Montenegro accedes to UN Watercourses Convention

Montenegro, by depositing its instrument of accession with the UN Secretary-General, becomes the 31st party to the UN Watercourses Convention (UNWC). Four more acts of ratification are needed until the UNWC comes into force

The country of Montenegro on 24 September 2013 acceded to the UN Watercourses Convention (UNWC), becoming the thirty-first party to the  UNWC. By depositing its instrument of accession with the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the southern European country agreed to be bound to the Convention.

While the UNWC is not yet in force, the accession of Montenegro to the Convention makes entry into force an ever closer reality. Four more instruments similar to that deposited by Montenegro are needed for the UN Watercourses Convention to come into force.

Source: Lonely Planet

Source: Lonely Planet

In 1997, over 100 countries voted for the adoption of the UNWC. Despite the widespread support that was exhibited at the time, the Convention is not yet in force, and has yet to fulfill the legal requirements specified within the Convention itself.

As laid out in the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which governs the rules and procedures attached to the design of multilateral treaties, a treaty must contain a provision identifying the date at which it will come into force. Article 36 of the UNWC specifies that the Convention will come into force ninety days after 35 states have ratified the Convention.

Following Montenegro’s accession to the UNWC, four more instruments of ratification are needed for the dispositions of Article 36 to be fulfilled and the UNWC to come into force.

The UNWC is a global legal framework which promotes inter-state cooperation, exchange of information and joint management of transboundary river basins. It creates a legal architecture that edicts the rights and duties of state parties regarding the governance and management of river basins shared with other countries.

By codifying norms and clarifying emergin legal principles of international water law, it strenghtens the regulation of water resources and helps ensure that the way these resources are used is done following fundamental legal paradigms.

The ultimate goal of the UNWC is the sustainable management of shared basins which maximizes and ditributes in an equitable fashion the benefits for all states involved.

Several reasons have been put forward for the slow process of entry into force, including treaty congestion within the UN System; the lack of champions and high-profile actors promoting the UNWC; low awareness of the Convention; and the fragmented understanding of its provisions.

In the face of these obstacles, many efforts have been invested in a campaign for the entry into force by proponents of the UNWC, such as the World Wildlife Fund, the Green Cross, and the Dundee Centre for International Water Law, Policy and Science. This campaign is coming to fruition, as the recent spike in the number of state parties to the UNWC seems to testify.

In addition to Montengro, four more states have signed the UNWC, and are close to completing the steps required by their domestic legislation to ratify it, igniting the hope that the day of entry into force of the Convention is around the corner.


For the status of the ratification process of the UNWC, inluding a list of state parties and dates of ratification, please follow this link:

For an analysis of Article 36 of the UNWC, please go to Part VII of the Online User’s Guide:

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