The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) can be a source of inspiration for progress in the management of shared surface waters and groundwaters in the Arab region and neighbouring States. Accession to the Water Convention could reinforce cooperation with riparian countries and lead to the equitable utilization of shared waters. Such potential benefits were acknowledged by participants in a workshop that gathered representatives of 12 Arab States on 11 and 12 June 2014 in Tunis. Key aspects of different legal frameworks for cooperation on shared waters were discussed, in particular the opportunity that the globalization of the UNECE Water Convention represents for the Arab region.
Countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia, as well as Palestine, expressed their interest in further studying the Water Convention and its applicability in their particular settings. Iraq and Tunisia reconfirmed their willingness to join the Convention.
The workshop was held under the patronage of the Minister of Agriculture of Tunisia, Mr. Lasaad Lachaal. UNECE, the Center of Water Studies and Arab Water Security of the League of Arab States and the Global Water Partnership Mediterranean, in collaboration with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, cooperated to organize this landmark workshop. The workshop was held at the request of the Arab Ministerial Water Council, operating within the framework of the League of Arab States, as expressed in a resolution adopted in June 2013.
In the Arab region, more than two thirds of water resources, both surface waters and groundwaters, are shared by countries within the region or with neighbouring countries from outside the region. With growing anthropogenic and climatic pressures on these scarce resources, cooperation is crucial to ensure regional peace, stability and development. Participants highlighted the specificities of the Arab region, such as water scarcity and high dependence on groundwaters, which would need more attention in the future work to be implemented under the Convention.
At the workshop, international experts from Parties to the Convention (France and Lithuania) shared their experiences in implementing the Convention. Good practices for cooperation on shared waters were also presented, for example by the Sahara and Sahel Observatory on the management of the North-Western Sahara Aquifer System.
For further information please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/water/workshop_arab_countries_2014.html
Chantal Demilecamps, UNECE
Tel.: +41 (0)22 917 2468
Note to editors:
The workshop “Legal frameworks for cooperation on transboundary waters — Key aspects and opportunities for the Arab countries” was organized with the financial support of France, Switzerland and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) International Waters Learning Exchange and Resource Network (IW:LEARN).
The UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (known also as the Helsinki or 1992 Water Convention) has provided, since its entry into force in 1996, an important framework for improving the management of transboundary surface water and groundwater resources in the pan-European region. The Water Convention has become a global multilateral legal framework for transboundary water cooperation, open to accession by all United Nations Member States. In that context, the Water Convention could offer a solid cooperation framework for countries in the Arab region and with neighbouring countries.
The Guide to Implementing the Water Convention published in 2013 (www.unece.org/index.php?id=33657&L=0) constitutes a commentary to the Convention’s provisions, providing explanations of the legal, procedural, administrative, technical and practical aspects of the Convention’s requirements for appropriate implementation.
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