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UNECE, University of Geneva Conference Showcases Public Participation in Freshwater Resources

UNECE13 December 2013: The conference titled ‘Public participation and water resources management: Where do we stand in international law?' analyzed current trends and thinking on the role of non-state actors in managing freshwater resources. Participants shared experiences from ensuring public participation in freshwater resources, using examples from around the world.

During the conference, which took place on 13 December 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland, participants agreed that the concept of public participation in international law needs to be better defined, noting integrated water resources management (IWRM) represents one avenue for promoting public participation and the protection of the environment in international water law.

Panelists concluded that several approaches to public participation exist at the regional level, during the session on public participation and its regional variants. They shared examples from both surface and groundwater resources, as well as regional frameworks and directives, including the UN Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) Protocol on Water and Health, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, the Guarani Aquifer Agreement, the Niger Basin, the Senegal River Basin Development Organization (OMVS) and the International Joint Commission between Canada and the US.

Panelists highlighted compliance mechanisms and the possibility of citizen submissions, including through Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and regional development banks, during the session on public participation, compliance and settlement of disputes. Panelists showcased examples from the Aarhus Convention and the Espoo Convention, as well as a presentation on access to water and human rights courts. The session on public participation and the role of national and international actors featured cases from India, the Rhone River and the role of NGOs in river basin joint bodies.

Over 60 participants representing UN agencies, academia, international organizations, and civil society, as well as national experts attended the conference. UNECE and the Platform for International Water Law of the University of Geneva organized the conference, with financial support from the Swiss National Science Foundation. [UNECE Conference Notice] [Conference Programme] [Conference Website] [IISD RS Sources]