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No. 15 (294) October 2016


The 20th meeting of the Working Group of the European Union Water Initiative in the countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EUWI EECCA) was held on October 17, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The meeting was chaired by Ms.Carmen Neagu, Senior Adviser of the Directorate of Water Resources Management, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of Romania.

In his opening speech, Mr. Marco Keiner, Director of UNECE Environment Division, mentioned the joint efforts of UNECE and EU in the region and presented a new publication “Water sector reforms in the EECCA countries”. He highlighted the UNECE potential to promote all Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), not only SDG 6, as well as provide methodological assistance when gathering statistics.

Ms. Marta Moren Abat, Desk Officer for International Water Issues, DG Environment, the European Commission, spoke about the importance of the River Basin Management Plans. She noted the financing of the countries in the region by the Commission and anticipations. She also told that the situation in the countries will get better owing to the implementation of EU projects. In Central Asia, the Commission is maintaining permanent relations with these countries, in particular through the Ministerial meting held in Rome; the next one is planned in 2017.

Mr. Matthew Griffiths, Senior Program Manager of OECD Environment Directorate, focused on the Water Framework Directive, which serves as the basis for establishment of a “common language” in European countries and EU affiliated members and building trust through its joint implementation. Nexus-based approach is one of the examples how to ensure harmonization of sectoral policies.

Then the representatives of EECCA countries shared their experiences on the ongoing and planned water sector reforms in their countries.

Azerbaijan. In 2010, UNECE and Azerbaijan signed the Memorandum of Understanding and the work on development of the National Water Resources Strategy began. At the moment, negotiations are held to sign water agreements with Georgia, the nexus project in cooperation with Georgia and UNECE is implemented in the Alazani river basin. In the future it is planned to achieve better results under the Protocol on Water and Health.

Belarus. The representative of the country informed about the adoption of a new Water Code, which came into force in 2015. The document lays the foundations for basin management and stipulates the establishment of basin councils. Activities on adaptation to climate change are undertaken in the Neman river basin.

Kazakhstan. Comprehensive Master Plans for each river basin use are developed and will be renewed every 5 years. Accession to the Protocol on Water and Health is under consideration.

The representative of the Kyrgyz Republic told that several organizations in the country are responsible for water management. At the beginning of 2013, the National Water Council held its first meeting. 5 national basins were selected as separate management units; however, only the Chu-Talas basin is managed successfully by far. Since 2008, 14 meeting were held under the National Policy Dialogues. The results of this work are the developed concept of basin management plan for the Chu River, the national water sector brought into line with the current Water Code, identified water-saving innovations, provided institutional support to the water sector for safe operation of HEPS, developed recommendations for better financing of the water sector, mechanism for coordination of donors supported projects, and established targets in context of the Protocol on Water and Health.

Moldova. Water policy reform is of great importance in context of the signed Moldova-EU Association Agreement. The new Water Code was adopted in 2013, the basin management plans for two river basins are to be updated very soon, and the project on improvement of institutional framework in the sanitation sector is being implemented to achieve SDG.

Turkmenistan. On September 14, 2016, the new edition of the Constitution of Turkmenistan was adopted; on October 15, 2016, the law on adoption of new Water Code came into force. It lays the foundation for IWRM principles, the combination of basin- and administrative-based management of water resources, wider involvement of water users. The Ministry of Agriculture, which was affiliated with the former Ministry of Water Resources, needs the support in capacity building for implementation of the new Water Code. As part of implementation of the National Socio-Economic Development Program until 2030, the Program on climate change was adopted and sustainable development targets are likely to be defined by spring 2017. Moreover, EC-IFAS moves from Tashkent to Ashgabat this year. The main agenda of EC-IFAS in Turkmenistan is likely to be the development of the Aral Sea Basin Program-4.

Tajikistan. Since 2013, water related policy is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources. In December 2015, the Water Sector Reform Program was adopted. The coordination of donors needs to be enhanced: SDC and other European organizations implement projects in the Syrdarya River basin, the World Bank – in the Kafirnigan River basin and ADB – in the Pyandj River basin. The integrated approach is used in the Kafirnigan basin under the World Bank project. The government is planning to establish 4 basin councils. In January 2016, the Steering Group on implementation of water sector reforms was launched and the new Water Code is being developed.

Ukraine. The main priorities are the commitments under the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement and implementation of 6 water related Directives. The country is grateful to European partners for their support in implementation of the projects on the protection of international river basins.

Uzbekistan. Reforms carried out in the water sector allowed reducing water withdrawals from 64 to 51 km3. Within the framework of the Program for 2013-2017, incentives are created to implement water-saving technologies. The cotton areas are reduced – 300,000 ha of cotton were sown with crops consuming less water. Land reclamation activities are planned until 2018 and more than $ 500 million have been used already to reclaim more than 1 million of ha.

The next session was dedicated to activities carried out under EUWI since the 19th meeting of the Working Group. In particular, the representatives of Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan presented detailed information on adoption of normative acts in their countries. Then the representatives of OECD and UNECE told about accomplished and planned activities on water-energy-ecosystem nexus in Central Asia. Recommendations for water resources management were also presented in the latest Environmental Performance Reviews (EPRs) under UNECE.

The final session was dedicated to donors’ projects on water resources management in EECCA countries, including EBRD water projects’ portfolio in Central Asia, Finland's Water Sector Support to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (FinWaterWEI II), OSCE support to transboundary water cooperation and OECD water projects in EECCA countries.

11th meeting of the Working Group on Integrated Water Resources Management under the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) was held on October 18-19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Agenda of the meeting:

  • Progress in the ratification process, including the ratification of the amendments to open the Convention to the countries outside the region.
  • Special session on the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention and its opening for global accession.
  • Support to implementation and application of the Convention.
  • Identifying, assessing and communicating the benefits of transboundary water cooperation.
  • The water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in transboundary basins.
  • Adapting to climate change in transboundary basins.
  • Opening of the Convention, promotion and partnerships.
  • European Union Water Initiative and National Policy Dialogues.
  • International Water Assessment Centre.
  • Water and industrial accidents.

The Secretariat informed the participants about the status of ratification of the Convention and that on 1 March, 2016 it turned into a universally available framework for transboundary water cooperation. Several countries willing to accede to the Convention expressed their congratulations at the special session on the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention and its opening for global accession.

Under the item related to the support to implementation and application of the Convention, three issues were considered. The first issue focused on supporting accession to and implementation of the Convention through projects on the ground and capacity development. The Secretariat informed the Working Group on the ongoing projects in the countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, particularly the projects in the Chu-Talas, Drina, and Dniester Rivers, the Afghan-Tajik cooperation on hydrological and environmental monitoring, the cooperation within the “Water Quality in Central Asia” and “Dam Safety in Central Asia” projects and the assistance to regional cooperation through the development of information space. It is planned to enhance the activity of EECCA NWO with the support of UNECE, GWP and INBO.

Ms. D.R. Ziganshina reported on the second issue related to the outcomes of the sixth meeting of the Implementation Committee on May 3-4, 2016 in Geneva. Particularly, she mentioned the Committee’s role in the global opening of the Convention and the new task entrusted to the Committee by the Bureau — to support the Secretariat in responding to queries from prospective new Parties. The third issue focused on amendments and additions to the question list of the reporting under the Convention. At its seventh session, the Meeting of the Parties adopted decision VII/2 introducing a reporting mechanism under the Convention. According to decision VII/2, reporting will start with a pilot exercise in 2016–2017 to test the annexed template. The Working Group was informed about the deadlines for submitting the pilot reporting until February 28, 2017. UNECE and UNESCO were assigned to globally monitor the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation and its target 6.5 on integrated water resources management and transboundary cooperation, with the proposed indicator 6.5.2 on the proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation. As a result, the Secretariat prepared additional questions for the pilot reporting form, based on which each country should estimate the area of transboundary basins in its the territory, where real cooperation mechanism is in effect. For assessment of effectiveness of cooperation, the following four criteria were proposed:

  • availability of a joint body or commission;
  • availability of formal communication among riparian countries, e.g., through organization of meetings on a regular basis;
  • joint or coordinated action plans for transboundary basins; and
  • regular information exchange among riparian countries.

The Working Group also discussed the first steps to be made for development of a concept for the third comprehensive assessment, including the thematic and geographical scope (taking into account the Convention’s global opening), modalities and partners for implementation, financing options and links with other ongoing processes, such as the reporting under the Convention and the Transboundary Waters Assessment Program.

Identifying, assessing and communicating the benefits of transboundary water cooperation. At its seventh session, the Meeting of the Parties decided to support Parties and other States, at their request, in improving cooperation on their transboundary waters: (a) by highlighting the potential to generate a broad range of significant benefits for cooperating countries and (b) by providing a forum to assess and communicate such benefits in order to contribute to strengthening of ongoing cooperation.

