The eighth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 10-12 October 2018. The meeting is organized by the Kazakh Ministry of Agriculture, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which services the Water Convention.
It will be preceded, on 9 October, by a half-day high-level workshop on financing transboundary basin development, jointly organized by Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Asian Development Bank, GEF IW:LEARN, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank and the Water Convention secretariat.
More than 400 representatives of Ministries responsible for water, foreign affairs and development cooperation - from both Parties and non-Parties to the Convention - together with representatives of joint bodies, international and non-governmental organizations and academia from all regions of the world are expected to attend.
The Water Convention represents a key United Nations legal and institutional framework promoting the quantity, quality and sustainable use of transboundary water resources by facilitating cooperation. It is a unique instrument for supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - in particular SDG target 6.5 which calls for transboundary water cooperation - the prevention of conflicts and the promotion of peace and regional integration.
Originally negotiated as a regional framework for the pan-European region, it was amended to allow accession by all United Nations Member States. The eighth session of the Meeting of the Parties in Astana will mark a historical milestone in the Convention’s development as it will see the participation of the first Parties from Africa.
The Meeting will consider different aspects of transboundary water cooperation that have been in the 2016-2018 Convention’s programme of work, such as the benefits of transboundary cooperation, the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus, climate change adaptation and industrial safety. Progress in implementing the Water Convention and transboundary water cooperation more broadly will be reviewed, notably by launching the first report on the implementation of the Water Convention, and by discussing the first reporting on SDG indicator 6.5.2, jointly supported by UNECE and UNESCO (the two co-custodian agencies for indicator 6.5.2). Finally, the meeting will adopt a strategy for the implementation of the Convention at the global level and the Convention’s programme of work for 2019-2021.
On 10 October, the Meeting will feature a high-level segment that will focus on the importance of transboundary water cooperation, and particularly the role played by the Water Convention, to guarantee that the sharing of water resources and their derived benefits contributes to the well-being of people and the planet and helps to improve prosperity and foster peace.
The high-level segment will provide an opportunity for a strategic discussion between Parties; other States, including prospective Parties from all regions; international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academia. It will consist of two moderated high-level panel discussions, followed by interventions from the floor, with guiding questions.
High-level speakers are also invited to bring an object to illustrate their presentation and its main messages during the panel discussions and in their interventions from the floor. These objects will be become part of a piece of work illustrating the progress in and challenges of transboundary water cooperation worldwide.
Panel discussion 1-Transboundary water cooperation and water allocation: preventing conflict and ensuring peace and stability
Recently, two important panels have sent strong political messages on this topic. The High-Level Panel on Water has stressed that the strengthening of transboundary water cooperation can be a powerful tool for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace has emphasized the role of water as a driver of peace and highlighted the importance of international water law and the principles, norms and institutions that it has developed in promoting stability and preventing conflicts.
A key dimension of transboundary cooperation is the need to share water and benefits it generates in a reasonable, equitable and sustainable manner. Balancing different water needs and responding to water-food-energy-ecosystem interdependencies is a common challenge in the face of increasing demands from different sectors, growing water scarcity and climate variability.
Development in transboundary basins also requires innovative financial instruments that recognize the need for transboundary water cooperation and foster coordination between all countries and sectors in the basin in order to ensure that investments have positive and sustainable impact. In that connection, participants will be informed about the outcomes of the High-level workshop on financing transboundary basin development (Astana, 9 October 2018).
Panel discussion 2- Sharing waters in the context of growing water scarcity – how can transboundary water cooperation make a difference?
Water scarcity already affects every continent, including regions that have been traditionally water-rich, and is of growing concern. Population growth, rising incomes and expanding cities are driving an unprecedented rise in water demands, while supply is becoming more erratic and uncertain owing to climate change and variability. About 2 billion people are currently living in water-stressed areas and it is anticipated that by 2025, half of the world’s population will do so. While scarcity has the potential to aggravate conflicts between riparian countries, cooperation can increase water use efficiency and become an important part of the solution in addressing this global challenge.
Building on experience with implementation of the Water Convention and with transboundary water cooperation in general, the session will provide an opportunity to consider ways of sharing and allocating limited water resources among countries and sectors in transboundary basins, with due regard for the environment, and to examine the ways in which cooperation can increase the resilience of society.