The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UNECE Water Convention or Helsinki Convention) hosted a meeting of its working group on Integrated Water Resources Management in Geneva from the 19th to the 21st of June. The meeting brought together 300 participants in person and online, including government representatives from over 80 countries, with the objective of reviewing progress of the work under the Water Convention and to guide its future implementation.
Since the previous meeting of the working group, four additional countries have acceded to the convention, i.e. Cameroon (November 2022), Nigeria (22 March 2023), Iraq (24 March 2023) and Namibia (8 June 2023). Although the convention was originally developed as a regional framework for application in the Pan-European region and has a historical focus on water quality management, it was opened for accession to all UN member states in 2016 and has witnessed a large number of accessions since then, especially from the African continent.
Amongst other topics, the working group discussed the main outcomes of the United Nations 2023 Water Conference. Within a shared view that water needs to be at the top of the global agenda to achieve the transformational ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals, a key point that was discussed was the emphasis on monitoring and reporting. Developing and sustaining joint monitoring and assessment programmes is seen as being indispensable for the sustainable management of the 286 transboundary river and lake basins and 592 transboundary aquifer systems worldwide, and one of the core obligations of the Water Convention. In this context, an update was provided on strategies for monitoring and assessment of transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters. These place more focus on the linkages between water quality, groundwater and freshwater ecosystems and their ecology and emphasise the importance of jointly developed monitoring networks.
With the third data drive to collect information on the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water underway, the meeting also focused on the reporting procedures for SDG indicator 6.5.2., which measures the proportion of transboundary basin area in any given country which has an operational arrangement for water cooperation.