Environmental Law

Water Law and Governance

Only 3% of the earth’s water is freshwater; about two-thirds of it is frozen in glaciers and polar ice caps and we have long over-stretched this precious resource.
Cambodia, river

Weak governance has the potential to pose a real threat to the sustainability of freshwater resources, the ecosystems that depend on them, as well as the political stability in regions affected by drought, floods and weather extreme events.

It is expected that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and that two thirds of the global population could be under water stress conditions.

This scenario, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, is projected to cause the displacement of approximately 700 million people from arid and semi-arid regions of the world to more fertile areas.

As global population grows and as the demand of water for food and energy increases, tensions and conflicts for the access and use of water are likely to occur.

On this basis, it is imperative for States, particularly for those sharing transboundary waters, to focus on ensuring a cooperative management of water and climate change issues to secure peaceful relations.

Despite the variety of triggers for potential tensions and conflicts, throughout history, States have procured cooperative and peaceful means to manage shared water resources. In the face of climate change it is essential for States to cooperate as the effects of droughts, floods and weather extreme events do not recognise political borders.

For these cooperative and peaceful means to be effective and long lasting, capacities need to be created to enable an environment for effective water governance.

For more than two decades, the ELC has facilitated dialogues, supported the development, as well as the reform of laws and agreements, and the establishment of institutions for enhanced water governance in Latin America, Africa and Asia to foster security, sustainable development, livelihoods and peace.


Areas of Action

Based on the experiences from the implementation of a variety of water initiatives and looking at current and future challenges and opportunities the ELC addresses the following areas:

Protection of freshwater ecosystems

  • Guidance in the negotiation, drafting, reform and adoption of management plans, policies, laws and treaties for the protection of freshwater ecosystems.
  • Advice in the process of accession of global and regional environmental agreements.

Vulnerable communities

  • Fostering of environmentally sustainable livelihoods improve wellbeing and prevent displacement and migration.


  • Setting up the enabling environment for dialogue and cooperation on the construction of transboundary water infrastructure.
  • Seed fund water initiatives to promote sustainable development and regional peace.

Climate change

  • Promotion of flexible, participatory, multi-sectorial and multi-level governance frameworks for adaptation to climate change.
  • Strengthening institutional capacities and promote dialogue platforms for joint vulnerability assessments, adaptation planning to be implemented in transboundary waters.
  • Promotion of cooperative approaches to monitor the impacts of climate change and periodically evaluate joint strategies, in a participatory and gender sensitive manner.
  • Advice for science-based policy-decisions to understand, address and adapt to glacier shrinkage, aiming to ensure water security.
  • Promotion integration of high mountain-ecosystems vulnerabilities to climate change in National Adaptation Plans and international agreements.
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