New Guide to Implementing the Helsinki Convention

UNECE publication is intended to help stakeholders understand the 1992 UNECE Water Convention and give policy makers the tools to implement the Convention.

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has published a ‘Guide to Implementing the Water Convention’ to help the implementation of the 1992 Helsinki Convention. The guide has been designed to help translate the norms and principles enshrined in the Helsinki Convention into concrete policies and measures in member countries.

The guide is principally meant for decision-makers and government officials and gives them the tools needed to better understand and implement the Convention.

The publication goes through each of the Convention’s articles and painstakingly explains and clarifies the terms of the provisions. By doing so, it hopes to assist state parties in their efforts to comply with the Convention and set up measures and policies that respect the letter and spirit of the Convention.

Although the meat of the guide is the commentary of the Convention’s provisions, which includes legal analyses and technical clarifications, the guide also encompasses recommendations and ‘tips’ as to how best to effectively and efficiently implement the Water Convention, and addresses challenges that might arise throughout the implementation process.

In addition, the guide is also expected to provide countries wishing to accede to the Helsinki Convention all the necessary elements to make an informed decision. By acting as a commentary, the guide gives potential members all the information needed on what would be expected of them once they become parties to the Convention.

The underlying objective of the guide is the promotion of the Convention. An entire section, entitled ‘Advantages of Becoming a Party’, discusses the benefits states might gain from acceding to the UNECE Water Convention. The guide thus poses itself as an advocate for the enlargement the circle of state parties to the Convention.

According to the UNECE website, “the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) was adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 1996. It brings together almost all countries sharing transboundary waters in the pan-European region, and is expected to achieve broader participation with its global opening to all United Nations Member States.”

It continues, “the Water Convention serves as a mechanism to strengthen international cooperation and national measures for the ecologically sound management and protection of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. Furthermore, it provides an intergovernmental platform for the day-to-day development and advancement of transboundary cooperation.”

This guide is particularly important now, at a time when accession to the Helsinki Convention has been opened to all UN member states. This is an important development in the evolution of the governance of shared waters, because a treaty that has proven very effective in UNECE states has now been opened to other non-UNECE states, which now have precedents of good practices to model their own actions on.

With the opening of the UNECE Convention to all UN member states, the Helsinki Convention, along with the UN Watercourses Convention (New York Convention), makes up the foundation for a global legal skeleton setting the down the rules and principles for the administration of transboudary river basins across the globe. Furthermore, momentum is getting traction for a near future entry into force of the New York Convention. These two developments will strengthen the legal framework surrounding river basins and facilitate inter-state cooperation over shares water resources.

The ‘Guide to Implementing the Water Convention’ is an important tool in the process of implementing the Helsinki Convention, and will actively contribute to making the developments mentioned above a reality.

To get a paper version of the guide, contact info@unece.org

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UNECE Website: http://www.unece.org/

To download a PDF version of the guide: http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=33657

TheĀ  text of the Helsinki Convention can be found here: http://www.unece.org/env/water/

Find more information about the relationship between the UNWC and the UNECE Convention, see Fact Sheet #12: http://www.unwatercoursesconvention.org/documents/UNWC-Fact-Sheet-12-Relationship-with-UNECE-Water-Convention.pdf

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