New Global Watercourses Convention for Transboundary Cooperation

A new global framework treaty on fresh water and transboundary cooperation officially entered into force this month. The world has over 276 transboundary freshwater lake and river basins and only 40% of them are governed by agreements, which makes this Convention significant. Furthermore, 40% of the world’s population depend on transboundary freshwater resources, according to the Convention’s secretariat – with water scarcity and water security becoming increasing important issues globally. The United Nations Watercourses Convention is the world’s only global framework for transboundary cooperation.

watercourses convention

The Watercourses Convention aims to ensure the utilisation, development, conservation, management and protection of international watercourses and the promotion of the optimal and sustainable utilisation thereof for present and future generations. It also aims to standardize criteria for managing international river basins and transboundary waters to ensure more practical management globally. These criteria include defining the subjects that countries should discuss on their shared waters, facilitating the process of transboundary cooperation and holding governments accountable to their own countries and regions. With a growing population and a resurgence in large-scale hydropower projects, the need for comprehensive and effective arrangements for the equitable and sustainable management of transboundary waters is more vital than ever. 

“We have found that we cannot achieve the same level of conservation goals in regions where countries are not cooperating on transboundary water management,” said Lifeng Li, Director of WWF’s global freshwater program. “Nature and wildlife do not respect national borders, and some of the most crucial areas for biodiversity are linked to international rivers and lakes. The UN Watercourses Convention will play an important role in creating a world in which people live in harmony with nature.”

Marie-Laure Vercambre, Director of Green Cross International’s Water for Life and Peace Programme, emphasized the importance of the Convention, saying “Not only will the governance of the largest and best known watercourses be enhanced by the UN Watercourses Convention, but all transboundary basins of a country’s territory will benefit from it, providing a harmonized legal coverage to all those watercourses whom we know will be more and more exploited, utilized and developed.” 

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