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No. 7 (223) August 2013


On August 20-21, 2013, International High-Level Conference on Water Cooperation organized by the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan (RT) together with UN institutions was hold in Dushanbe.

More than 1000 participants from about 100 countries of the world participated in the conference. UN institutions, as well as other international organizations dealing with water issues (World Water Council, Global Water Partnership, International Water Management Institute, etc.) were represented. Heads of national delegations from the countries of Central Asia included the Minister of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Prime-Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources of Uzbekistan and Deputy Minister of Water Resources of Turkmenistan.

The main goal of the conference was stated as contribution to improved water cooperation, particularly, in a transboundary context, through sharing best practices, distribution of environmental-friendly technologies and know-how, ensuring the participation of all stakeholders, encouragement of leaders on promoting water cooperation at all levels to reach water goals coordinated at the international level.

The four main themes were proposed to discuss at the conference: (1) human development, (2) economic benefits, (3) ecosystems, (4) transboundary water cooperation; and the four cross issues included (À) gender issues, (Â) capacity building, (Ñ) sectoral synergies, and (D) triggers and catalysts for water cooperation. Two High-Level Plenary Meetings, eight High-Level Panels (HLPs) and nineteen Special Focused Events (SFEs) were organized to discuss these themes and issues.

The first plenary meeting was chaired by Mr. A. Akilov, Prime-Minister of RT. Welcome speeches were delivered by: Mr. Emomali Rakmon, President of RT; Mr. John Ashe, President of the 68th UN General Assembly; Mr. Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (on behalf of the UN Secretary General); Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand; Mr. Zhantoro Satybaldyev, Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic; Mr. Alberto Antonio Clementino Vakvina, Prime Minister of Mozambique; Ms. Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General; Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, UNDP Associate Administrator and UN Under-Secretary-General; the representative of the World Bank; Mr. Benedito Braga, President of the World Water Council; Ms. Alice Bouman-Dentener, President of the Women for Water Partnership.

High-Level Panel 1. Water Cooperation for Human Development

It is impossible to talk about water cooperation without sustainable human development. The rapporteurs talked about possibility of big investments in the water sector and reminded of high coefficient of return on investment in the sector of drinking water supply and sanitation. The role of education and capacity building was mentioned especially, strengthening a dialogue between sectors and public, necessity of wide social involvement were emphasized. One of the rapporteurs noted that three things are required for success:

  1. Involve decision-makers beyond traditional water sectors. All actors, including public, should be involved at the earliest stages.
  2. Develop knowledge bases, data bases, information exchange, monitoring and evaluation.
  3. Identify priority lines to promote water security.

The representative of Afghanistan characterized a critical situation in the country, which inter alia is connected with use of transboundary resources. Ms. Ziganshina D.R., Deputy Director of SIC ICWC, noted that human development in Central Asia is not possible without solution of water resources management issues at a regional level; regional information systems, capacity building programmes and other perspective programmes, which facilitate water saving and IWRM implementation should be developed and, therefore, financed, and mechanisms of coordination and cooperation strengthened.

A moderator summarized the HLP findings as follows:

  1. Water and human development are inalienable. For example, in Costa-Rica, good indicators on health of population were achieved through ensuring a universal access to water, and it was done when the country was very poor.
  2. Involvement of people to this process is a serious issue to think over, and people to be considered not as an object but as active actors.
  3. IWRM at a level of communities is required to connect with the national policy and strategy.
  4. Lack of cooperation is an exception, and, as a rule, cooperation prevails. Use of regional institutions and global agreements.

High-Level Panel 2. Water Cooperation for Economic Benefits

The rapporteurs gave examples of receiving economic benefits from cooperation in Bangladesh and Zambezi. Information sharing was emphasized. Lack of trust for implementation of potential benefits, which strengthen availability of geographic and other barriers were listed among main problematic issues. Among possible alternate solutions, the following were mentioned:

  • wider use of modern technologies for data sharing, which have creditability of all actors
  • strengthening of institutions (regional institutions, river commissions)
  • involvement of local communities in a decision making process

Strengthening of trust has a key role in establishment of long-term cooperation.

High-Level Panel 3. Water Cooperation for Ecosystems

  • Systems for proper evaluation of ecosystem services are required;
  • Involvement of communities is important to ensure;
  • Education has a key role;
  • Intersectoral interaction and partnership;
  • Balance and interconnection between traditional and natural infrastructure.

The solutions include application of integral and partnership approaches, establishment of a dialogue, impossibility of keeping ecosystems without IWRM.

Key HLP messages:

  1. Education and information on importance of ecosystem services;
  2. Data for informing on a decision making process are required;
  3. Attraction of investments for keeping environment is important.

High-Level Panel 4. Water Cooperation across Boundaries

Three key messages were summarized by Bo Libert, the HLP rapporteur, as follows:

  1. Legal message – Significance of the UN Convention of 1997 and UNECE Convention of 1992 for mending of cooperation. Basin organizations are an important platform for cooperation.
  2. Starting point for cooperation is joint understanding of available benefits and values from cooperation.
  3. Problems, as a rule, are in a broader context of social, economic and political issues.

Need for capacity building, finding of new approaches and mending of “renewal” relations was mentioned especially. In order to strengthen cooperation, the participants consider as important to share reliable and trustworthy data, search for ways to strengthen trust, start a scientific dialogue, take into account durable benefits and consider possibilities of involving third parties to facilitate cooperation.

