Transboundary: The Drin Coordinated Action; Towards an Integrated Transboundary Water Resources Management (#459)

The Drin River is a complex transboundary water system and a strategic developmental resource for its riparian states in South Eastern Europe.

The Drin Basin extends through a large part of the Western Balkans. It consists of several sub-basins, the uppermost of which is that of the Prespa Lakes, while the lowest is that of the Buna/Bojana River, adjacent to the Adriatic Sea. Until recently, management was practiced mainly at a national level and was not sustainable. Limitations in institutional settings, governance provisions and capacities as well as in financial resources for infrastructure and management itself were the main reasons for this failure.

Action taken

Following initial steps taken in 2008, a multi-stakeholder process for the establishment of a shared vision for the sustainable management of the Drin Basin, the Drin Dialogue, was formally launched in 2009. The dialogue was led by the competent Ministries of Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Kosovo and Montenegro. The Drin Dialogue was completed after two years, when the five Drin River riparians signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding for the Management of the Extended Transboundary Drin River Basin’.

It was a structured, step-by-step process, facilitated by UNECE and GWP Mediterranean. It comprised targeted assessment and a number of consultation meetings at national and transboundary levels. Competent ministries, national agencies, users, academics, the private sector, international institutions and donors worked together to ensure all parties acquired  the necessary ownership of the required actions to enhance cooperation and solutions for the sustainable management of the basin.

Strengthened transboundary cooperation in the Drin Basin is one of the key outcomes of the ‘Regional Dialogue on Transboundary Water Resources Management in South Eastern Europe’ to promote sustainable management of transboundary basins and shared water bodies. The Regional Dialogue aims to catalyse action in transboundary water resources management by debating and showcasing the benefits of cooperation. The activities under the Regional Dialogue have been used to enable stakeholders to identify solutions that can be applied in their respective basins.

Lessons learnt

The riparians, the national and regional stakeholders, and the international development community are engaged in that evolving process. Good practices from the region and beyond have provided and continue to provide valid background for building consensus among riparians and stakeholders through participatory processes, and for long-term planning to tackle interdependent development objectives. While continuing to build a knowledge base and advancing the policy instruments, the time is ripe for advancing joint institutional structures and launching implementation in response to agreed principles and priorities.

This article describes the ingredients of progress towards today’s achievements. It aims not only to tell the developing Drin story, but to provide lessons learned that could inspire replication elsewhere.