Promoting global legal water governance ahead of the 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation

Stockholm/24 August, 2012: World Water Week, an annual gathering of the global water community, will in 2012 offer the opportunity to promote issues at the core of Green Cross’s mission: cooperation and sustainable use of our watersheds, both essential for economic development and conservation.

Green Cross has been engaged for years in promoting global principles of good governance of our shared water resources, in conjunction with a wide range of global water partners.

During the upcoming World Water Week, a special panel will be held on 26 August investigating these issues. The event, titled The Benefits of Global Water Instruments – Global to Local Perspectives, is organized by Green Cross and two of its key partners: the World Wildlife Fund and the IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science (Dundee University).

“The world lacks global instruments governing the use, management and protection of our 276 cross-border watercourses and about as many underground shared aquifers,” said Marie-Laure Vercambre, Green Cross International’s Director of the Water for Life and Peace programme,

“As surprising as it may seem considering the importance of water for promoting life, peace and development, the United Nations Watercourses Convention, a global instrument adopted in 1997 that promotes the reasonable and equitable use of international watercourses, still has not entered into force. This is because it has not been ratified by 35 countries, the number necessary for it to come into force.”

A similar instrument for transboundary aquifers, or underground layers of water-bearing permeable rock, started being negotiated a decade later but also does not enjoy a binding status as of today.

Figures are nevertheless striking: 145 countries share these 276 international watercourses, which include rivers, surface water and connected underground sources of water. These hydrographic basins represent 60% of the planet’s total freshwater flow and are home to 40% of the world’s population.

While some countries, regions and basins have been pioneers in adopting good and cooperative agreements for the management and protection of these basins, such as in West Africa, 20 of the 28 transboundary basins of the region do not enjoy any framework. This is, in a global context of increasing water crisis, a major source of insecurity, whether environmental, economic, political and regional.

“We know that most of our water resources will be solicited to respond to the growing water demand,” Ms Vercambre said. “Our watersheds must therefore be adequately used, managed and protected and the ‘shared’ dimension of transboundary waters is an additional challenge. We need good principles such as those contained in the UN Watercourses Convention to ensure that these basins become a vector of prosperity, sustainability and stability”.

Visitors to World Water Week in Stockholm are welcome to attend the 26 August side event, details of which can be found online.

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