UNWC's Global Relevance

The regional assessment focuses on the relationship between the UN Watercourses Convention, the European Union (EU) and its Member States. Among these countries, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, and United Kingdom, sponsored the conventions adoption. To date Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden are parties to it. All votes within the UN General Assembly were in favour of the UN Watercourses Convention, except for the abstentions from Bulgaria, France, and Spain. No EU country voted against the Convention.

Most EU countries are heavily reliant on water resources flowing from out with their territory, and it is therefore not surprising that there is a long tradition of conflict and cooperation of Europe’s transboundary waters. Such history has resulted in the adoption of numerous bi-lateral and basin-specific agreements. At the regional level, the 1992 UNECE Helsinki Convention seeks to implement integrated water resources management (IWRM) throughout Europes transboundary waters. Adopted in 2000, the EU Water Framework Directive (“WFD”) aims to prevent further deterioration of water resources in the EU and to reach adequate water quality and quantity status in all of the member states inland and coastal waters by 2015. The WFD seeks to implement Integrated Water Resources Management, calling for the sustainable development of water resources and promoting the integration between land and water management at the catchment level and between water and other major EU policies.

A comparative analysis of both these regional instruments and the UN Watercourses Convention finds that there are no conflicts between their provisions. However, differences do exist in the scope of each instrument and in the extent of the obligations placed upon the respective parties. Such differences are inevitable. Regional instruments tend to attract a greater degree of detail given the relatively closer shared values of the negotiating parties. These findings lead to a few conclusions:

  • The process of ratifying the UN Watercourses Convention would be relatively straightforward for EU countries, as they are already subject to stricter more detailed obligations under EC and UNECE law.
  • The UN Watercourses Convention could provide an effective platform by which EU countries could share their tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience in implementing bi-lateral, basin specific and regional instruments with other regions of the world where such instruments are weak or non-existent.
  • In supporting the UN Watercourses Convention, EU countries would also be implementing EU water development policy, as well as national foreign aid policies, which place great emphasis on the need to strengthen transboundary water resources management throughout the world as a basis for sustainable development.
  • EU countries would be honouring their commitments to universally agreed goals and targets on the Environment and Development.

Additional Resources

- European Assessment

- What are the benefits of the UNWC for the EU? A WWF Policy Brief

- Five Reasons Why the EU Should Ratify and/or be a Party to the UNWC

- The European Parliament and its Role in Promoting the UNWC- A WWF Briefing Note

- Relationship between the UNECE Helsinki Convention and the UNWC

- Analyzing The UNECE Water Convention: What Lessons for the Regional Management of Transboundary Water Resources?

- Why Should Denmark Accede to the UNWC?- Brief by WWF

- Why Should the Czech Republic Accede to the UNWC?- A WWF Brief brief

- Implications of an UK Accession to the UN Watercourses Convention for cross-border management

Video: Attila Tanzi Video: Attila Tanzi Compatibility of the UNWC with the UNECE Water Convention
Video: Chantal Demilecamps Video: Chantal Demilecamps Introduction to the UNECE Water Convention (Helsinki Convention)


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