Drought, water scarcity shows world needs global governance for protecting watercourses

Governments must ratify a global watercourse convention that can help address the world’s water crisis, avert future catastrophes, such as the ongoing Horn of Africa drought, and ensure all people have sufficient and sustained access to water.

“The acute crisis currently hitting the Horn of Africa highlights human vulnerability to severe droughts and illustrates that threats to global security and social justice of the global water crisis are upon us,” says Green Cross International President Alexander Likhotal.
Green Cross International is marking today’s closing of the annual World Water Week forum in Stockholm, Sweden, by urging all countries to ratify the UN Watercourses Convention . This convention is the only global legal instrument governing the use, management and protection of the world’s 276 trans-boundary watercourses. These rivers and the groundwater linked to them are shared by 145 countries. Their basins are home to 40% of the world’s population.
Thirty-five countries must ratify the UN Watercourses Convention for it to come into force. So far, 24 countries have done so, including most recently Burkina Faso, Morocco and France.
Green Cross International’s Water Programme director, Marie-Laure Vercambre, says 900 million people live without secured access to clean water and one-third of the world’s population live in countries that are water-stressed, or receive inadequate amounts of annual rainfall.
“Extreme weather events, such as the drought affecting East Africa, remind us the stakes are global. Greater cooperation and more rules on managing shared watersheds are needed as each country will be impacted, directly or indirectly, by how well other countries manage their water resources.”
Ms Vercambre adds: “Countries must respond to today’s water challenges by ratifying the UN Watercourses Convention.”
Green Cross International, founded by Mikhail Gorbachev, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through a combination of high-level advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a growing network of national organizations in over 30 countries.
Editors notes
– The UN Watercourses Convention is officially known as the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses . It was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997 by a vast majority of countries and codified international customary law and practice from around the world. But it still has not yet come into force.
To date, countries have managed shared watercourses by adopting basin and regional agreements. These are necessary and the Convention encourages their adoption. However, only 40% of the World’s international watercourses enjoy some sort of agreement. Those who exist are sometimes incomplete, obsolete and by definition do not have the same scope as global instruments.
One of the most recent signatories to the convention is France. At a preparatory meeting earlier this year for the March 2012 World Water Forum in Marseille, France, French Minister of Cooperation Henri de Raincourt said: “Due to the rising world population and negative impacts of climate change, water in recent years has become one of the world’s biggest challenges that could lead to competition between States if there is no appropriate governance framework.”
– How Green Cross International came about? The call for setting up a “red cross” for the environment was made during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. Having said “after the end of the Cold War the most pressing challenge for humanity relates to the relationship between man and nature,” former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was asked to lead this effort and founded Green Cross International.
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