First Informal Gathering of the Parties to the UN Watercourses Convention (Paris, 15-16 September 2015)

The first Informal Gathering of the Parties to the UN Watercourses Convention was convened by the governments of Finland, Germany and The Netherlands, and hosted by UNESCO at its HQ in Paris. It comprised a closed-door meeting on 15 September with discussions between the Parties only, followed by an open-door programme the following day. The report writers, and a few other AIDA members in attendance, attended the latter only. The gathering was attended by some twenty Parties to the Convention. In addition, non-Party representatives, and representatives of UN organizations, of international secretariats (Ramsar Convention and UNECE Helsinki Watercourses Convention) and of NGOs were also in attendance on the second day of the gathering. The day began with a brief report on the outcome of the previous day: the rapporteur mentioned the spirit of cooperation expressed by all present and indicated the discussions had been of a general nature. Later, of the non-Party States in attendance, Switzerland reported to be next in line to join the Convention, as the ratification process is already well underway. Ethiopia and Iran voiced support for the Convention and the principles crystallized in it. Iran, however, also voiced some concerns regarding, notably, the dispute settlement mechanisms, groundwater, and regional differences in the socio-economic development of countries. The Iranian representative further reported on the application of the Convention principles in the domestic context of his country, in relation to an inter-provincial river. The Ivory Coast representative reported that his country is considering joining the UNECE Helsinki Watercourses Convention.

 No immediate and clear conclusions emerged from the day’s presentations and limited discussions, except at a very high level of generality as regards the usefulness of continuing dialogue and exchange of experience and knowledge, with a view to fostering cooperation. In this particular regard, in her concluding remarks the meeting chair observed that cooperation – an “obvious” need in her words – is inspired by widely shared principles and vision, however the problems and focus are not the same everywhere. She concluded that the advocated follow-up discourse must reflect such variety.


Stefano Burchi

Zaki Shubber