INBO: Progress of Transboundary Cooperation Is 'Insufficient'

During the World Water Forum last month in Istanbul, participants discussed the topic of basin management and transboundary cooperation. On the issues of an international statute, methods for financing and implementing common infrastructures, ratification of the United Nations Convention of 1997, or the management of transboundary aquifers, attendees presented divergent positions, showing that it is still difficult to achieve real consensus.

But a vast majority of the participants converged on the advantage of national and transboundary basin approaches to face the challenges of water resources management.

The International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) has taken into account all the positions and finds that:

  • Strong political will and long-term commitment are prerequisites for basin management and transboundary cooperation in the face of future changes,
  • Significant progress has already been made since the 1990s with reforms undertaken in many regions and countries around the world. These experiences show that integrated water resources management at the level of river and aquifer basins is a real advantage and can provide guidance to countries that want to implement efficient basin management and reinforce their transboundary cooperation.

However, the progress is insufficient to meet the requirements of a globally changing world, according to INBO. Adaptive strategies, focused on maintaining the integrity of river basins and aquifer systems, should become the norm in national and international policy. This will require that:

  • Surface water to be managed in river and lake basin units and groundwater to be managed in aquifer systems – where the two resources are used together, they should be used conjunctively;
  • Managers obtain essential quantitative and qualitative information on resources, their uses, polluting pressures, ecosystems and their functions, the follow-up of their evolution, risk assessment and financial challenges of the sector. This information should be used as the objective basis for dialogue, negotiation, decision-making, and evaluation of undertaken actions, as well as coordination of financing from the various donors;
  • Governmental administrations and local authorities, the representatives of different categories of users, and associations for environmental protection or of public interest are involved in decision making. This participation would be better organized in Basin Committees or Councils;
  • Basin management plans or master plans clearly state the long-term objectives to be achieved to guarantee water resource integrity;
  • Training and educational programs for responding to the adaptation needs in cooperation building and basin management be made available;
  • Financial resources can be mobilized to meet the needs of countries in this field, taking account of their socioeconomic, cultural, and geopolitical specificities. Complementary funding systems based on the participation and common causes of the users need to be set up. Water charges mechanisms established for basin management can enable the use of the polluter-pays and user-pays principles and may have an interactive effect on consumption reduction and pollution control.

As global inventories of transboundary basins and aquifer systems and their technical and socioeconomic peculiarities are now completed (through the global programs supported by PCCP, World Water Assessment Program, ISARM, EU-WFD, EUWI, INBO-AP, the GEF and others), available conventions and agreements should be ratified by the riparian states concerned, INBO stated in its recent press release. Furthermore, cooperation agreements need to be crafted at global, basin, and aquifer levels to achieve sound cooperation. Similarly, institutions such as basin organizations should be created to nurture transboundary cooperation and strengthen communication and dialogue among users.