The process of implementation — or translating intent into action — is fundamental to effective public policy, including multilateral environmental agreements. Parties to the Water Convention implement the Convention by entering into bilateral or multilateral agreements, setting up joint bodies for transboundary water cooperation, exchanging data and information, carrying out joint monitoring and assessment of transboundary waters and taking other measures in line with their obligations under the Convention.
The Convention’s institutional framework headed by the Meeting of the Parties facilitates access to advice and the sharing of experiences. It assists Parties in implementation of the Convention through the development of soft-law instruments (guides, recommendations, model provisions, etc.), exchange of good practices and projects on the ground. These activities are implemented as part of the programme of work approved by the Meeting of the Parties every three years. Support to implementation can also be provided by a dedicated Implementation Committee, established by the Meeting of the Parties in 2012.
The Guide to Implementing the Water Convention, adopted by the fifth session of the Meeting of the Parties (Rome, 10-12 November 2009), is intended to facilitate compliance with and implementation of the Convention. The Guide offers a comprehensive commentary to the Convention’s provisions, providing explanations of the procedural, legal, administrative, technical and practical aspects of the Convention’s requirements for appropriate implementation. These explanations are coupled with illustrative examples of good practices. Other tools and publications developed under the Water Convention support the implementation of the Convention in specific areas, e.g. transboundary agreements, monitoring and assessment, or adaptation to climate change.
The regular reporting mechanism under the Water Convention, introduced by the Meeting of the Parties in 2015, has become an important asset in supporting the implementation of the Convention. National reports of Parties provide the national view on the implementation of the Convention and the effectiveness of cooperation in specific transboundary river, lake and aquifer basins. Two synthesis reports prepared by the secretariat – Progress on Transboundary Water Cooperation under the Water Convention: Report on Implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (2018) and Progress on Transboundary Water Cooperation under the Water Convention: Second report on implementation of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes 2017–2020 (2021) – provide a review of progress made in the implementation of the Water Convention by synthesizing the information provided by the Parties in their national reports. Both reports include qualitative and quantitative information on the state of implementation of key obligations under the Convention and recommendations how to address the challenges. They also provide, in their annexes, the lists of bilateral and multilateral agreements covering specific transboundary waters.
Earlier efforts to assess implementation of the Water Convention
In 1993, the secretariat published a list of Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements and other Arrangements in Europe and North America on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Waters, further updated in 1995 and 1996. In 1999, information on Bilateral and multilateral cooperation under the Convention (MP.WAT/2000/2) was compiled based on a questionnaire sent to UNECE Member States.
In 2003, UNECE organized a workshop in Moscow to analyse experience gained in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) countries and examine difficulties encountered in transboundary water cooperation and/or implementation of the Convention. The workshop report "Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Newly Independent States (NIS)" included a list of agreements recently concluded in the region (English, Russian).
As a result of the Capacity for Water Cooperation programme, the secretariat published an overview “River basin commissions and other institutions for transboundary water cooperation” (2009). This publication provided an analysis of existing agreements in the EECCA region and recommendations for establishing effective joint bodies in EECCA countries.
The First Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters (2007) provided an authoritative picture of the state of the transboundary waters, and thereby helped to benchmark progress achieved in implementing the Convention at that time. It covered 140 transboundary rivers and 30 transboundary lakes in the European and Asian parts of the region, as well as 70 transboundary aquifers in South-Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia.
The Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters (2011) covered more than 140 transboundary rivers, 25 transboundary lakes, about 200 transboundary groundwaters and 25 Ramsar Sites or other wetlands of transboundary importance, providing a picture of current pressures and expected impacts on transboundary water resources. It included an inventory of transboundary water agreements in the UNECE region valid at the time.
Projects on the ground supporting the implementation of the Water Convention