UNECE, UNESCO Publish Global Baseline for Progress on Transboundary Cooperation on Water
UN Photo/Mark Garten
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The UN estimates that transboundary basins account for 60% of global freshwater flows, and are home to more than 40% of the world’s population.

The report covers 62 countries for which sufficient information is available, and shows that cooperation arrangements exist for less than 60% of their transboundary basin area.

The agencies call for promoting transboundary cooperation through implementing joint legal frameworks, improving monitoring, increasing access to finance, and undertaking water cooperation in tandem with action on related issues, such as poverty alleviation, peace and security.

27 August 2018: The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a report on global progress towards transboundary cooperation on water (SDG target 6.5) at World Water Week 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. In the report titled, ‘Progress on Transboundary Water Cooperation 2018: Global Baseline for SDG Indicator 6.5.2,’ UNECE and UNESCO note that, at the current rate of progress, the world is unlikely to achieve the target by 2030.

The agencies call for promoting transboundary cooperation through implementing joint legal frameworks, improving monitoring, increasing access to finance, and undertaking water cooperation in tandem with action on related issues, such as poverty alleviation, peace and security.

SDG target 6.5 seeks to implement integrated water resources management (IWRM) at all levels by 2030, including through transboundary cooperation, as appropriate. Two indicators are associated with this target: the degree of IWRM implementation (SDG indicator 6.5.1), which is overseen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), and the proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational agreement for water cooperation (SDG indicator 6.5.2), overseen by UNECE and UNESCO. The report is jointly published by UNECE and UNESCO in their role as co-custodians for SDG indicator 6.5.2, on behalf of UN-Water.

Existing arrangements on aquifers are rare.

The UN estimates that transboundary basins account for 60% of global freshwater flows, and are home to more than 40% of the world’s population. The report covers 62 countries for which sufficient information is available, and shows that cooperation arrangements exist for less than 60% of their transboundary basin area. It also shows that, on average, three transboundary water cooperation agreements are put in place each year – an insufficient rate of progress towards the target. In particular, insufficient attention has been given to cooperation on groundwater aquifers, for which existing arrangements are rare.

The report proposes that countries set national and basin targets for achieving full coverage of all shared water resources, and highlights that existing legal frameworks, such as the EU Water Framework Directive and the Revised Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Protocol, have been important drivers for cooperation on water resources. It notes that Europe, North America and sub-Saharan Africa have been relatively successful in putting such arrangements in place. Recent progress is presented by region and by theme, including progress on data exchange, establishment of joint bodies, and adoption of shared management plans and objectives.

The report recommends that countries build on the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (the Water Convention), the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (the Watercourses Convention), and the International Law Commission (ILC) Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers. Other recommendations are to draw on existing climate finance to address transboundary water issues, and to use water as an entry point for jointly addressing other sustainability issues, such as climate change, poverty and conflict.

Parties to the Water Convention will review the report at the upcoming eighth Meeting of the Parties (MOP) in Astana, Kazakhstan, from 10-12 October. The Water Convention was originally a European regional agreement that is now open for global signature.

The report was prepared under the UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6, which brings together three complementary initiatives: WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (JMP), Integrated Monitoring of Water and Sanitation-Related SDG Targets (GEMI), and UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS). [Publication: Progress on Transboundary Water Cooperation 2018: Global Baseline for SDG Indicator 6.5.2] [Report Web Page] [UNECE Press Release] [UN-Water Page on SDG Target 6.5]


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