Joint Bodies in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia

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After the break-up of the former Soviet Union and the emergence of the independent States in its territory, many internal problems connected with use, distribution and protection of water resources have acquired transboundary character. Since the early 1990s, to a greater or lesser extent all countries in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA)[1] have taken measures to establish transboundary cooperation in use and protection of water resources. Many have joined international conventions and agreements in this area and entered into new bilateral and multilateral agreements on transboundary waters which have provided for, among other measures, the establishment of joint bodies.

Contents

Joint Bodies in EECCA

  1. Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay
  2. Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay/projects
  3. Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay/publications
  4. Administrative Commission of the River Uruguay/who is who
  5. Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization
  6. Commission on the Use of Water Management Facilities of Intergovernmental Status on the Rivers Chu and Talas
  7. Establishment and improvement of Joint Bodies in countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia
  8. Great Lakes Commission
  9. ICWC
  10. Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee of La Plata Basin Countries
  11. International Boundary and Water Commission
  12. International Commission for the Meuse/Maas
  13. International Commission for the Protection of Italo-Swiss Waters
  14. International Commission for the Protection of Lake Constance
  15. International Commission for the Protection of Lake Geneva
  16. International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River
  17. International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe
  18. International Commission for the Protection of the Oder against Pollution
  19. International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine
  20. International Commission for the Scheldt
  21. International Commissions for the Protection of Mosel and Saar Against Pollution
  22. International Joint Commission
  23. International Law for the management, use and protection of transboundary watercourses and the establishment of Joint Bodies
  24. International Sava River Basin Commission
  25. Joint Finnish-Russian Commission on the Utilization of Frontier Waters
  26. Mekong River Commission
  27. Mixed Technical Commission of Salto Grande
  28. Niger Basin Authority
  29. Organization for the Development of the Senegal River
  30. Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission

Scope of Application

Where a watercourse agreement is concluded between States, it shall define the waters to which it applies. This is a requirement of the United Nations Convention of 1997. The Water Convention also requires the riparian Parties to specify the catchment area, or part(s) thereof, subject to cooperation.


According to their scope of application, watercourse agreements and joint bodies can be divided into those covering:

  • An entire (or almost entire) basin of a transboundary watercourse
  • Part of a basin
  • Only boundary waters
  • Cooperation within a particular project, programme or use of a transboundary watercourse.


A number of joint commissions extend their activities to the entire (or almost entire) basin of a transboundary watercourse. For example, the basin of the Danube River is the world’s most international basin, as its waters run through the territories of 19 countries. Because of the basin’s size and the need to ensure effective cooperation, the Convention on Cooperation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River (1994) stipulates that only countries sharing more than 2,000 km2 of the total hydrological catchment area may become Parties to the Convention. Therefore, the Parties to the Convention that participate in ICPDR activities include 14 States and the European Community. Countries which share less than 2,000 km2 of the catchment area (Albania, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) cooperate with ICPDR on the implementation of the EU WFD.


At the same time, there are cases in which watercourse agreements and joint bodies do not cover critical parts of basins. The Mekong River Commission was established in 1995 by the agreement of the Governments of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Thailand and Vietnam. China – which contributes 16 per cent of the Mekong’s flow – and Myanmar do not participate in the 1995 Agreement.


There are also a number of agreements and joint bodies that cover only boundary waters. In such cases, cooperation has the additional goal of ensuring the stability of international boundaries in areas where they are formed by transboundary waters. Such bilateral agreements are quite typical for EECCA and CEE countries, as well as for others. In EECCA and CEE, such agreements often provide for the institution of the plenipotentiaries as a joint body.


Agreements and joint bodies that regulate cooperation within a particular project, programme or use are quite widespread in international practice. One example is the Agreement between Argentina and Uruguay Concerning the Utilization of the Rapids of the Uruguay River in the Salto Grande Area (1946). It established the Mixed Technical Commission of Salto Grande empowered to create a hydropower complex near the cities of Concordia (Argentina) and Salto (Uruguay). The Commission now deals with maintenance of the complex. Another example involves the Agreement between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on the Use of Water Management Facilities of Intergovernmental Status on the Rivers Chu and Talas (2000), and the Chu-Talas Commission that was set up afterwards. The Commission is responsible for the joint management of the water management facilities listed in the Agreement.


