In a recent webinar hosted at the World Meteorological Organisation, Ms. Vercambre, Director of GCI’s Water for Life and Peace programme, joined a panel of experts who introduced and discussed the latest developments of the 1997 United Nations Watercourses Convention, and Cooperation on Transboundary Water Resources (UNWC). The webinar, part of a Distance Learning Course on International Water Law & the Law of Transboundary Aquifers at the University of Geneva, focused on the Convention’s main features and its relationship with other regional and basin agreements. It gave students the chance to interact with some of the pioneers of the worldwide adoption and ratification of the Convention.
Marie-Laure Vercambre has been leading GCI’s efforts to promote and ratify the UNWC’s convention for nearly 10 years. Her first hand experiences and input are invaluable for those who may one day influence and shape policies on similar issues.
Ms. Vercambre, Director of GCI’s Water for Life and Peace programme
She used this platform to emphasise the importance of cooperation at all levels as key towards the success of the UNWC. To demonstrate GCI’s insight on the competing perspectives influencing the Convention, Ms. Vercambre presented workshops promoting dialogue between jurists, policy-makers, government, local communities, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders. One such workshop, organised in the Ivory Coast for key Ghanaian and Ivorian stakeholders, saw participants discuss the effects of poor practices by local fishing, farming and small-mining activities on the Bia River, which is a resource shared by both countries. They also identified solutions to reduce these negative effects.
There are 276 transboundary freshwater lake and river basins worldwide, however only 40% of these are managed through agreements. Ms. Vercambre said that raising awareness about the economic and socio-political benefits of ratifying the UNWC, amongst the public and relevant stakeholders, could lead to accelerated action.
Following the webinar, Ms. Vercambre stated that: “Transboundary cooperation over shared waters has come a long way since Green Cross started addressing the issue in the late 1990s. We are grateful for the support we received and for all that was accomplished with our partners.” She also added that “this webinar was an excellent opportunity to exchange with the student community and we thank the Geneva Water Hub
and the DiploFoundation
for organising it.”
Also speaking at the event was Dr. Makane Moise Mbengue, a professor at the Faculty of Law and the Institute for Environmental Science at the University of Geneva. An expert consultant for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the African Union, amongst others, Dr. Mbengue also promoted the UNWC’s ratification – highlighting, however, that implementation could be challenging because of previous agreements that were already in place. Watercourse States are allowed to enter into other agreements, and the UNWC’s implementation does not supersede previous agreements. In Dr. Mbengue’s view, the main challenge in implementing the UNWC is the complicated and confusing legal implications of overlapping agreements.