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Over 40 countries gathered in Budapest to drive development of transboundary water cooperation agreements and other arrangements

Over 40 countries gathered in Budapest to drive development of transboundary water cooperation agreements and other arrangements

SDGsWater Convention

Climate ChangeEnvironmentSustainable Development

14 November 2023

Transboundary rivers, lakes, and aquifers play a vital role in supporting the livelihoods of billions of people worldwide. Roughly 60% of global freshwater flow is in shared basins. About 40% of the world’s population lives in shared basins. The development and management of transboundary water resources have historically been fraught with challenges. Divergent interests, inadequate legal frameworks, and limited technical capacity have often impeded equitable and sustainable cooperation among riparian states. This has led to disputes, environmental degradation, and hindered socio-economic development in many regions.  

The development of operational arrangements on shared waters serves as a fundamental instrument to prevent conflicts and ensure effective, equitable and sustainable use and management of water resources. Cooperation in the management of shared water resources is also key to reducing water-related risks – such as floods and droughts, and to increasing resilience to climate change. However, the current status of basin cooperation around the world varies significantly. Out of 153 states sharing transboundary lakes, rivers or aquifers, only 24 have all their basins covered by operational arrangements. 

In response, the Water Convention secretariat (UNECE), under the leadership of the Governments of Hungary and Germany and with the support of several partners, held a global workshop in Budapest on 7-8 November to support the development of transboundary water cooperation agreements and other arrangements

At the workshop, over 90 participants benefited from the extensive experience and insights of countries that have successfully navigated the negotiation processes leading to the development and implementation of transboundary water cooperation agreements. Speakers shared challenges that arose throughout the process and provided recommendations based on their experience. Through the practical and interactive sessions, participants learned how to develop sustainable, adaptable and effective transboundary water agreements and to revise existing ones on the basis of fictive case studies and draft agreements, with the use of the “Practical Guide for the Development of Agreements or Other Arrangements for Transboundary Water Cooperation”. 

Discussants recalled that developing an agreement is first about building trust, but emphasized that this is a process, which also required maintaining political momentum at the highest level. Another important takeaway was the need to consider the longer-term perspective in developing legal frameworks by ensuring flexibility. The role of third parties such the Water Convention Implementation Committee and other partners were also explored. 

Several basin and bilateral meetings were also organized following the workshop, helping to strengthen transboundary water cooperation at a regional level. During the session of the Regional Working Group on the Senegalo-Mauritanian Aquifer Basin held on 9-10 November 2023, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, and Senegal approved a road map to negotiate a legal arrangement for cooperation on the SMAB by 2025. Officials from Hungary, Ghana and Zambia also met to advance their planning for collaboration on technical topics and key activities as part of their three-way twinning arrangement which will kick off with an official launch meeting in Accra, Ghana on 19-20 December 2023.  

Partners for the Global Workshop on the Development of Transboundary Water Cooperation Agreements or other Arrangements were GEF IW: LEARN, Geneva Water Hub/University of Geneva, Global Water Partnership (GWP), International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO); International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Northumbria University, World Bank (WB) and others. 

Source : https://unece.org/media/news/385244

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