Stockholm, 9 Sep 2010 - Renewed interest in West Africa and Europe is boosting the prospects for a key global treaty on sharing freshwater resources over international boundaries to come into effect.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UN Watercourses Convention) was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the UN General Assembly in 1997, but then languished for more than a decade, well short of the 35 signatories required for it to come into force.
Proponents of the treaty, intended to provide a global framework for resolving disputes and promoting cooperation between states on the sustainable and equitable management of transboundary waters, link increased interest in ratification to rising pressures on water resources from rapid population growth, food and energy demands, and climate change.
The most recent signatory, Guinea-Bissau, joined in May 2010 and is set to be followed by other states in West Africa, with likely candidates being Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger and Nigeria.
“The Convention is definitely the most important framework we have to secure regional cooperation and peace around shared water management issues,” says Dam Mogbante, Executive Secretary of Global Water Partnership-West Africa. “Even though there are some regional conventions and charters that set up some rules, we still see the UN Convention as an umbrella to reinforce regional agreements, and it can be used where there is no regional organization. We should all work to see it implemented!”
Fortunately, there are now clear signs of wider support for the UN Watercourses Convention in Africa, which Guinea-Bissau’s ratification should further boost.
France willing to promote treaty
Similarly, discussions on the role and relevance of the convention for the Mediterranean region are building momentum and can bring new champions for a region where water resources are unevenly distributed. The region’s fragile rivers and aquifers are at particular risk from over-extraction, drainage, infrastructure works and droughts. The principles and rules enshrined in the UN Watercourses Convention can promote better transboundary water management and ensure political stability and peace between neighbouring countries.
Spain, one of Europe’s largest water users and an important player in international development cooperation, was the last Mediterranean country to have joined the convention in September 2009, bringing it past the halfway mark for entry into force.
In June 2010, during the kickoff meeting of the 6th World Water Forum, France announced its imminent ratification and willingness to actively promote the convention in Europe and beyond.
“The hope is that one of these countries plays a leading role to start a domino effect in ratifications across the Mediterranean, similar to that expected to arise from Guinea-Bissau’s commendable recent ratification in West Africa,” says Flavia Loures, WWF’s Senior Program Officer, International Law and Policy Freshwater Program.
Under the UN Watercourses Convention Global Initiative, the side event “UN Watercourses Convention – In Force by 2011” will be held during the 2010 World Water Week in Stockholm, on 9 September, from 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m. The event will bring together a number of expert organizations and government representatives. With emphasis on West Africa and the Mediterranean region, the event aims to foster discussions on the convention’s specific role and relevance, track and celebrate progress toward entry into force by 2011 and catalyze action by the international community to support the global initiative.
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan are currently engaged in vital talks over the dispute relating to the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River. While non-African actors are increasingly present in the negotiations, the African Union (AU) is playing a marginal role.
Climate change was more central than ever at this year’s Munich Security Conference (MSC), the leading international forum for senior military, security and foreign policy leaders. The release of the inaugural “World Climate and Security Report 2020” (WCSR 2020) by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) should help policymakers take effective action.
The mission of the Munich Security Conference is to “address the world’s most pressing security concerns”. These days, that means climate security: climate change is the ultimate threat multiplier, and anyone discussing food security, political instability, migration, or competition over resources should be aware of the climate change pressures that are so often at the root of security problems.
The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.