Panama accedes to Helsinki Convention

4 Sep 2023 by The Water Diplomat

On the 7th of July Panama announced its accession to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), otherwise known as the Helsinki convention. In so doing, Panama has become the first Latin American country to accede to the convention. Panama shares river basins with Costa Rica and Colombia, and the total area of the country which lies within transboundary river basins represents approximatively 25% of the national territory. This percentage lies at the foundation of an important indicator within Sustainable Development Goal 6 on water and sanitation, i.e., SDG 6.5.2, which measures the proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation.

Panama is a water rich country by global standards, with some 33,000 m³ of water available per capita per annum, almost six times the global average, and it has a total of 18 watersheds and 150 rivers. The main transboundary river basin for Panama is the Sixaola, located in the border region with Costa Rica. UNECE reports that Panama and Costa Rica are working together to coordinate the development of the Sixaola River basin through a Binational Commission, and it is expected that the implementation of the Water Convention will help operationalize monitoring and data-sharing systems on water quality, quantity, and use, that in turn will help to identify trends and potential problems and support evidence-based decision-making.

Ms. Janaina Tewaney Mencomo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, stated: "Panama is committed to fostering both a blue and green economy through sustainable use of natural resources. The protection of the environment is a priority for Panama. Our accession to the Water Convention is a crucial engagement that reaffirms our leadership as a blue-green country worldwide, providing our country and continent with one additional tool."