The Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, often referred to as the Watercourses Convention, is an international legal framework that addresses the utilization and protection of water resources shared by two or more countries. It was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on May 21, 1997, and came into force on August 17, 2014.
The Watercourses Convention aims to establish principles and rules governing the use, management, and protection of international watercourses, including rivers, lakes, and groundwater systems. It provides guidelines to promote cooperation among countries sharing water resources, with the ultimate goal of achieving equitable and sustainable use of water.
Key provisions of the convention include:
- General principles: The convention outlines several fundamental principles, including the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization, obligation not to cause significant harm to other states, and the duty to cooperate.
- Navigational uses: The convention focuses on non-navigational uses of watercourses. Navigational uses are governed by other international treaties, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- Obligations of states: States are required to utilize and develop international watercourses in an equitable and reasonable manner. They should take appropriate measures to prevent significant harm to other states sharing the watercourse.
- Cooperation: The convention emphasizes the importance of cooperation among states through the exchange of information, joint management, and environmental impact assessment of planned activities.
- Protection and preservation of ecosystems: The convention recognizes the need to protect and preserve the ecosystems dependent on watercourses and encourages states to take necessary measures to prevent their degradation.
- Dispute settlement: The convention provides mechanisms for the settlement of disputes through negotiation, mediation, and, if necessary, arbitration or judicial proceedings.
It’s important to note that while the Watercourses Convention represents a significant step in the development of international law relating to shared water resources, it has not been universally ratified. As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the convention had been signed by 36 countries and ratified by 38 countries. However, the specific list of countries that have ratified or acceded to the convention may have changed since then.