, with the flexibility to adapt to different political and socio-economic circumstances. Experts were interested to benefit from the Convention’s institutional structure and wealth of experience built up over the past 20 years.

It was concluded that, though the countries of the region have a long history of working together to manage transboundary rivers and aquifers, and have several mechanisms for cooperation in place, the UNECE Water Convention would be a useful tool to enhance and channel cooperation across the region. At the same time, the Convention would greatly benefit from Latin American and Caribbean countries sharing their approaches and experiences and eventually joining the treaty.

Several countries from Central America, in particular, wished to examine in greater detail the benefits of using the Convention to provide an overarching framework for transboundary water cooperation in the subregion.

UNECE is relying on its partners active in the region – including its sister organization ECLAC, as well as UNESCO, IUCN and GEF IW:LEARN, who also contributed to the organization of this event – to play a leading role in supporting countries to improve transboundary water cooperation and, possibly, on their path to joining the Convention.

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Nick Bonvoisin


Nataliya Nikiforova

Note to editors:

The UNECE Water Convention is currently the only international legal framework in force governing the management of transboundary water resources. In the 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. Building on the successes achieved, the Parties to the Convention amended it in 2003 to open it up to all United Nations Member States, with this amendment having entered into force in February 2013.

The UNECE Water Convention’s central aim is to strengthen measures at the local, national and transboundary levels to protect and ensure the quantity, quality and sustainable use of transboundary water resources — both surface waters and groundwaters. The Convention takes a holistic approach, based on the understanding that water resources play an integral part in ecosystems as well as in human societies and economies.

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