Peer-to-Peer Learning in International Water Law and Water Governance

Good governance around transboundary waters is critical for water security, regional socio-economic development, peace, and stability. Since 2010, GWP has been conducting capacity building trainings on International Water Law (IWL) and water governance. While there is no shortage of trainings on transboundary water issues, the uniqueness of GWP’s IWL workshops lie in the peer-to-peer and cross-continental learning, says GWP Senior Network Specialist Yumiko Yasuda. This has proved to be a successful formula that GWP is now ready to take to the next level – an online platform to support existing training and close learning gaps.

Many governments, regional economic bodies, and global organisations are challenged by poor capacity in the management of transboundary waters. GWP’s workshops on IWL focus primarily on freshwater resources management, and they target a diverse set of practitioners. These trainings are conducted at the regional level in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, creating an opportunity for cross-learning among practitioners from different basins and countries.

The most recent workshop was in Kunming, China, on 13-15 December 2018 – 17 countries were represented.

“Most practitioners have difficulties understanding the IWL concept. Our combination of theoretical presentations, case studies, and group exercise help them understand how to apply theory to real life situations,” says Dr. Yasuda. “While understanding key principles of international water law gives a framework for countries to work on transboundary water issues, it is the local or regional context and application of principle to each case that determines the decisions and outcomes – this is why a peer-to-peer learning approach is so important. The feedback we received from the Kunming workshop was encouraging. People felt empowered, and at the end the participants said they were ready to apply the skills they learnt,” she said, sharing some of the comments received at the closing ceremony:

“I previously had limited knowledge of other basins. I work with the Mekong River Commission and attend their council meetings, but I now realize that those bodies require a lot of negotiation and I understand the difficulties involved in these negotiations”.

“Water projects are big and important – engineers often focus on numbers and charts, but this workshop illustrates that there is more than that”.

“The training helps to put a theoretical order to real life experiences. When you struggle on the ground, the driving legal reasons are not evident, but having this training reminds us how it was intended to be before it became a mess on the ground. The training provides important takeaways on how to behave on the ground before you get carried away and can see the intention of those who make the law”.

The comments mirror feedback from GWP workshops in other regions. A post-workshop survey of participants from African workshops in the past 3 years showed that participants were able to apply their skills to a wide range of policy and legislative processes including: IGAD Regional Water Protocol, Chad’s accession to the UNECE Water Convention, ORASECOM Agreement review process, Volta Basin Water Charter development, development of a Master Plan for Water Development and Management (SDAGE) of the International Commission of the Congo Basin, among many others. In Latin America, a post-training survey showed that 92% of the trainees have applied the knowledge they acquired.

This video gives a short glimpse into the workshops:

Looking forward – Continued Trainings and an Online Partnership Platform

The peer-to-peer training is a key element that has proved to be the success behind GWP’s IWL workshops. This way of learning fosters new paths in the training, and over the years it has moved from being a pure legal training, to covering wider governance issues that affect transboundary water management, negotiations, and other issues – such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and emerging needs in the regions. 

Looking into the future, GWP intends to continue collaboration with key partners on continental level capacity building that fosters partnerships and responding to critical demands of the regions. For instance, sustainable investment on transboundary water is a key challenge shared among many African nations where understandings and skills on transboundary water governance and IWL would be crucial.

The desire for continued learning and networking among practitioners has led to plans to supplement the trainings with an Online Partnership Platform: The Partnership Platform for Capacity Building on Transboundary Water Governance 

The Online Partnership Platform will facilitate and scale up knowledge sharing and experiences on transboundary water governance. The Platform will serve as both an interactive online resource for information, as well as a network to connect practitioners. To address identified gaps/needs, the Platform aims to: 

  • Scale up the number of practitioners trained in transboundary water governance;
  • Utilize case studies to promote greater understanding of governance principles and learning from shared experiences;
  • Promote an interactive platform to maintain relevant and up-to-date resources
  • Create a network of stakeholders and experts in the field of transboundary water governance.

“We are starting a dialogue with partners to take the initial step in creating the platform this year, with the hope that it can be launched in 2020,” says Dr. Yasuda.



GWP’s Partners, providing financial and/or technical support for the IWL workshops, are: 

Africa: African Network of Basin Organisations (ANBO), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Makerere University, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE),and Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health (GIWEH), Global Environment Facility, Geneva Water Hub, Uganda Ministry of Water and Environment, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the Nile Basin Initiative, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), University of Northumbria, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent College of Law, University of Ouagadougou, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, Oregon State University, University of Dundee, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), University of Geneva, University of British Columbia, Lake Victoria Basin Commission, WaterNet, GWP Technical Committee and Pole Eau.

Asia: Asian International Rivers Center/Institute of International Rivers and Eco-Security - Yunnan University; Network of Asian River Basin Organisations; World Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and Lancang-Mekong Water Resources Cooperation Centre, Xiamen University, Wuhan University, Scientific Information Centre of Interstate Commission for Water Coordination of Central Asia, Oregon State University, North Carolina State University, Chongqing University, GWP Nepal, and GWP Technical Committee.

Latin America: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Universidad de Externado de Colombia; Latin America Water Education and Training Network (LA WETnet); CapNet UNDP; Pontifical Catholic University of Peru; National Water Agency, Brazil; National Water Agency, Peru; AECID, Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gabriela Mistral University of Chile; National University of Costa Rica, and the National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina.

Top photo: Aerial landscape view of Mekong river with mountain ranges at twilight in Nong Khai Province, Thailand, by