As the world’s most productive inland fishery, the Mekong Basin provides 25% of the global freshwater catch and serves as an important source of food, water and energy for over 60 million people. However, economic growth, hydropower development, and climate change have placed increasing pressure on this rich ecosystem. In order to ensure regional sustainability and security, strengthening cooperation between riparian countries is imperative. International water law can help.
By setting rules and standards, it can enforce principles, facilitate relationships between different parties and strengthen water governance. As such, international water law serves to build consensus and reach agreement on shared waters. Since coming into force in August 2014, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UNWC) has emerged as a promising tool for the region.
In Asia, BRIDGE (Building River Dialogue and Governance) is currently working on the 3S Basins (Sekong, Sesan and Sre Pok rivers) shared by Cambodia, Vietnam and Lao PDR. The programme has been operational since 2011 and has provided opportunities for dialogue and training on hydrodiplomacy for key stakeholders, facilitated the sharing of information on water management, and produced data and studies to support technical discussions across basins.
Last September, training and dialogues were organized in Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Hanoi. Key agencies and ministries from Cambodia, Vietnam Thailand and Myanmar participated in active conversations about current and future water governance scenarios. The aim was to provide most relevant key agencies officials with a better understanding of international water law and the key provisions, substantive and procedural rules, and institutional aspects of the UNWC, the only treaty governing shared freshwater resources that is of universal applicability.
During the events, the Environmental Law Center launched a new information tool relating to the entry into force of the UN Watercourses Convention and the Mekong River Agreement.