Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Mr. Dmitry Chumakov, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the side event on Transboundary water cooperation for sustainable development - the role of the water convention

Excellencies, Dear Friends,

We are grateful to all partners for co-organizing this event.

The Russian Federation has a lot to share in terms of transboundary water cooperation. We have over 40,000 kilometers of borderlines attributable to waterbodies. 70 major and medium-width rivers in Russia are transboundary. With this in mind, we started building a legal system for water cooperation with our neighbors to the East, West and South quite some time ago.

From our experience we know that most often water issues are subject to interests of riparian states at the local level which prompts them to focus primarily on bilateral or regional cooperation in order to find mutually accepted solutions. However, globally, only one third of transboundary water basins are regulated by intergovernmental agreements, while the rest are managed on a case-by-case basis. When it comes to the political will to establish new bilateral regimes or develop those that already exist, it is useful to rely on common principles and best practices that would enable riparian states to understand each other no matter how different they can be.

We believe that nowadays, there is a sufficient and solid “architecture” of international water-related mechanisms. As for a common legal framework, the opportunities offered by the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses And International Lakes are unique and can be used as a basis for agreements between countries when they feel the need to build water cooperation across their borders. It offers a holistic approach rooted in the understanding that water resources are an inalienable part of ecosystems that play a major role in human life.

If I can put it this way, with regard to the Water Convention, for us it has become a process of mutual complementarity. As an example of a success story, we can cite our Agreement with Finland on the Utilization of the Frontier Waters of 1964. Among many things, it has contributed to the improvement of water quality due to erection of treatment facilities for companies located within the transboundary water basins, conservation of fish stocks, including rare species, and reduction of negative impact of floods in the adjacent territories. Russia and Finland have also put joint efforts to develop methodologies for water quality assessment and control and manage risks in case of hydrological incidents in the Vuoksi river basin. The many basic principles of this agreement and the experience of its implementation directly fed into the Water Convention of 1992.

At the same time, in Russia, best practices drawn from the agreement with Finland as well as the overall legal framework provided by the Water Convention became a foundation for our agreements with other riparian neighbors. Currently we have them with Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and others, including non-Parties to the Convention. This instrument allows us to utilize its approaches as a basis while we tailor them to each specific bilateral context to achieve mutually desired results in conservation and sustainable use of transboundary waters. For us these legal regimes manifest implementation of the Convention, whether all signatories are Parties to it or not, because the general principles still remain the same. Legal frameworks and joint institutional mechanisms present opportunities to progress cooperation even when views on how to manage transboundary waters are not entirely aligned.

At the national level, we also used provisions of the Convention and its toolkit to develop conceptual documents for sustainable development such as the 2020 Water Strategy, Climate Doctrine and federal programs entitled “Clean Water” and “Development of Water-Utilization Systems of the Russian Federation in 2012-2020”. Their implementation will contribute to achievement of many Sustainable Development Goals in Russia, notably SDG6 and 13.

Russia remains an active participant of Meetings of the Parties to the Water Convention. We have been promoting its approaches in other fora and their outcome documents including 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the World Water Forum, High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development and relevant resolutions of the General Assembly.

Our experts have contributed to the decision that made the Convention go global. In this respect we welcome the participation of Chad and Senegal and encourage further accession of countries from different regions of the world. We would particularly welcome such interest of our BRICS partners.

In conclusion, we would caution against efforts to politicize the work of the Convention by means of bringing in the security dimension. It is essential that the Convention continue to fulfill its purpose as an unbiased legal framework for cooperation in the interests of sustainable development. All efforts to advance water cooperation should be based on good will, common interests, respect for national priorities and sovereignty and offer positive opportunities that would unite us other than drive a wedge between potential partners. With this positive spirit we will together ensure effective and meaningful transboundary cooperation. Thank you.