Protocol on Water and Health/Q&A


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The following Q&A are adopted from WHO's website on the Protocol on Water and Health


What is the legislative framework of the Protocol?

The Protocol is a binding international legal instrument which establishes broad commitments and a general system of governance for an issue area.

As an international treaty, what makes the Protocol unique?

The legal liability, which has never been included in provisions of any other agreement for WHO European Region related to sustainable water management and reduction of water-related disease.

What are the other legally binding agreements issued by WHO?

The Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the International Health Regulations (IHR), both with global reach.

  • The FCTC counts now 39 Parties in the European Region and 142 parties globally. It aims to regulate tobacco internationally because globalization has facilitated the spread of the tobacco epidemic through a complex mix of factors that transcend national borders.
  • The IHR are an international legal instrument which is legally binding on all WHO Member States who have not rejected them and on all non-Member States of WHO that have agreed to be bound by them.

The IHR require countries to notify WHO of all events that may constitute a public health emergency of international concern, and to respond to requests for verification of information regarding such events. The IHR’s revision approved at the World Health Assembly in May 2005 will enter into force in June 2007.

What do “ratification”, "approval" and "acceptance" mean?

Ratification is the international act by which countries that have already signed a treaty formally state their consent to be bound by it. Acceptance and approval are the legal equivalent of ratification and they both apply to countries that do not require national ratification of international treaties.

Can the European Commission (EC) ratify the Protocol?

The EC can become a Party to the treaty by means of formal confirmation, which has the same effect as ratification.

When the European Commission confirms the Protocol, will it be equivalent to all its members ratifying?

No. The European Commission and its member countries have competences that are mutually exclusive. The member countries of the European Union and the European Commission as a regional economic integration organization will become Protocol Contracting Parties as separate and distinct entities.

Is there a deadline for becoming a Party?

No, the Protocol keeps staying open to ratification, acceptance or approval for those countries that have signed, and is open for accession for those that have not. There is no deadline for countries to become Contracting Parties to the Protocol.

What is the advantage of being a Party?

As a Party, a country becomes a member of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) and able to play a role in making decisions regarding MOP procedural, institutional, and financial issues. Contracting Parties are eligible to receive financial and technical support for implementation of the obligations of the Protocol.

Do the countries that have only signed but not yet ratified the Protocol have an obligation to implement it?

No. Signing the Protocol shows the government’s interest or intention to become a Party at a later stage. Once a country has signed it, it is also expected that its government will act in good faith not to undermine the provisions set out in the Treaty.

Do countries need to sign and/or become a Party in order to implement the Protocol measures?

No. Many countries have in place important and effective water programmes, but it is important that some transnational standards prevailing across the borders are established to ensure effective sustainable management of transboundary water resources and ensure adequate cooperation in case of outbreaks of communicable diseases associated with water and sanitation.


See also

External Resources

WHO website on the Protocol on Water and Health

UNECE website on the Protocol on Water and Health

Q&A on the Protocol's legal framework


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