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No. 12 (228) September 2013


On 23-24 September, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland, First Workshop “River Basin Commissions and Other Joint Bodies for Transboundary Water Cooperation: Legal and Institutional Aspects” was hold. The First Workshop aims to highlight advanced experience in legal and institutional frameworks for activities of joint bodies.

More than 120 delegates took participation in the work of the workshop. They included representatives from state bodies, river basin organizations, scientific and expert communities, which have practical experience in activities of joint bodies for transboundary water cooperation.

Two key notes were delivered at the workshop. The first key note address “Strengthening legal frameworks for transboundary water cooperation at global level – what value for cooperation in Transboundary basins?” was delivered by Mr. Alejandro Iza, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCNÑ). The second key note address “UNECE Water Convention – 20 years of promoting and supporting joint institutions for transboundary water cooperation”, Ms. Heide Jekel, Germany.

The International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine (ICPR), the European River Prize 2013 winner, delivered the report on evolution of organizational structure and substantive scope and cooperation with non-Convention countries.

The representative from the International Commission for the Congo-Oubangui-Sangha basin (CICOS) told about the transformation of the navigation-dominated commission towards integrated management.

Representatives from the bilateral Authority of Lake Titicaca (ALT) shared their experience in the implementation of the Master plan on utilizing the water resources of Lake Titicaca, the Desaguadero River, Lakes Poopo and saltwater Koipasa. The representative of the Mekong River Commission told about the pass of organizational reforms towards decentralization. The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River shared its experience in the work with NGOs and stakeholders, and ways of reporting. Internal procedures in the International Sava River Basin Commission were highlighted as well. D. Ziganshina, the representative from SIC ICWC for Central Asia, delivered the report on the role of IFAS and ICWC in conflict prevention in the Aral Sea Basin.

At the “Marketplace of tools” session, the following specific tools were presented and discussed in roundtable format: Tool 1. Atlas of Afghan-Tajik cooperation; Tool 2. GWP Toolbox; Tool 3. International Commission for the Protection of the Oder: education for children; Tool 4. Joint Danube Survey 3; Tool 5. Border crossing and customs formalities – practical experience; Tool 6. GEF-IW: Learn projects for the improvement of legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks; Tool 7. Website and annual report of International Sava River Basin Commission (ISRBC); Tool 8. Champion’s Network, IUCN.

The discussion of the initiative of the Champion’s Network, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), was particularly interesting in the context of water diplomacy development. It considers water diplomacy as a process, which works in sovereign states and requires states’ direct involvement, but while enabling to cooperate among other numerous stakeholders, including municipalities, provinces, and civil society. Working within such broad and multilevel governance system, water diplomacy can very successfully integrate state’s priorities regarding its water security and economic growth by means of enabling to integrate biodiversity protection into water resources management. This understanding of bottom-up water diplomacy is successfully implemented by IUCN through the BRIDGE programme and development of Champion’s Network in a range of Latin American countries.

During the second day of the workshop, efforts made for development of new agreements and establishment of joint bodies were highlighted. Rapporteurs told about signing the Memorandum on the Drin River Basin, the establishment of Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM), Afghan-Tajik cooperation on hydrology and environment in the Amudarya River basin upstream.

The separate session was devoted to primary tools for developing cooperation in the framework of joint bodies. By the example of the Finnish-Russian Commission the importance of exchange of data and information was demonstrated. The Russian-Estonian Commission demonstrated the development of joint monitoring and assessment. Also, the report on consultations on planned measures - the experience of Hungary was delivered.

During the workshop, discussions in groups were organized. In the working group for Central Asia, the participant gave the following answers to the set question “How can agreement/joint body be further improved?” First, it is necessary to recognize the current situation, including decreasing multilateral cooperation to some extent and intensification of bilateral contracts within the Aral Sea basin. The main problem is politicization of water-related issues and not always positive impact of “water-associated” and third countries. Identification of solutions should be searched for in strengthening of technical cooperation with the focus on specific problems (dam security, water quality) or specific watercourses, including small rivers. The necessity to reform regional institutions was discussed as well. The participants delivered different opinions, including the idea that it is required to strength the fundament of institutions in countries; reduce number of organizations at regional level; keep the available structures, with compulsory reforming, starting from technical issues (e.g., clarified the IFAS Executive Committee rotation procedure). It was also said that institutional mechanisms should be drastically changed, as the existing problems cannot be solved by just reforms.

The Second Workshop, tentatively planned for 9-10 April 2014, will focus on specific areas and technical aspects of cooperation in the framework of joint bodies, such as cooperation on preservation and restoration of ecosystems, water infrastructure, contingency planning, navigation, fisheries, etc.

EIGHTH MEETING OF THE WORKING GROUP ON INTEGRATED WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT On 25 - 26 September, 2013, Geneva, Switzerland, the Eighth Meeting of the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management within the framework of the UN ECE Water Convention was held. The main goal of the meeting was to consider the progress of the Work Programme for 2013-2015. The Working Group elected its co-Chairs - Ms. Heide Jekel (Germany) and Ms. Lea Kauppi (Finland) and adopted the Report of the joint meeting with the Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment (Geneva, 3-4 July, 2012), discussed the ways to activate the ratification process of the Convention, listened to the report of S. Ibatulin, Vice-Chair of the Implementation Committee, on the first meeting of the Implementation Committee. The secretariat informed the Working Group on the progress achieved in different projects supporting implementation of the Convention in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, as well as Central Asia, developed with the support of the ECE Regional Adviser. The progress report of the pilot projects on climate change adaptation in transboundary basins was delivered. The working group discussed the relevant information paper describing possibilities and problems in view of creating a reporting mechanism, to make a decision regarding the way of analysis on the needs for reporting under the Convention.

The Meeting of the Parties at its sixth session decided to support countries to estimate the benefits of transboundary cooperation (including the costs of non-action) by providing guidance on how to identify, quantify and communicate the range of benefits linked to cooperation. In this regard, the secretariat reported about the outcomes of the first Expert Scoping Workshop on Quantifying the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation, held in Amsterdam, on 6 and 7 June 2013, as well as presented a draft outline of the guidance note on quantifying benefits of transboundary cooperation. The Working Group discussed the outline, and the participants were invited to provide comments, including on potential case studies.

The Chair of the Task Force on the Water- Food-Energy-Ecosystems Nexus reported about the outcomes of the first meeting of the Task Force, held on 8 and 9 April 2013 in Geneva. The secretariat presented the basins, including of the Syrdarya River, planned to be assessed. Representatives of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan thanked for inclusion of the Syrdarya River Basin in the assessment and showed their interest in the action.

The secretariat informed the Working Group on difficulties with financing the activities on Quantifying the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation and Thematic assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus. This, inter alia, can limit participation of pilot basins in the actions. The secretariat called the countries for raising, wherever possible, additional funds for the two items of the actions programs.

The Working Group also discussed issues related to opening of the Convention to countries outside the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe region, with promotion of the Convention and establishment of strategic partnership, with inclusion of water into the post-2015 development agenda, with carrying out processes together with the European Union Water Initiative on National Policy Dialogues, and development of activities in the areas of water and industrial accedents.

Dr. D.R. Ziganshina, Deputy Director of SIC ICWC