Shifting sands of watercourses and lakes

Just in case you might have missed it, due to all eyes being on the Doha non-negotiations (or diverted elsewhere), there was a meeting of yet another UN body, albeit of shorter duration, that has just concluded.

This was a confab of a body of The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) which (all emphases in quotes below are mine -hro):

was set up in 1947 by ECOSOC**. It is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations.
UNECE’s major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. To do so, it brings together 56 countries located in the European Union, non-EU Western and Eastern Europe, South-East Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and North America. All these countries dialogue and cooperate under the aegis of UNECE on economic and sectoral issues. However, all interested United Nations member States may participate in the work of UNECE. Over 70 international professional organizations and other non-governmental organizations take part in UNECE activities.

As a multilateral platform, UNECE facilitates greater economic integration and cooperation among its member countries and promotes sustainable development and economic prosperity.
UNECE contributes to enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations through the regional implementation of outcomes of global United Nations Conferences and Summits. It gives focus to the United Nations global mandates in the economic field, in cooperation with other global players and key stakeholders, notably the business community.

UNECE also sets out norms, standards and conventions to facilitate international cooperation within and outside the region.

What’s not to like, eh?!

** You will, of course, remember ECOSOC and the hockey-stick of its ever-increasing stable of accredited NGOs which I wrote about some months ago.

Here’s the quasi-official word on this particular MOP (Meeting of the Parties):

The sixth Meeting of the Parties (MOP6) of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) met from Wednesday, 28 to Friday, 30 November 2012 at the Chambers of Deputies in Rome, Italy. The meeting was attended by more than 320 people, including parties, non-party states, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

MOP6 addressed many substantive issues related to the work of the Convention, such as: its opening to all members of the UN beyond the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) region; support for implementation and compliance; transboundary groundwater; a thematic assessment on the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus; water and adaptation to climate change; cooperation with other multilateral environmental agreements and international partners; vision for the future of the Water Convention; and the programme of work for 2013–2015.

At the closing session:

In her concluding remarks, Chair [Sibylle] Vermont [of Switzerland] highlighted the future generations of the Convention through a compilation of photos of all the meeting participants’ children. She thanked the government of Italy and the Chamber of Deputies for their hospitality and the UNECE Secretariat for their hard work and support. Vice-Chair Cozzone recognized the participation of 18 countries from outside the UNECE region, noting that expanded participation represents the future of the Convention. He looked forward to future progress on the Convention. Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary, UNECE, congratulated participants on a successful meeting and wished parties success in their work.

I’m sure that this compilation of kiddie pics will have a tremendous impact on future deliberations of this apparently soon to be expanded body – in keeping with the earlier report from the:


Rocco Buttiglione, Vice-President, Chamber of Deputies, on behalf of Gianfranco Fini, President, Chamber of Deputies, Italy, thanked participants for accepting his government’s invitation to attend MOP6,and welcomed the opening of the Convention to non-Economic Commission for Europe countries. He said water resources are a common good for all people and that, therefore, an international governance system is needed to manage them.

Of course Ban Ki-Moon had dipped his toes in the waters via:

Delivering a message on behalf of Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy Executive Secretary, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), encouraged countries outside the UNECE region to join the Convention. He stressed that the Water Convention and the UN Convention on Watercourses are complementary to each other and called for coherent implementation. Vasilyev then highlighted key achievements of the Convention, namely: strengthened implementation and compliance; the Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters; adaptation to climate change; national policy dialogues; and projects on the ground.

Well, if the world votes for “implementation” then “coherent implementation can only be a good thing, right?! And moving right along while keeping on message, we find …


[Vermont] highlighted three achievements of the Convention: the Convention as a model for bilateral and multilateral treaties on shared waters; the role of the Convention in driving national water legislation; and the globalization of the Convention. She recognized that climate change is presenting new challenges for the Convention.

Ah well, I suppose we should be thankful that climate change has not achieved the status of “greatest threat to the future of our waterways and lakes” – at least not yet, she says somewhat skeptically! But consider the following word counts in the body of the text:

climate change 34
adaptation 23
mechanism 12
sustainable 11
funding 7
science 1
mitigation 0
green economy 0
global warming 0

Look at that, folks! Adaptation 23, mitigation 0. Hmmm …. I wonder if they’ve redefined “adaptation”?! Oh, well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough, since 2013 has been designated as the “International Year of Water Cooperation“.

Maybe the world’s waters will cooperate more readily than the world’s climate has to date ;-)

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