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UNECE contributes to growing momentum on water cooperation and universal access to water and sanitation at World Water Forum

Water is a topic of cross-cutting significance for sustainable development and increasingly high on political, environmental and development agendas of countries around the world. As the majority of freshwater flows worldwide cross borders, ensuring effective cooperation for their sustainable management is vital. Providing universal access to water and sanitation is also at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, underpinning the attainment of its Goals and targets.

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), serviced by UNECE, and the UNECE/WHO-Europe Protocol on Water and Health provide a practical framework for countries to work together for sustainable water management. In the context of growing water scarcity and as global momentum builds around water cooperation, UNECE shared its experience at the world’s largest gathering on water, the World Water Forum, held 18 to 23 March 2018 in Brasilia, which gathered around 40,000 attendees.

Linking access to water and sanitation and human rights

On World Water Day (22 March), the secretariat of the Protocol on Water and Health, along with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, organized a special session on international mechanisms and procedures to realize the human rights to water and sanitation.

The session aimed at understanding how different mechanisms such as the Compliance Committee of the Protocol and the Human Rights Special Procedures can be used by  those who do not enjoy access to these rights. Key issues identified were included communication with civil society (especially with regard to refugees), lack of transparency in public-private partnerships, and difficulty of turning declarations into hard law. The special session also identified several best practices, including public participation and the success of public reporting for communication between governments and civil society. The public was called upon to be more proactive in using the tools available to ensure that their human rights to water and sanitation are realized.

Advancing transboundary cooperation

UNECE also led the discussions on transboundary water cooperation. Under the collaborative leadership of Hungary, Peru and other partners, UNECE organized a session on the successful negotiation and implementation of transboundary cooperation agreements.

The event demonstrated how transboundary cooperation can bring benefits to all riparian countries, for example through exchange and dissemination of data, development of river basin management plans and common investment strategies. Effective legal and institutional frameworks for transboundary cooperation at global, regional and basin level are crucial for peace and stability, development and human well-being in shared basins.

In this regard, the high interest in the Water Convention and the recent accession by Chad as well as progress towards ratification by Senegal and other countries was welcomed by many. Such progress and interest towards accession was also discussed in numerous bilateral meetings held between UNECE, the Convention’s chair and ministers of interested countries including Chad, Senegal, Iraq, Tunisia, Viet Nam, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras.

UNECE was solicited and invited by a number of partners and countries, including from outside the UNECE region, to contribute to other events held during the Forum, for example on financing climate change adaptation in transboundary basins and monitoring and assessment and the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus.

The 8th World Water Forum happened in a very significant year for the Water Convention, as the eighth Meeting of the Parties (MoP) will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan on 10-12  October. This Meeting of the Parties will be the first with Parties from outside the Pan-European region. In this regard, the Forum was an important step towards engaging in a broader discussion with countries and partners on transboundary water management and cooperation challenges.

More details about the involvement of UNECE in the World Water Forum can be found at:  https://www.unece.org/index.php?id=48204 

as well as on the World Water Forum website:  http://www.worldwaterforum8.org/en