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High Level Political Forum 2018, Side Event: The Contribution of Transboundary water cooperation to achieving the sustainable development goals - How far have we come, and what still needs to be done? Statement by H.E. Ms. Jaana Husu-Kallio - Permanent Mission of Finland to the UN : Current Affairs : Statements

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Speeches, 8/21/2018

High Level Political Forum, Side Event

The contribution of Transboundary water cooperation to achieving the sustainable development goals – how far have we come, and what still needs to be done?

Speaking Statement by

H.E. Ms. Jaana Husu-Kallio

Permanent Secretary

Ministry Of Agriculture and Forestry of Finland

New York, 12 July 2018

Thank you Chair,

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First I would like to thank very much the organisers inviting me to this very important Side Event. Transboundary water cooperation is essential when solving global water problems and on our way to achieve Sustainable Development Goals for water

In my short intervention I will give you background information about the role of international water law and examples of some basic deliverable we have found most important in our own cooperation with our neighbours

Transboundary river basins are in a crucial role when improving our water security in many regions of the world


  • Cover almost half the earth's surface,
  • Home for 40 % of the world's population
  • Generate about 60 % of global freshwater flow.                           
  • Many of these basins are located in regions with severe water scarcity

We have a big momentum now for promoting transboundary water cooperation. We have two global Water Conventions in force, the Helsinki Convention and the New York Convention, official names you can see in the screen

There is growing interest from all continents towards these Conventions, the first country outside the UNECE region, Chad, has already ratified the Helsinki Convention, and many other countries have started the accession process. Senegal has more or less reached the goal. We are very honoured that we can be co-organisers with Senegal of this Side Event.

Finally, we have a specific goal for transboundary waters within the SDG6, and we have an indicator for that goal. We will hear more about this indicator later presented by Under-Secretary General Ms Algayerova.

Transboundary water cooperation has to be arranged between riparian countries, but international water law and international water conventions have a important role when organising the cooperation. The Conventions provide riparian countries with a framework for cooperation and a common language and platform upon which States can negotiate equitable and sustainable solutions

Principle obligations of the Conventions are necessary tools for cooperation. The most important obligations are:

  • To prevent, control and reduce transboundary impacts
  • To manage shared waters in an equitable and reasonable manner. Frequently asked question is, how to define equitable and reasonable
    • The simple answer is: If the parties agree, it’s reasonable and equitable
  • Duty to cooperate in good faith
  • To develop agreements and institutional arrangements
  • To share data and information
  • To settle disputes in a peaceful manner

Finland has organised its transboundary cooperation with its neighbours long time ago: for example our agreement with Russia originates from 1964.

Based on our long experiences with our neighbours, with Russia, Sweden and Norway, but also when actively participating in the implemention of the International Water Conventions elsewhere, we have concluded that some issues are utmost important, no matter where in the world we are:

Establishment of joint institutions: e.g. joint commission, secretariat and relevant working groups. And not only to establish, but direct sufficient human and financial resources to their work.

Exchange data and establish joint monitoring programmes. If the parties do not know or agree how much and which quality of water is crossing the border, joint management is impossible

Take a risk-based approach in the joint and integrated management. It is a perfect way to maximize benefits and minimize trade-offs in all riparian countries. It takes into account potential damages by e.g. floods and droughts combined with potential benefits to different uses of water

There are of course many other issues where we have good experiences with our neighbours and which are transferable elsewhere: for example early warning systems, but I think the three issues that I have raised here are the most important.

Thank you for your attendance

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Updated 8/21/2018

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