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New countries from outside the UNECE region express interest in the Water Convention

Several countries from outside the UNECE region expressed interest in acceding to the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) at the tenth meeting of the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management, held on 24 and 25 June 2015 in Geneva, while many other countries and organizations voiced their interest in the Convention’s activities.

Algeria, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mongolia and Tunisia, for example, requested activities to raise awareness on and increase understanding of the Convention’s legal and institutional framework, such as a national or regional workshop. Jordan shared its experience and lessons learned from organizing such a workshop in March 2015. Regional organizations and river basin commissions, including the International Commission for the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha Basin (CICOS), the Community for Eastern African States (CEEAC), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee for the La Plata Basin Countries (CIC), offered their help in raising awareness on the Convention at the regional level and expressed interest in using the mechanisms and tools developed under the Convention.

With a third of participating countries from outside the UNECE region, the meeting showed the new universal character of the Convention. The upcoming seventh session of the Meeting of the Parties (Budapest, 17-19 November 2015) is likewise expected to be a global meeting.

Even if reporting was not originally foreseen in the Convention’s text, the discussion on the possible introduction of a reporting mechanism showed that the Convention is evolving to meet emerging needs. Parties reviewed the proposal for the introduction of such a mechanism and draft template for it, prepared by the Core Group on Reporting, and decided to submit a draft decision to the Meeting of the Parties on introducing a first a pilot reporting exercise to test the template.

In addition, participants heard presentations of the draft findings from four basin-level assessments on the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus in the Syr Darya, Sava, Isonzo/Soča and Alazani/Ganykh Rivers. The draft reports highlight opportunities for reducing intersectoral impacts in transboundary river basins through coordinated planning and action by different economic sectors, notably energy and agriculture, with water and environment authorities. Interest was voiced from within and outside the ECE region for additional assessments in different river basins, and some of the assessed basins expressed a wish for follow-up activities.

Countries also endorsed the draft policy guidance note entitled “Counting our Gains,” which helps to identify, assess and communicate the benefits of transboundary cooperation. The Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission, for example, reported that it had already started using the policy guidance. In addition, participants welcomed the recent publication prepared under the Water Convention “Water and Climate Change Adaptation in Transboundary Basins: Lessons Learned and Good Practices”.