Protocol on Civil Liability


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Convention Name

The Protocol on Civil Liability and Compensation for Damage Caused by the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents on Transboundary Waters


The Protocol, part of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes was formally adopted and signed by 22 countries at the Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" in Kiev, Ukraine, on 21 May 2003.

The Protocol gives individuals affected by the transboundary impact of industrial accidents on international watercourses (e.g. fishermen or operators of downstream waterworks) a legal claim for adequate and prompt compensation. Companies will be liable for accidents at industrial installations, including tailing dams, as well as during transport via pipelines. Physical damage, damage to property, loss of income, the cost of reinstatement and response measures will be covered by the Protocol.

The Protocol sets financial limits of liability depending on the risk of the activity, i.e. the quantities of the hazardous substances that are or may be present and their toxicity or the risk they pose to the environment. To cover this liability, companies will have to establish financial securities, such as insurance or other guarantees. In addition, the Protocol will ensure the non-discrimination of victims: victims of the transboundary effects cannot be treated less favourably than victims from the country where the accident has occurred. The Protocol fills one of the major gaps in international environmental legislation and solves the problem of uncompensated damage in neighbouring countries. Moreover, by encouraging companies to take measures to prevent damage they will henceforth be liable for, the Protocol will help to prevent accidents from happening in the first place and limit their adverse effects on people and the environment.

The financial limits of liability and the minimum amount of financial securities have been agreed by all the actors of the negotiation, including the insurance sector, and are therefore realistic and appropriate. Furthermore, negotiators have drafted the agreement in such a way as to reduce the obstacles to ratification, taking into account the experience with other international civil liability instruments which failed to enter into force.

The Protocol will be open for ratification by States Parties to one or both Conventions, but any other Member State of the United Nations may accede to the Protocol upon approval by the Meeting of the Parties. The Protocol will enter into force once 16 States have ratified it.


The Protocol has been signed by 24 countries and ratified by 1. It will enter into force with 16 ratifications.


See Also

Water-related Legislation and Conventions

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes

Protocol on Water and Health

Status and importance of water-relevant international legal instruments for the 5 Central Asian countries

External Resources

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