Promoting transboundary water cooperation

Nov 16, 2015

A workshop to promote transboundary water cooperation in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region took place in Budapest, Hungary on November 16, 2015. Organised with the financial and technical backing of the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea in cooperation with the REC and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and with the support of the Government of Hungary, the event brought together 56 participants from Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia, as well as civil society representatives from UNECE countries and international experts.

The workshop, broken down into four sessions, focused on the following: 1) current progress in the MENA region towards accession to the Water Convention; 2) common issues related to the UNECE Water Convention (or, Convention) interpretation, accession and implementation; 3) preparing MENA region countries’ contribution to the Seventh Session of the Meeting of Parties; and 4) ongoing initiatives, needed actions and next steps.

The following provides a brief outline of what was discussed and which conclusions were reached during each phase of the Budapest workshop.

Session 1
The opening session presented successes and challenges to the region, while posing important questions pertaining to, among others, bilateral agreements on water quality, river basin management planning, technical support from the UNECE Convention, and access to financial support for development and support of initiatives.

In the course of discussion, four countries requested support and initiated a national ‘reflection process’ for accession to the Water Convention: Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. It is widely acknowledged that the Convention can offer many benefits in terms of management of shared surface water and ground water in the MENA region. It also provides many tools that riparian countries can use to tackle issues together, including a platform for negotiation and conflict resolution. A positive note moving forward is that the region is already the most advanced outside the UNECE region.

Session 2
A major emphasis of this session was on the Convention’s vital role in preventing conflict and promoting negotiation and cooperation between multiple parties and stakeholders. It was established that non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs) and international organisations (IOs) each play crucial roles as well in supporting and implementing the Water Convention. One of the keys to cooperation is to be as inclusive as possible and to avoid leaving countries out of the process.

Regarding Convention implementation, participants requested support for bringing the discussion to national, basin and regional levels. While it was mentioned that gaps between different levels of water governance may pose difficulties for implementation, there was also an expressed need for more capacity building and support from UNECE to promote inter-country meetings and enhanced dialogue. Furthermore, while there are differences between the UN Watercourse and UNECE Convention, together they can provide a full package of norms related to transboundary water cooperation.

Session 3
Now that a draft work programme (PoW) has been worked out for 2016-2018, the strategy can be tailored further to meet specific needs of the MENA region. Participants from some of the international organisations at the workshop suggested crosscutting their own activities with the PoW, and expressed an interest in future collaborations and partnerships.

Meanwhile, an Implementation Committee has been established that is neutral and non-confrontational by nature. Its general aim is to promote cooperation and dialogue while preventing conflict, while at the same time involving multiple partners, experts and stakeholders to provide technical assistance with activities related to Convention implementation.

The third session also focused on decisions to be taken at the Meeting of Parties their implications for MENA countries. One consideration was that guidance on accessing grants and financial support for implementation projects should be further elaborated in any future strategy. Another was that there is a need for transboundary indicators to be included in the new system of sustainable development goals. Finally, it was argued that issues should follow a regional approach, while others are more appropriately addressed at a basin-wide level.

Session 4
IOs, NGOs and CSOs are leading several ongoing projects throughout the MENA region having to do with water governance, and there are many possibilities for orienting these projects into narrower alignment with Convention-related activities. And while water quantity is a deep concern throughout the region, participants noted also the importance of focusing on water quality.

Related to Convention membership, Egypt expressed its willingness to accede if the Convention meets its specific interests, while Massimo Cozzone said that the Convention Secretariat will follow up on the issue of Palestine not being able at present to join.

