The UN 2023 Water Conference, which took place this week from Wednesday to Friday, highlighted the need for cross-border water cooperation with water scarcity and conflicts over resources on the rise in participating countries.
“More than 60 percent of all freshwater resources are shared by two or more countries, so cooperating on the use of those waters is crucial for peace, sustainable development, and climate action,” Sonja Koeppel, secretary of the Water Convention, told the media at the SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) Media Zone, which is hosted by the UN Department of Global Communications in collaboration with the PVBLIC Foundation and the UN System.
In an unprecedented political push for cross-border water cooperation, ministers from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East declared at the conference on March 22’s World Water Day their countries’ resolve to join a key United Nations accord known as the Water Convention.
In what could constitute a major long-term outcome of the summit, governments seized the UN Water Convention to support practical cooperation measures – urgently needed as 153 states worldwide share water resources – as a precondition to tackle the global water crisis.
Nigeria on Wednesday officially became the 48th party to the Water Convention and 7th African nation to join since 2018, following Chad, Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Togo, and Cameroon.
With over 213 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and shares with its neighbors most of its water resources, which include Lake Chad and the River Niger.
Joining neighboring parties will bolster conflict prevention, climate change adaptation, and development, according to a UN press release.
Panama stated on Wednesday that it would soon become a party, which would make it the first in Latin America, paving the way for reinforced cooperation in a region with a very limited number of agreements on the management of shared waters.
Namibia reaffirmed its commitment to joining the Water Convention, following the approval of its national assembly last week.
Namibia shares all its perennial rivers with neighboring countries and is both a mid-and downstream country. Its accession would make it the first country in the Southern African Development Community to join the convention, opening the door to further expansion and reinforcement of cooperation in a region where most freshwater crosses state borders.
For The Gambia, whose parliament approved its accession to the Water Convention last week, membership will make a significant contribution to the more dependable management of its water resources, jointly with its neighboring states, according to the release.
The Gambia is a downstream country along the Senegal River, which shares all its land borders with the convention party Senegal. It also shares the Senegalo-Mauritanian Aquifer, for which the convention is already supporting cooperation.
Niger also confirmed its intention to join, bringing all major Lake Chad bordering nations under the convention’s legal framework.
This is a decisive step in the increasingly drought-prone Sahel region since it gives Lake Chad – whose volume has shrunk by more than 90 percent since 1963 – full legal protection under the Convention, the release said.
On Friday, Iraq became the first Middle East country to join the UN Water Convention, which aims to ensure the sustainable use of international water resources.
“I strongly encourage all the countries to follow Iraq in acceding to both the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes,” Iraq’s President Abdul Latif Rashid told the UN 2023 Water Conference this week.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged all member states to join the convention and ensure its full implementation, and has stressed that “the 1992 Water Convention is a powerful tool to advance cooperation, prevent conflicts and build resilience.”
The 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), known as the UN Water Convention, is a unique global legal and intergovernmental framework. It requires parties to prevent, control, and reduce negative impacts on water quality and quantity across borders, to use shared waters in a reasonable and equitable way, and to ensure their sustainable management through cooperation. Parties bordering the same transboundary waters are obliged to cooperate by concluding specific agreements and establishing joint bodies.