Green Cross International together with the WWF, European Water Partnership, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Global Nature Fund and the Swedish EU Presidency hosted a side-event 17 August at the World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden on the relevance of the 1997 UN Convention on the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses to European states.
This year the World Water Week focused on transboundary waters, thereby providing the proper platform to highlight the UN Watercourses Convention. The convention is the only overarching global instrument that establishes basic standards and rules for cooperation between states on the use, management and protection of international watercourses. Currently the Convention counts 17 contracting states, which is 18 short of the number required for entry into force.
The side event looked particularly at European States. Thus far, six EU member States have acceded to the Convention: Norway, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. In addition, France and Spain announced that they had initiated the process during last World Water Forum in Istanbul.
During the panel discussion, Anders Berntell, the Executive Director of SIWI which organizes World Water Week, argued that the Convention would not generate additional obligations for EU member states given that existing European legislation, including the UNECE Convention and the Water Framework Directive (WFD), already establish more stringent and detailed standards.
Professor Patricia Wouters, Director of the International Hydrological Programme-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science made the point that the entry into force of the Convention would represent a step ahead for international water law, complementing other relevant water legislation.
While Friedrich Barth, Vice-Chairman of European Water Partnership called for a European leadership, especially given the fact that the EU Water Framework Directive contained an obligation to coordinate with non-EU member states. Ratifying the Convention would therefore strengthen international water law, encourage accession from non-EU countries and provide a better legal basis for transboundary freshwater governance.
The side event was opened by Udo Gattenlöhner, Executive Director of the Global Nature Fund and Flavia Loures, Senior Program Officer for the International Law and Policy section of the Freshwater Programme at WWF. A panel discussion followed with Consultant Lesha Witmer as the moderator and another panellist Cecilia Scharp, CS Head of Team for Sustainable Services at the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). Annika Nilsson, Head of the Water Section at the Swedish Ministry of the Environment and Lasse Gustavsson, Secretary-General of WWF Sweden provided the closing remarks.