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The Water Convention and the Protocol on Water and Health


water conv

The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and  International Lakes  (Water Convention) is a unique international legal instrument and intergovernmental platform which aims to ensure the sustainable use of transboundary water resources by facilitating cooperation. Initially negotiated as a regional instrument, it has been opened up for accession to all UN Member States in 2016. 

The Protocol on Water and Health, jointly serviced by UNECE and WHO-Europe , is a unique legally binding instrument aiming to protect human health by better water management and by reducing water-related diseases. The Protocol provides a practical framework to translate into practice the human rights to water and sanitation and to implement SDG 6.

In focus

The sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health organized by UNECE and WHO Regional office for Europe, will take place on 16-18 November 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.  

It will be a key milestone for the implementation of the Protocol and an opportunity to discuss strategic directions of the pan-European water, sanitation and health agenda. The meeting will review achievements and lessons learned, including in the areas of prevention and reduction of water-related diseases, improving WASH in schools and health care facilities, safe management of water supply and sanitation systems, and equitable access to water and sanitation for all. Parties will adopt a new programme of work for 2023-2025 to implement the Protocol as well as other decision and documents.
More information on the meeting’s objectives, expected outcomes and registration process is available here.


2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the Water Convention, which was adopted in Helsinki in 1992.

For 30 years, the Water Convention has been supporting basins and countries worldwide fostering transboundary water cooperation.

The achievements of the Convention were marked by an event in Tallinn, Estonia, on 30 June 2022 and the launch of a publication showcasing the Convention’s benefits for people, economies, the environment and peace.

Since the Water Convention’s global opening in 2016, Chad (2018),Senegal (2018), Ghana (2020), Guinea-Bissau (2021) and Togo (2021) acceded and many other countries are under accession processes. The Convention supports countries through the application of its strategy for implementation at global level and its recently adopted programme of work for 2022-2024 (detailed programme in ENG, FRE, RUS and SPA), which aims to strengthen cooperation and partnerships for the management of transboundary waters worldwide in order to promote sustainable development and peace.

The programme of work of the Protocol on Water and Health for 2020-2022 (available  in ENG, FRE and RUS ) aims to address the main challenges related to water, sanitation and health in the pan-European region. The Protocol supports countries in areas such as preventing and reducing water-related diseases; institutional water, sanitation and hygiene; small-scale water supplies and sanitation, safe and efficient management of water supply and sanitation systems and equitable access to water and sanitation.