Greece joins cascade towards global water treaty

Posted: 2010-12-16

New York: Greece has this month become the 21st country to ratify a global water treaty designed to reduce conflict and guide joint management over rivers and lakes forming or crossing international boundaries.

The ratification adds new momentum to efforts to bring United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UN Watercourses Convention) into force. The Convention, adopted at the United Nations 13 years ago by an overwhelming majority, becomes effective once it has been ratified by 35 nations.

“Water is a resource that often crosses borders, creating both obligations and opportunities for the development of successful cooperation between countries,” said H.E. Tina Birbili, Greek Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.

“The promotion of transboundary cooperation on water issues is inherent to Greece’s foreign policy, since around 25% of its surface water extends to or originates from neighboring countries. The UN Watercourses Convention together with the EU Water Framework Directive constitute the necessary background and reference point for advancing the transboundary negotiations that Greece has initiated with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on the Prespa Lake; with Turkey, on the Evros basin; and with Bulgaria, on the Nestos, Strymon, Ardas, and Evros basins."

Greece’s ratification contributes to a busy year in the establishment of the UN watercourses convention, supporting views that growing global anxieties over freshwater are boosting support for the treaty.  France has announced its imminent ratification and willingness to actively promote the convention in Europe and beyond. Ratifications earlier this year include those by Nigeria, in September, and Guinea-Bissau, in May. Burkina Faso is likely to become the 22nd contracting state in the near future.

According to Vangelis Constantianos, Executive Secretary of GWP-Mediterranean, “Greece’s initiative should serve as a strong encouragement for other European and neighbouring countries to join the UN Watercourses Convention as well.”

For Dr. Fadi Comair, President of the Mediterranean Network of Basin Organizations (MENBO), “The ratification of the UN Watercourses Convention by Greece is a very important step and we look forward for a speed entry into force of this convention which will underpin considerably the culture of peace and best practices of cooperation of Mediterranean countries on their shared water river basins”.

The widespread endorsement of the convention has been facilitated and encouraged by the UN Watercourses Convention Global Initiative, led by WWF, Green Cross, Global Water Partnership, the IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, under the auspices of UNESCO (Centre for Water Law, Policy & Science), and numerous other partners.

As emphasized by Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF Greece, "the ratification of the Convention, as well as other recent initiatives by Greece that promote transboundary cooperation on water management issues are certainly remarkable and encouraging.” And he adds: “We hope that Greece will show the same consistency in the implementation of an integrated national water policy in the immediate future.”

For further information:

A media backgrounder on international cooperation on water can be found at http://assets.panda.org/downloads/media_backgrounder_steal_for_it_forum_final_nov2009.pdf

Contact: Flavia Loures, Senior Program Officer, International Water Law and Policy, flavia.loures@wwf.us , +1 202 640 9055


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