- Lead-organizer: WWF Indonesia
- 17:30 - 19:00
- Date: 14 Jun 2012
- Room: T-8
Transboundary Waters, Climate Change and Good Governance
Organizing partnersWorld Wildlife Fund (WWF)
IntroductionAll pillars of sustainable development require reliable access to adequate supplies of good-quality water. Population and economic growth are already straining water resources, and climate change will exacerbate this.
In this context, international law has an integral role to play in ensuring that transboundary water resources are used in an equitable and sustainable manner. Proper management of these resources will contribute to economic growth that accounts for environmental and social considerations.
The 1997 UN Watercourses Convention (UNWC), as a global legal framework adopted under the auspices of the UN, is an important tool for strengthening the legal architecture governing shared waters. Once in force, the convention will better enable cooperation between states that is essential to protect vital freshwater ecosystems, their functions and services. Since 2006, WWF and its partners have been working to build awareness of the convention and its principles, in an effort to strengthen international water law.
Detailed programmeThematic Focus - Water Security
Transboundary water issues have cross-cutting implications for the aims of Rio+20. This side event will focus on the UNWC as a tool to fill in gaps in the institutional framework for sustainable development, and also as a framework to address water-related impacts from climate change in the context of a green economy.
In the world?s 276 transboundary basins, climate change is already affecting freshwater and related natural resources that are shared by two or more countries, requiring closer levels of cooperation. These effects extend beyond the local level, impacting global natural, social, economic and political systems ? and thus requiring a global response.
Yet, adaptation to climate change has been considered primarily at the local level. Moreover, national policies to adapt to and mitigate climate change, if poorly planned and unsustainably developed and operated, may have unforeseen or unintended transboundary consequences on water resources. These threats and trends are expected to put pressure on already fragile ecosystems and communities, harm crucial ecosystems services, and increase the potential for conflict across international borders. To address these issues, and other freshwater-related concerns, requires a reliable yet sufficiently flexible legal and institutional framework to govern transboundary waters at various levels. The UNWC, as a global framework guiding and supporting transboundary water cooperation, including in the context of climate change, can play this role, by supplementing cooperation efforts at regional, basin and sub-basin levels.
With respect to the institutional framework, the UNWC has several important roles. As the only MEA adopted as part of Rio 92 that has not yet entered into force, commitments toward its ratification and implementation will signal a renewed political commitment toward sustainable development. The international community increasingly recognizes that the real water crisis is one of governance; support for a global legal framework will help address this, ensuring the availability of water for economic, social and environmental needs.
The UNWC can also strengthen the institutional framework through its linkages with other MEAs, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Ramsar Convention, and the Convention on Biological Diversity, among others. Having in place an effective UNWC will enable the establishment of stronger linkages with those agreements, as well as the promotion of the Convention?s aims, principles and procedures to a wider audience.
Water?s role in the economy, and especially in a ?green economy,? cannot be overstated. Transboundary waters, in particular, are a vital source of freshwater and related ecosystem services for 40% of the world?s population in 145 countries. Climate change will affect all freshwater resources, but transboundary waters are particularly vulnerable. Where water resources are internationally shared, effective responses to climate change and other efforts to ensure a ?green economy? will require closer levels of cooperation between neighboring states. International law, and particularly the UNWC, can facilitate this cooperation, and thus help protect international watercourses and foster their sustainable use in the context of a strong governance system.
Against this background, the proposed side event will review these issues and celebrate the efforts of states working to bring the UNWC into force. It will build on recent successes under the UNWC Global Initiative, including France?s offer to host the first meeting of the parties upon its entry into force, as well as the commitments made by Luxembourg and Denmark to ratify the Convention at the recent 6th World Water Forum. In particular, it will highlight those states announcing their commitment to ratify the UNWC by December 2012, ahead of the International Year of Water Cooperation in 2013. With enough commitments made at this event, we will be able to announce the imminent entry into force of the UNWC ? a fitting conclusion for a Convention adopted as part of the first Rio Conference in 1992. The Convention?s entry into force will also be a strong statement of renewed political commitment to sustainable development, as well as help to fill in implementation gaps in the institutional framework.
Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
Flavia Rocha Loures, Senior Program Officer, International Law & Policy, Freshwater (WWF)
Owen McIntyre, University College Cork,
Representative of National University of Ireland
Representative of the Norwegian government
Potential Contribution ? water, food, energy