|In early 2006, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) launched a global initiative to promote the UN Watercourses Convention and accelerate its ratification process, the UNWC Global Initiative. This initiative has mobilised a range of actors including governments, international organisations, academics and others in an effort to raise awareness, build capacity and support countries interested in ratifying the Convention. To date, the UN Global Initiative includes partners such as the Green Cross, the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, the IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science (under the auspices of UNESCO) from the University of Dundee, the Global Nature Fund, and many others. Activities of the UNWC Global Initiative have largely centred around addressing the barriers to ratification noted above. Partners of the UNWC Global Initiative have therefore sought to raise awareness of the Convention through symposia, presentations and special sessions at global, regional and country-specific conferences and other meetings.
In order to deepen knowledge and understanding of the relevance of the Convention, the Initiative has conducted research studies related to the relevance of the UN Watercourses Convention in various regions, basins and countries, including Central America, South America, Europe, West Africa, Congo, Southern Africa, East Africa, Aral Sea and South East Asia.5 Such research studies have formed a basis for conducting consultations and training workshops at the country level throughout the world.6 Activities of the UNWC Global Initiative have also involved developing a wide range of materials, including policy briefs, academic journal papers, an edited book, research reports, and the Online User’s Guide.7
Several trends and key factors are shaping our future at an ever increasing pace, giving rise to a myriad of challenges the international community is struggling to deal with effectively. The water crisis is at the heart of this challenge, since a sustainable supply of adequate freshwater is the essential foundation of civilization as we know it. While water management is primarily a local issue, 40 per cent of the world’s population depends on international freshwater resources.8 It is this level which is heavily influenced by the complex geopolitical power games, making international water security even more multi-faceted and multi-layered. The increasing gap between the demand for quality freshwater and its declining supply, the uneven distribution of resources, and unilateral development of water projects, are becoming frequently disruptive factors in neighbouring country relations.9
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