During the World Water Week held in Stockholm from 16-22 August 2009, UNEP organized in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa (CSIR), Phillips Robinson and Associates (PRA), and Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) the seminar Dialogue on Transboundary Waters – Structured Approaches to Realise Benefits for All.
The seminar addressed the concept of benefit sharing in managing transboundary water resources and discussed the need to develop a cooperative framework to promote equitable, reasonable and sustainable utilization of transboundary waters and freshwater governance at transboundary level, regardless of political divisions. In particular, UNEP's contribution focused on the distribution of environmental benefits of transboundary waters such as water quality, river flow characteristic, soil conservation and biodiversity. This also in the light of the recent UNEP Conference on Strengthening Transboundary Freshwater Governance held in Bangkok from 20-22 March 2009 and of UNEP's collaboration with the Royal Thai Government.
As a result of this collaboration, UNEP invited H.E. Mr. Suwit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, to deliver the opening speech of the Seminar, and Mr. Siripong Hungspreugis, Director General of the Department of Water Resources of Thailand, to participate as a distinguished member on the discussion panel. UNEP also participated in the preparation of a case study on the Mekong river in collaboration with the Mekong River Commission (MRC). The case study was presented during the seminar by Dr.Tran Duc Cuong, Deputy Secretary General of the MRC Vietnam National Mekong Committee.
Find below the main conclusions of the "Dialogue":
- H.E. Mr. Suwit Khunkitti opened the seminar and gave an insight about transboundary waters and benefit sharing in Thailand. He highlighted the outcomes of the Bangkok Conference as one of Thailand' s commitments in the field of transboundary freshwater governance and invited all participants to join the next forum in Thailand in 2011.
- Mr. Siripong Hungspreugis stressed out that riparian countries have often different level of economic development and therefore face different needs and interests. In this respect, he pointed out the importance of voluntary commitments from riparian countries, such as the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), as opposed to strict regulation as a mechanism for realizing benefit sharing for all. He mentioned as an example of such mechanism trade-off agreements between riparian involving broad areas of the economy, such as trade, navigation, energy and communication to realize an equitable share of the benefits arising from the utilization of shared international waters.
- The importance of political will has been identified as the essential requirement for realizing benefit sharing. The sharing of benefit is technically feasible (and the TWO tool presented during the seminar by CSIR and SIWI points in that direction) only if there is a political will to do so at national level and regional cooperation at transboundary and river basin levels. UNEP also pointed out the importance of national/international frameworks of cooperation for reaching common political understanding involving the participation of all concerned stakeholders, including local communities.
- The holistic approach which considers the river basin as a whole regardless of political boundaries is essential for cooperation in managing transboundary waters. The holistic approach can lead to win-win situations and can provide guidance in facing global threats such as climate change. This approach also provides a new way of looking at water related problems which tackles the needs of individual riparian but behind a shared vision for the benefit of all.
- The seminar provided a good platform for sharing experiences and inputs from different perspectives (scientific, political, institutional) and involved the participation into the dialogue of a number of river basin organization representatives from the audience especially with respect to the two case studies presented during the seminar on Mekong and Nile.
Please also find additional information on the seminar (programme, speeches, presentations and event description) at: http://www.worldwaterweek.org/sa/node.asp?node=471&sa_content_url=%2Fplugins%2FEventFinder%2Fevent%2Easp&id=1&event=20