UN Watercourses Convention

BRIDGE publishes a legal analysis of how the UN Watercourses Convention complements the Mekong Agreement

The UN Watercourses Convention (UNWC) entered into force on August 2014 when Viet Nam became the required 35th country to ratify the UNWC. This represented a milestone for the global management of trans-boundary waters and a significant opportunity for countries and regions lacking cooperative management frameworks for shared waters. 

This entry into force of the UNWC presents an opportunity to seek a common approach for strengthening trans-boundary water governance both in the Mekong Basin, specifically regarding the Mekong Agreement and globally. 

This IUCN paper, published under the BRIDGE programme,  “A window of opportunity for the Mekong Basin: The UN Watercourses Convention as a basis for cooperation. A legal analysis of how the UN Watercourses Convention complements the Mekong Agreement’ provides a comparative analysis of the key substantive and procedural principles and obligations provided for in the two treaties. 

The result is a finding of overall general legal compatibility between the UNWC and the Mekong Agreement. Moreover, where gaps and inconsistencies between these instruments exist, the UNWC addresses them. 

The results of the analysis point clearly to the benefits of ratification of the UNWC by all the Lower Mekong Basin states and members of the MRC. It further recommends that the UNWC would reinforce rather than replace the Mekong Agreement and the MRC, as well as strengthening its broader normative impact as the most important legal instrument for the governance of trans-boundary watercourses globally.   

This document is part of a training package supporting the BRIDGE work on hydrodiplomacy. It was produced at the request of BRIDGE practitioners and partners in the Lower Mekong Basin region and will be used during BRIDGE trainings. It will also be widely disseminated in the Lower Mekong Basin countries. BRIDGE envisages that this document will further strengthen the principles of the UNWC and its compatibility with the Mekong Agreement, as well as contribute to the regional dialogue on trans-boundary water cooperation.