High-Level Panel 5. Water Cooperation and Gender

The HLP discussed issues of providing an equitable access for men and women to water resources, education and managerial processes. Necessity of wider involvement of women in the processes of policy and strategy development was mentioned, since they can bring a new perspective when considering problems and are less subject to corruption. Full and valuable involvement of women could be provided when critical mass (more than 30%) required for this is reached. Gender aspects should not be considered isolated, gender indicators must become one of key indicators of good governance.

Role of women’s education, from school education to holding PhD, was noted particularly. The participants believe it is women’s education that should be invested. The participants of the Women Forum, which was hold on the threshold of the conference in Dushanbe, proposed to establish a dedicated Fund, funds of which will be used for implementation of special programs for women.

High-Level Panel 6. Water Cooperation and Capacity Building

Capacity building is a central component of water cooperation. It helps establish platforms for intersectoral communication and trust strengthening. It is insufficient to pay attention to capacity building of specialists only, it is important to work more on institutional capacity building. Ensuring of political and financial support from government is of great importance in this context.

Final documents of the Conference

On the results of the Conference, the Dushanbe Declaration and the Dushanbe Action Plan on Water Cooperation were adopted. Their texts were sent to the countries through national bureaus under UN for comments and proposals and not discussed during the Conference. During two weeks, notes and proposals can be incorporated to the Draft Dushanbe Action Plan, which will be available on the web-site of the Conference.

SIC ICWC participation

Representatives of SIC ICWC (Ziganshina D.R. and Mukhamedjanov Sh.Sh.) took participation at Special Focused Events (SFEs), besides Plenary Meetings and HLPs.

Ziganshina D.R. spoke in debates of the HLP “Water Cooperation for Human Development” about close interdependence of sustainable human development in every regional country and issues of efficient and sustainable use of transboundary water resources. It is vividly obvious in Central Asia where irrational use of transboundary waters leads to lack of water for downstream population and ecosystems during some years. Therefore, it is important to strengthen regional cooperation and be oriented towards development of perspective programmes on water saving, IWRM implementation, capacity building and information sharing.

At the SFE 4 “Pathways to Collaboration on Transboundary Waters – 2013” organized by UNRCCA and Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Resources of the Republic of Tajikistan, in response to the question about public participation in water organizations of Central Asia, Ziganshina D.R. told about experience of “IWRM-Ferghana” project and establishment of Water Users’ Associations (WUAs) and public councils at canal level. She also mentioned development of draft regional agreements where establishment of Basin Councils under BWOs “Amudarya” and “Syrdaya” and in the Chu-Talas basin is provided for.

At the SFE 14 “Triggers and Catalysts to transboundary water cooperation”, Ziganshina D.R. laid strictures on insufficient and wrong understanding of the role of international law among decision-makers and wide public. Often, the right is normally taken to mean a separate agreement only, which is quoted everywhere, but no efforts are taken to gain an insight into it. It is left out of account that efficient legal mechanisms are formed as a result of practices of states and raising a sense of justice. Therefore, it is important to establish and strengthen the platform for joint learning and communication, where politicians and specialists from different countries can work together to generate the common for the region understanding of the principle of “equitable and wise water use”, but not its isolated interpretation by every country. It also was mentioned that cooperation is not a meaningless word but a legal commitment. The countries should cooperate in good faith, and this implies adoption of specific activities at national and regional levels in order to ensure cooperation.

At the SFE 7 “Water cooperation is a key driver for development”, Mukhamedjanov Sh.Sh. delivered a proposal on consideration of cooperation mechanisms in terms of agreed actions, on the basis of detailed study and consideration of the existing situation in water resources management at transboudary level. As an example, the case of the Uchkurgan hydroscheme, where distribution of water flow during a year has changed dramatically for the recent 20 years, was described. The examples were given: water flow of 1993 and recent years in winter and summer periods was given. The difference is that water flow increased from 450 m3/sec up to 1000 m3/sec in winter period and decreased from 300 m3/sec up to 50-100 m3/sec in summer period.

The SFE 7 discussed importance of rising potential and, above all, importance of keeping environmental balance, and that water management should take into account this user first of all.

At the SFE 19 “Scenario thinking to enhance water cooperation in the Aral Sea basin”, FAO presented its model, which they try to use for development of a strategy based on specific indicators. A presentation of the FAO Regional Office on a new project in Central Asia was delivered.

At the SFE 1 “IWRM as a practical approach for adaptation to climate change in the countries of Central Asia and Caucasus”, GWP conducted a session on consideration of national climate change adaptation programs. At the session, Mukhamedjanov, from SIC ICWC, delivered the GWP Climate Change Adaptation Programme using the example of a pilot plot in Ferghana province. Main issues when organizing activities are as follows: identification of irrigation and agrotechnical problems under different climatic conditions and finding of ways for their solutions. A strategy for adaptation of technologies to climate change is built on the basis of a set of technological solutions in different climatic years.

General conclusions

Issues of water cooperation were discussed at the Conference on a broad scale, including issues of human development and gender. Issues of water and energy resources use in Central Asia were also raised but not escalated during the meetings. Interests of the countries were expressed in some interviews of participants from Central Asia. The participants talked about available problems and fundamental differences in interests in water resources use, but also mentioned need for cooperation, strengthening of trust and finding of ways to reduce excessive politicization of the issues in order to find practical decisions.

Practically, all the HLPs stated a key role of data sharing and improvement of their reliability, as this can facilitate strengthening of trust between the countries. Issues of capacity building were another cooperation mechanism mentioned often. Finally, it was stated repeatedly that cooperation is a commitment of countries on international law, therefore countries should find concrete mechanisms to ensure it.