Promoting the UN Watercourses Convention at 2010 World Water Week

Green Cross International (GCI) co-hosted a side event at World Water Week 2010 in Stockholm, Sweden on 9 September along with WWF, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Conservation International and the Global Water Partnership (West Africa & Mediterranean), and the Mediterranean Network of Basin Organizations (MENBO).

The event took place under the Global Initiative launched in 2006 by GCI, WWF and other partners to promote the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention and accelerate its ratification process. The Convention was originally adopted in 1997 by more than 100 nations and is the only global treaty endorsed by the UN General Assembly that governs the use, management and protection of international watercourses.
The side event encouraged discussions on the role and relevance of the Convention for the Mediterranean and West African regions, bringing together expert organizations and government officials. The event also tracked and celebrated progress in ratifications around the world and aimed to catalyze action among key governments, organizations and experts to support the convention’s entry into force and future implementation.
GCI Water Programme Leader Marie-Laure Vercambre opened the event before giving the floor to keynote speaker Margaret Catley-Carlson, member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB), who reiterated the Board’s support for the global initiative, led by GCI, WWF and other partners, to promote the UN Watercourses Convention. In its “Strategy and Objectives through 2012” document, UNSGAB states that “sustainable management of water at the basin level often requires both an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) approach and transboundary cooperation.” Hence UNSGAB recommends governments ratify the UN Watercourses Convention as a key measure to ensure transboundary cooperation.
Ms. Catley-Carlson’s speech was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Anton Earle, Project Director of Capacity Building at the Stockholm International Water Institute, with panelists including Dr. Mara Tignino, Senior Researcher at the University of Geneva School of Law; Dr. Fadi Comair, President of the Mediterranean Network for Basin Organizations (MENBO); and Prof. Michael J. Scoullos, Chairman of the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean (GWP-MED).
While the panelists elaborated on the relevance of accession to the Convention for EU Member States and Mediterranean countries, the side event was also the opportunity to celebrate Guinea-Bissau as the first West African country to have joined the Convention.
Dr. Lifeng Li, Director of the Freshwater Programme at WWF International led the ceremony to grant Guinea-Bissau and the Netherlands a Leaders for a Living Planet Award. The award acknowledges the important role of those countries that have already ratified the convention towards ensuring sustainable water management for people and nature.
Following the 2010 World Water Week, Nigeria completed the ratification process in September and both Greece and Burkina Faso have already passed legislation authorizing their respective countries’ accession to the convention. The addition of these 2 countries would raise the number of contracting states to 22 – 13 short of the 35 needed for entry into force.
Held annually in Stockholm, Sweden, and organized by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the theme of this year’s World Water Week was “The Water Quality Challenge – Prevention, Wise Use and Abatement”. The event brought together experts, practitioners, decision makers and leaders from around the globe to exchange ideas, foster new thinking and develop solutions to challenges related to water quality and related topics.
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