Euro-Mediterranean Information System on know-how in the Water sector
International portal

News European Forest Week Bulletin - Vol. 155 No. 1 - First European Forest Week: UNECE Water Convention Working Group on Integrated water resources management

Sibylle Vermont, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, chaired the third meeting of the UNECE Water Convention Working Group on IWRM held in parallel with EFW from Wednesday afternoon through Friday morning, except on Thursday morning during the plenary on Forests and Water. The Working Group started by reviewing the status of ratification of the UNECE Water Convention, under which the Working Group is operating.

The Convention entered into force in 1996, and currently has 36 parties. Participants commented  in a draft concept of a guide for the implementation of the Convention, which responds to requests to facilitate accession and explain the Convention’s legal, adopted in November 2009, at the fifth meeting of the parties to the Convention. The Working Group exchanged views on the preparation of the second assessment on transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters in the UNECE region. Support was given to make the new assessment more integrative, and focus, in particular, on IWRM, climate change impacts, and the Central Asian subregion. The assessment is expected to be presented at the next “Environment for Europe” conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, in 2011.

The meeting discussed the progress report of the Joint Expert Group on Water and Industrial Accidents, and the draft safety guidance and good practices for cross-border contingency planning. Suggestions were made on improving national and transboundary coordination, and the expert group’s future operation. Participants took note of the report on a workshop on transboundary accidental water pollution, liability and compensation held in May 2007 in Budapest, Hungary, and shared national information, including on the impact of recent military events in the Caucasus. The Capacity for Water Cooperation project was also reviewed. The Working Group discussed, and commended, the added value of National Policy Dialogues, a capacity-building political process under the European Union Water Initiative in four former Soviet republics. The UNECE Secretariat informed the Working Group of the UNECE contribution to the UN system coordination on water,
in particular, to UN-Water, and on ongoing preparation of the World Water Day 2009, which will be devoted to transboundary cooperation.

On Thursday afternoon, the UNECE Working Group on IWRM took up the question of ecosystem services and payments for such services. While some countries expressed interest in pilot projects, others questioned the added value of such payments. MCPFE explained the status of ecosystem services in its current work programme, and drew attention to a planned workshop on SFM and climate change.
On water and adaptation to climate change, participants noted the outcome of the UNECE workshop held in July 2008 in Amsterdam and a progress report on a draft guidance document, which will be the joint product of the UNECE task forces on Water and Climate and on Extreme Weather Events, for possible adoption at the meetings of the parties to the Water Convention and to the 2007 Protocol on Water and Health. The authors of the report called for additional data, information and case studies from the UNECE countries, and stressed the need to downscale climate models to the regional level. Participants commented on the guidance report, with some noting that not all climate change uncertainties are taken into account. Other contributions urged improving the quality of national assessments, which sometimes differ within the same geographic areas. A delegate reported on an EU guidance document under preparation, focusing on how climate change will affect the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive.

Germany announced a workshop, to be co-organized with the World Meteorological Organization, on flood forecasting and management tentatively planned for mid-2009. Calls were made for better management of flood response, and a suggestion was made to emulate successful examples of transboundary flood management. The UNECE described its intensified activities in Central Asia for promoting transboundary water cooperation and IWRM, and several countries of the sub-region reported on national efforts and constraints. A suggestion was made that Italy and Germany take the lead in developing a strategic document to coordinate UNECE and EU IWRM activities in Central Asia. The management of transboundary ground waters in the UNECE region was also discussed. On Friday morning, the Working Group reconvened for its final meeting. The Secretariat reported on progress of the Environment and Security Initiative implemented by six organizations, including UNECE, and described ongoing projects. Several participants highlighted the usefulness of the Initiative, with Spain urging more coordination with similar work under the Water Convention, to prevent overlap. Participants welcomed the Secretariat’s proposed activities on transboundary waters for the World Water Day 2009, and reported on national activities envisaged for the occasion. The Working Group decided to update the IWRM work plan for 2007-2009 in line with the evolving situation, in particular, putting on hold a proposal to hold the third international conference on sustainable management of transboundary waters. Items were proposed for inclusion in the plan for 2010-2012 and beyond, with the Netherlands advising more focus on strategic issues in the coming
years, such as water and climate change. Suggestions were made on the work plan on IWRM for presentation to the Working Group at its fourth meeting to be held from 8-10 July 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Contact information n/a
News type Inbrief
File link n/a
File link local ymbvol155num1e.pdf (application/force-download, 575 Kb)
Source of information IISD
Keyword(s) IWRM, forests, EU-WFD, climate change, floods
Geographical coverage International
News date 28/10/2008
Working language(s) ENGLISH