REPORT OF AIDA PARTICIPATION AT 6th WORLD WATER FORUM(Marseille, France, 12-17 March 2012)


AIDA was officially represented at the 6th World Water Forum by Executive Council chairman Mr. Stefano Burchi, and by Honorary Chairman Mr. Dominique Alhéritière. Mr. Alhéritière participated at no cost to AIDA (except for the Forum registration fee). A considerable number of AIDA members were also in attendance, including Executive Council member Ms. Léna Salamé, AIDA Representative for the Middle East Ms. Aziza Fahmi, AIDA Representative for French Speaking Europe Mr. Jacques Sironneau, and AIDA Representative for the Near-East Ms. Raya Stephan.

Official AIDA participation in the Forum events

AIDA participated officially in the Forum as follows (in order of chronology):

– as speaker, in the person of AIDA member Prof. O. McIntyre, at the session – technically, a side event – on “The Water Law and Governance Support Platform: your direct line to legal expertise”, convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Environmental Law Centre (IUCN-ELC) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, 13 March from 15:00 to 16:00. In particular, Prof. McIntyre illustrated the need for legal support in transboundary waters cooperation, in general and in the context of the Platform project;

– as co-convener of the Forum session “Why does water law matter to you?”, convened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Environmental Law Centre (IUCN-ELC) and by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 14 March from 14:30 to 16:30. The session focussed on the role of international water law, particularly in relation to transboundary water issues. AIDA member Prof. J. Dellapenna gave an introductory keynote address illustrating the current state of international water law. Then he, AIDA members Prof. A. Rieu-Clarke and M. Tignino, and the AIDA chairman, along with other invited discussants, took part in the ensuing exercise – styled in the relevant programme as a “sharing workshop”. This featured multiple table debates around selected topics, running simultaneously. The AIDA chairman, in particular, led a table debate on the nexus between international water law and domestic legislation, and on the importance of ensuring that the latter is consistent with international-level water-related obligations of States;

– AIDA member Mr. V. Dukhovny and the AIDA chairman joined the High Level Panel on Science, Technology and Policy for Better Governance, convened by UNESCO and the International Association for Water Resources (IWRA), 14 March from 17:00 to 19:00. In particular, Mr. Dukhovny was invited to comment on the link between science and policy, while the AIDA chairman commented on the link between the hydro-geological science and water law based on his own personal experience in connection with the drafting by the United Nations International Law Commission of the Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers;

– the AIDA chairman featured as invited speaker at a session – technically, a “side event” – on “Strengthening dialogues and cooperation in transboundary basins” convened by IUCN-ELC and WWF, 14 March from 19:15 to 20:15. In particular, he commented on the presentations delivered by the invited speakers from, respectively, the Senegal River Development Organization (OMVS), and from the Permanent Bi-national Commission Costa Rica-Panama;

– AIDA Representative for the Near East, Ms. R. Stephan and the AIDA chairman featured among the invited speakers at the session on “Strengthening international cooperation for the sustainable and peaceful management of transboundary aquifers” convened by UNESCO-IHP and the International Association of Hydro-geologists (IAH), 15 March from 11:00 to 13:00. In particular, Ms. Stephan illustrated the book Toward a Joint Management of Transboundary Aquifer Systems which she co-authored, published in December 2011 by the French International Aid Agency (AFD) on the joint initiative of a number of French institutions and UNESCO. The AIDA chairman related the successful cooperation ongoing among Algeria, Libya and Tunisia on the joint management of the aquifer they share, known as Systhème Aquifère du Sahara Septentrional (SASS).

AIDA attendance at other events

The AIDA chairman and Honorary Chairman attended the inaugural session of the Forum, the high point of which was, in their opinion, the French Prime Minister’s strong endorsement of the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, and his government’s commitment to support endorsement and ratification by the number of States required to bring it into force, and to host the first meeting of the Contracting Parties.

The AIDA chairman also attended the side-event on “The Water Law and Governance Support Platform: your direct line to legal expertise”, reported on above; the side-event on “The UN Watercourses Convention in Force: What then?”, convened by WWF, 13 March from 19:15 to 20:15. AIDA members Prof. O. McIntyre and A. Rieu-Clarke were among the invited panellists; the side-event on “Groundwater governance – From national and regional needs to global solutions”, convened by UNESCO, the World Bank, FAO, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and IAH, 15 March from 13:15 to 14:15. At the event, an ongoing GEF-funded project aimed at raising the profile of groundwater and its governance requirements in the eyes and minds of the general public, and in the agenda of politicians and policy-makers, was illustrated; the session on “Towards a wider consensus on international legal frameworks of shared waters”, convened by the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), 15 March from 14:30 to 16:30. AIDA Representative for the Middle East Ms. A. Fahmi and AIDA member Prof. A. Rieu-Clarke were also in attendance. The somewhat controversial presentations, particularly regarding the role of procedural obligations deriving from customary international water law, and the role of “green” water as opposed to “blue” water in the future of international water law – both of which would, in the relevant speakers’ opinion, justify a call for amending the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses – drew some heated responses from the floor including, in particular, from AIDA members who expressed their disagreement. The AIDA chairman left the Forum on 16 March.

The Honorary Chairman seized the opportunity to intervene as AIDA at the widely attended High-Level Panel on The Future of World’s Water Beyond 2025 in the main auditorium. He also attended a number of sessions on several issues such as desalination, Mediterranean issues, the launch of the 4th World Water Development Report, etc.. The Honorary Chairman left the Forum on 15 March.

Other official AIDA business conducted at the Forum

Agreement between AIDA and IWRA

International Association for Water Resources (IWRA) President Jun Xia and the AIDA chairman took the opportunity of their participation in the High Level Panel on Science, Technology and Policy for Better Governance reported on above, to sign and exchange letters of agreement regarding the development by AIDA of a special issue of IWRA’s journal Water International. The special issue will host outstanding law and governance-related papers presented at the 14th World Water Congress of IWRA (Porto de Galinhas, Brazil, September 2011). The agreement was widely advertised in the Journal of the Forum on the Web.

In view of the withdrawal of Granada (Spain) to host the International Water Resources Association’s  XVth World Water Congress, which may also be an opportunity for AIDA to hold its 5th Conference, the Honorary Chairman made a number of informal contacts for a possible alternative site. He kept President Jun Xia informed of such informal contacts.  

Collaboration with the Environmental Law Institute (ELI)

The AIDA chairman had a fruitful conversation with the Washington, DC-based Environmental Law Institute (ELI)’s Ms. J. Troell, Sr. Attorney and Director of International Water Programmes. In particular, opportunities for AIDA to collaborate with ELI’s water programme and field projects were explored. As mutual advantages appeared likely from collaboration, thought was given to entering into some formal arrangement between AIDA and ELI. The AIDA chairman undertook to develop the heads of a possible agreement on mutual collaboration between AIDA and ELI, for the latter’s further consideration.

Concluding remarks

Although the sheer size of the event, with 25,000 registered participants and innumerable concurrent sessions and events running in parallel, makes it difficult to focus on specific activities of absolute relevance to AIDA, the Forum nonetheless provided a unique opportunity for members of AIDA coming from distant places to meet, for networking, for visibility of the Association, for the enrolment of new members, and to collect up-to-date, topical, newly released reports.

Other Forum un-related business

On his way back home from the Forum, the Honorary Chairman delivered a conference at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (SciencesPo) in Menton on “Water and Tensions in the Mediterranean Region”.