The United Nations Convention of 1997 attempts to prevent concluding watercourse agreements “in private”. It stresses the right of every watercourse State to participate in the negotiation of and to become a party to a watercourse agreement that applies to the entire watercourse. A watercourse State whose use of a watercourse may be affected to a significant extent by the implementation a proposed watercourse agreement that applies only to a part of the watercourse or to a particular project, programme or use is entitled to participate in consultations and, where appropriate, in the negotiation thereof with a view to becoming a party to such agreement. The United Nations Convention of 1997 allows the conclusion of an agreement with respect to an entire international watercourse or any part thereof or a particular project, programme or use except in so far as the agreement “adversely affects, to a significant extent”, the use by one or more other watercourse States of the waters of the watercourse, without their express consent.


At the same time, some States resist participating in agreements on transboundary watercourses, whether framework agreements or those for specific watercourses. Turkey has signed neither the Water Convention nor the United Nations Convention of 1997. Turkey faces serious criticism for implementing large water diversion projects without consultations with Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. The second example is China. Its decisions on water diversion and construction of water management facilities at the Irtysh and Ili have raised concerns in neighbouring countries and the environmental community. China participates in bilateral agreements; however, the Kazakhstan-China Commission approaches the discussion of these problems with extreme caution. Attempts by Kazakhstan to involve the Russian Federation in the settlement of the situation over the Irtysh are not supported by China, which insists on the bilateral format of the negotiations.


Despite the requirement to define waters in watercourse agreements present in both the United Nations Convention of 1997 and the Water Convention, there are many agreements involving EECCA countries that do not define the waters to which they apply. In this context, the Agreement between the Russian Federation and Estonia of 1997 may be considered a positive example. The Agreement explicitly indicates that it applies to transboundary waters of the Narva River Basin, including Pskovsko-Chudskoye/Peipsi Lake.


Defining boundary (frontier) waters

The definitions of waters in the boundary waters agreements vary substantially. For example, the 1994 Agreement of the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, providing for the institution of the plenipotentiaries, covers those sections of rivers and other surface watercourses that mark or are located on the border between the Contracting Parties, as well as any surface and ground waters, which cross the border. Therefore, this Agreement covers only 120 km out of the 1,500-km-long Dniester River, one of the transboundary watercourses covered by the Agreement.


The Treaty between Hungary and Austria Concerning the Regulation of Water Economy Questions in the Frontier Waters (1956) covers water bodies in the territory of either country within 6 km from the frontier.


At the same time, some agreements (e.g. the Frontier Rivers Agreement between Finland and Sweden of 1971) include a wide definition of boundary waters that form the scope of activity for joint bodies. In this case, the boundary waters are not the sections of but the entire water bodies that form the boundary or cross the boundary, as well as their tributaries.


To facilitate the implementation of the Agreement between Finland and the USSR Concerning Frontier Watercourses of 1964, frontier guards from these countries compiled a list of all transboundary watercourses between the Soviet Union and Finland. The Joint Finnish-Russian Commission approved the list in 1971. There are 20 watercourses and 448 lakes, rivers, ponds and streams.

The trend to enter into agreements and create joint bodies with the participation of all riparian States

There is a clear trend in international practice towards concluding watercourse agreements with the participation of all riparian States to implement the basin approach and ensure the application of IWRM for transboundary waters. Existing joint bodies are endeavouring to establish cooperation with States that are not participants of agreements and eventually to have all riparian States as Parties to the relevant agreement.


The Lake Chad Basin Commission was created in 1964 by the Heads of State of the four countries sharing the lake, namely Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. In 1994, for its share of the lake basin, the Central African Republic was admitted as the fifth member of the Commission. Another example deals with the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River, which was established in 1968 by three States: Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. The fourth basin State, Guinea, did not join this new organization. Recently, a process was initiated to develop organizational and technical terms for admission of Guinea to the Organization.


The Mosel-Saar Commissions are another example of this trend. France, Germany and Luxembourg established the International Commission for the Protection of Mosel against Pollution by the 1961 Protocol to the 1956 Convention on Canalization of Mosel. The implementation of the EU WFD became an incentive for inviting Belgium – which shares 1 per cent of the Mosel basin – to participate as an observer to the Commission.

References

  1. EECCA countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

See also

Joint Bodies in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia/Competence, functions and tasks

Joint Bodies in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia/Organization, rules of procedure & decision-making

Joint Bodies in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia/Public participation and Financing

Joint Bodies in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia/Cooperation

Intergovernmental transboundary waters agreements concluded with participation of EECCA countries from the beginning of the 1990s


International Law for the management, use and protection of transboundary watercourses and the establishment of Joint Bodies

International mechanisms for transboundary water cooperation

Establishment and improvement of Joint Bodies in countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia

Water-related Legislation and Conventions

External Resources

Attachments

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