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Benefits of transboundary water cooperation

Cooperation is one of the main obligations of the Water Convention. Countries preparing for accession to or implementing the Convention naturally reflect on what benefits such cooperation can generate, such as accelerated economic growth, improved human well-being, enhanced environmental sustainability and increased political stability.

The work on benefits of transboundary water cooperation under the Water Convention, co-led by Estonia and Serbia and supported by UNECE, aims at improving cooperation between States on their transboundary waters by highlighting the potential to generate a broad range of significant benefits for cooperating countries. It includes:

The work on benefits of transboundary is part of the 2016-2018 programme of work of the Water Convention.


Guidance document on the benefits of transboundary water cooperation

The Policy Guidance Note on identifying, assessing and communicating the benefits of transboundary water cooperation, published in October 2015, aims to support Governments and other stakeholders in realizing the potential benefits of transboundary water cooperation.

It does so by introducing the wide range of benefits of cooperation and providing step-by-step guidance on how to carry out a benefit assessment exercise. This includes the separate but related tasks of identification, assessment and communication of benefits. It suggests how to approach those tasks, as well as how the assessment of benefits can be integrated into policy processes to foster and strengthen transboundary water cooperation.

Support to projects in transboundary basins

A benefit assessment exercise can help countries to fully realize the potential benefits of cooperation, including by uncovering previously overlooked benefits and identifying opportunities arising from increased cooperation. It can therefore provide arguments and compelling evidence for cooperating and help to ensure the much-needed political support and funding for the cooperation process.

Three pilot projects have been implemented so far:

Transboundary basinActivitiesRelated events

Drina River Basin (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro)


The assessment in the Drina River Basin provided a basis for the identification of opportunities and concrete benefits of transboundary cooperation across sectors (Water-Food-Energy-Ecosystems Nexus), but also of improved intersectoral coordination at the state level. The work was carried out in the framework of the project "Greening economic development in Western Balkans through applying a nexus approach and identification of benefits of transboundary cooperation".

Basin workshop 1 (April 2016)

Basin workshop 2 (April 2017)

Cubango Okavango River Basin (Angola, Botswana, Namibia)


The assessment of the benefits of cooperation in the CORB basin builds on national assessments of the benefits that could emerge from stronger cooperation between riparian countries. It aims to develop a common basin vision of the benefits of cooperation, exploring next steps to realize the potential benefits of stronger cooperation, in particular focusing on communication. It complements a Multi Sectoral Investment Opportunities Assessment carried out by the World Bank in the basin.Basin workshop (May 2017)

Sio Malaba Malakisi River Basin (Kenya, Uganda)


The participative benefit opportunities assessment dialogue in the SMM basin aims to facilitate the adoption of broader view on the benefits generated by cooperation and to support the prioritization of development projects in the basin. It is implemented in the framework of the project "Strengthening transboundary water governance and cooperation in the IGAD region".Basin workshop 1 (May 2017)

Briefing note: Why and how to carry out a Benefit assessment exercise

Exchange of experience at the global level

Several activities have facilitated the exchange of experiences related to the benefits of transboundary water cooperation.

A global workshop on the benefits of transboundary water cooperation is planned on 6-7 February 2018 in Geneva.

Expert workshop "Beyond water: Regional economic integration and geopolitical benefits of transboundary water cooperation" (Tallinn, Estonia, 28-29 January 2015)

Workshop "Counting our gains: sharing experiences on identifying, quantifying and communicating the benefits of transboundary water cooperation" (Geneva, 22-23 May 2014)

Expert Scoping Workshop on Quantifying the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation (Amsterdam, 6-7 June 2013)