Conclusions and outcomes of the workshop
In the interests of moving forward on this important issue, workshop participants put forward seven key conclusions at the close of the workshop:

  • MENA countries understand the added value of the UNECE Water Convention and are seriously considering the possibilities of adopting it.
  • Four countries (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia) confirmed that they are already started the process of accession to the Convention, and expressed interest in receiving further support for carrying out technical, institutional and capacity building.
  • MENA countries acknowledge the Convention as a useful tool for strengthening regional cooperation, and expressed an interest in receiving support to combat several challenges.
  • The main challenges at national level are interpretation and implementation of the Convention, while the greatest challenges at international level are related to cooperation and coordination of activities between riparian countries.
  • MENA countries need capacity building, institutional strengthening and more regular exchange of experiences.
  • International organisations are playing an important role and can continue to provide valuable support.

At the international level, there is a need for coordination with donors acting in the region in order to maximise the use of limited resources.

Tags: International

Joining Forces to Promote Integrated Water Resources Management in the MENA Region
Apr 29, 2018
The regional WATER SUM workshop on the principles of integrated water resources management was the last and biggest event in a series READ MORE >
Counting the successes of Water SUM and looking into the future
Apr 26, 2018
The WATER SUM event “Promoting Sustainable Water Action in the MENA Region” was held in Tunis on March 27, 2018, bringing together READ MORE >
MENA World Café 2017 focuses on water and waste
Sep 8, 2017
Discussion groups hold topical discussions at WATER SUM event on final day of World Water Week READ MORE >
WATER SUM/WaSe team goes on field visits to partner munipalities and delegations
Jan 16, 2017
From December 11-18, 2016, the WATER SUM/WaSe team conducted a field visit to partner municipalities and delegations in Jordan and READ MORE >
Distance Learning Platform launches LWSAP course in Arabic language
Dec 23, 2016
The “Sustainable Use of Transboundary Water Resources and Water Security Management” (WATER SUM) project has launched a Local Water READ MORE >
Water SUM grants enable implementation of eight pilot projects in Jordan and Tunisia
Dec 14, 2016
As part of the local water security action planning activities carried out under the WATER SUM WaSe component, the Regional READ MORE >
REC drawing competition still open for children in Jordan and Tunisia
Dec 6, 2016
Within the WATER SUM project and the Water, Growth and Security Initiative (WSGIni), the REC is organising a water-themed drawing READ MORE >
Drawing Competition for children in Jordan and Tunisia
Sep 8, 2016
Within the WATER SUM project and the Water, Growth and Security Initiative, the REC is organising a water-themed drawing competition READ MORE >
Third WGS Conference will take place in April 2017
Sep 5, 2016
With the Second WGS Conference recently concluded, the REC is proud to announce that the Third WGSIni Conference READ MORE >
Come to the table: World Café 2016 on Water, Growth, and Stability
Sep 2, 2016
On August 31, 2016, over 60 representatives of central and local governments, regional bodies, NGOs, academia and businesses from the READ MORE >
Water and security at local level take the spotlight in Stockholm
Sep 1, 2016
In this second SIWI Sofa session, which took place during World Water Week 2016 in Stockholm (you can read about the first one here), READ MORE >
WGSIni gets 'couch treatment' in Stockholm
Aug 31, 2016
WGSIni sits for a friendly SIWI Sofa chat on the MENA region's development outlook READ MORE >
High-level session opens three-day event
Apr 26, 2016
Stakeholders are currently meeting at the Conference Center of the Regional Environmental Center in Szentendre, Hungary, to support the READ MORE >
Water, Growth and Stability: MENA conference
Apr 21, 2016
The WATER SUM team is pleased to announce that over 100 participants have registered to attend the conference “Water, Growth and READ MORE >
REC hosts regional LWSAP training
Apr 21, 2016
A regional training on local water security action planning (LWSAP) is currently taking place at the Conference Center of the Regional READ MORE >
World Water Day 2015
Mar 22, 2015
Following a 1993 declaration by the United Nations General Assembly, World Water Day is celebrated each year on March 22. The aim is to READ MORE >
First WATER SUM workshop
Mar 15, 2015
The first WATER SUM workshop was held in Jordan, at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, on March 15 and 16, 2015. It provided a platform for READ MORE >