Francesca Bernardini is the Secretary to the UNECE Water Convention. We ask her about some of the achievements and activities of the Convention:
Will developing countries have the capacity to comply with the requirements of the Convention?
One tends to forget that the pan-European region is very broad and diverse, and includes countries such as Uzbekistan which ranks 132 for its GDP per capita, after Pakistan and Yemen, and just before Cameroon; or the Republic of Moldova which has a Human Development Index of 113, after Bolivia and Mongolia to give two examples. So if Uzbekistan and the Republic of Moldova can implement the Convention, I do not see why other developing countries could not. This is mainly due to the nature of the Convention itself as its obligations are of “due diligence”, not absolute obligations: Parties are required to take all appropriate measures to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impacts. This introduces a certain degree of relativity on both the type and the timeframe of action to be taken that are proportional to the capacity of the Party concerned. Richer and more developed countries therefore have a higher level of obligation than less developed countries.
Is water quality an issue which has been given enough importance in transboundary water management?
I would say that water quality has been neglected in certain regions but has not been neglected worldwide. Europe is in general a good example of attention to quality issues, which were one of the reasons for negotiating the Water Convention. This is so also because transboundary waters are a main source of drinking water. Of course this is not true throughout the region, in particular in Central Asia where the main concern tends to be water allocation between agriculture and hydropower. However, in many cases, even when water quality has a low priority, once countries start cooperating, they tend to integrate it in the scope of their cooperation.
Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes