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UNECE and UNISDR launch guidelines on water-related disasters and transboundary cooperation

Published: 15 October 2018

The majority of disasters are water-related, either directly or indirectly. Over the past twenty years, there has been a sustained rise and frequency in the number of climate-related disasters such as floods and droughts.

When disasters take place, access to water can be severely restrained either through drought, restricted physical and economic access to safe drinking water or water unsafety due to contamination through floods. It is estimated that the global average annual loss from disasters will almost double in the near future, reaching US$ 414 billion by 2030. This puts at risk economic growth, poverty reduction, peace, and compromises global efforts to reach the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals.

Considering that 60% of the world’s freshwater flows in transboundary basins, effective transboundary cooperation is an increasingly important dimension of water-related disaster risk reduction.

To help respond to these challenges, UNECE and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) launched on the eve of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, 13 October, a new practical guide for applying the principles of resilience to water-related disaster risk reduction strategies. The guidance was launched at the Water Convention’s 8th Meeting of the Parties (MOP8) in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Words into Action Guidelines – Implementation guide for addressing water-related disasters and transboundary cooperation aims to strengthen countries’ capacities to implement the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Water Convention, which is serviced by UNECE, by offering a roadmap with concrete examples to help address water-related disasters, especially in situations where the transboundary context adds to the complexity of risk reduction.

The guidelines specifically target the water, disaster risk reduction and climate change communities, aiming to bring them together so that they may jointly design effective and comprehensive disaster reduction measures.

Incorporating transboundary cooperation and climate change adaptation in disaster risk reduction strategies helps to reinforce prevention. The critical situation around the Dniester River Basin, which is a mountain river and hence more vulnerable to climate change, led to the adoption in 2015 of the Strategic Framework for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Dniester River Basin between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. This framework builds on a model that brings together data currently available and possible future trends in climate change in the Dniester River Basin. Foreseeing different scenarios is important is crucial.

The guidelines were welcomed by countries present at MOP8. Callist Tindimugaya from the Ministry of Water and Environment in Uganda highlighted that “awareness about the importance of river basin management and transboundary cooperation in Disaster Risk Reduction is still very low in many parts of the world”, noting that the guide “highlights the need for employing an integrated water resources management approach following a basin as a means of effectively addressing water related-disasters and adapting to impacts of climate change”.

The guidelines form part of the “Words into Action” series, which offers pragmatic roadmaps that combine a cross-sectoral and cross-regional expertise and practice to guide policy makers, technical working groups, international organizations and non-governmental organizations in their work on disaster risk reduction.


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