To this end, the “Policy Guidance Note on the Benefits of Transboundary Water Cooperation: Identification, Assessment and Communication” was developed, which was applied in the Okavango and Drina basins. In addition, seminars on raising awareness were held in Mexico and Tunisia. The Program includes pilot assessments to be carried out in other concerned basins in the world in the future, as well as the seminar on sharing experience on pilot assessments in the beginning of 2018.

The water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in transboundary basins. At its seventh session, the Meeting of the Parties adopted the methodology for the assessment of the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus and encouraged its further use. The participants were informed about measures taken proceeding from the results of the assessments main in the Alazani/Ganykh, Sava and Syrdarya Rivers, as well as on new assessments for the Drina basin and North-Western Sahara Aquifer System. It is planned to hold a global workshop on the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus in December 6-7, 2016 in Geneva.

Under this area of work, the Meeting of the Parties also decided to collect best practices on water allocation, water sharing and benefits sharing, including through the organization of a global workshop in 2017 on these topics. The Working Group will therefore discuss how to carry out these tasks, including the timeline of future activities and partners to be involved in this work.

To implement these tasks, the Working Group will meet in November 2016 to discuss first steps. In January-February, it is planned to hold a workshop to define basic issues; in March-April, it is planned to announce the call for best practices on water allocation at the transboundary level. On October 17-18, 2017, it is planned to organize a global workshop. As to the Central Asian region, it was mentioned that the Regional Environmental Center for Central Asia (CAREC) with the support of EU is implementing the “Central Asian Nexus Dialogue” project.

Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan supported the development of the nexus-based approach. Particularly, Kyrgyzstan highlighted the importance of this approach for mutually beneficial hydropower development in the upper river reaches for all riparian countries. It was mentioned that the Kambarata HEPS may meet energy needs of Kyrgyzstan without damage to downstream countries. Kyrgyzstan experts also work on recommendations drafted under UNECE assessment of the nexus in the Syrdarya basin to reach trade-offs. Kazakhstan underscored the nexus-based approach referring to three big HEPS in the Irtysh basin.

Then the participants discussed work on adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins. The Working Group was informed about the outcomes of the 6th workshop on adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins held on September 13-14, 2016, as well as about progress on the pilot projects and other activities within the framework of the global network of basins. The following conclusions were presented:

  • lack of political will – public and decision-maker awareness needs to be raised;
  • importance of financing inside the country (Ministry of Finance);
  • long- and short-term strategies for financing adaptation to climate change;
  • water should be considered in a broader economic context (employment, ecosystems);
  • demand for guidance on existing international funds, which finance climate change related programs (directly or indirectly);
  • need in justification to attract bankers; and
  • basin management plans allow searching financing easier.

Ms. Ziganshina informed about the “Transboundary water management adaptation in the Amudarya basin to climate change uncertainties” project, which is implemented by SIC ICWC with its partners from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and financed by USAID through the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER).

While discussing the item “Opening the Convention, promotion and partnerships”, the participants underlined the importance to encourage the accession to the Conventions by raising awareness of and building capacity on the Convention. National workshops were organized on Water Conventions for Iraq (Amman, 10-11 January 2016), Tunisia (Tunis, September 2016) and Mexico. The following conclusions can be made proceeding from these workshops:

  • lack of political will to promote two Conventions;
  • awareness of the Conventions is raising, however, understanding of their provisions is still at the low level;
  • great demand for capacity building to smooth over misinterpretation of the Conventions;
  • great importance of involvement of all stakeholders and sectors into workshops on raising awareness and building capacity to implement the Conventions;
  • combination of theory and practice; and
  • guidance on the implementation of the Convention is the essential mechanism for its interpretation, but it does not answer all questions and is not always available in easy-to-understand form.

WWF reported on the development of the Roadmap in cooperation with IUCN, Green Cross International and the University of Dundee to promote two Water Conventions at the global level. Particularly, it is proposed to create a web-portal where all references to these Conventions and their implementation will be collected, as well as the database of experts who can help in implementation and extend membership of the Conventions will be developed.

Further group sessions were organized to discuss the draft Strategy for implementation of the Convention at the global level. Finally the participants proposed concrete actions to be incorporated into the Strategy.

Deputy Director, SIC ICWC