Seventh session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Water Convention is being held in Budapest on 17 – 19 November 2015. Convention is opening for accession by countries from outside of UNECE region. On the first day meeting participants discussed what are main objectives and geographic priorities for the expansion. Eugene Simonov representing the Rivers without Boundaries Coalition made the following intervention on acute need to expand the use of Convention’s mechanisms in the context of Silk Belt and other Eurasian development initiatives:
Since the last Meeting of Parties a number of high level integration initiatives have been launched in Eurasia, which may have profound influence on development and water resource use on the whole continent. These initiatives include Silk Belt (championed by China), Steppe Road (promoted by Mongolia), Eurasian Economic Union (championed by Russia) and several other multi-country development platforms. To support these initiatives enormous investment resources exceeding 1 trillion dollars are prepared by more than 20 investment institutions, some of them brand-new as AIIB established by China with support from 50 other countries.
New development and integration programs will result in increasing utilization of water resources and diverse impacts on transboundary rivers. We as civil society members of Eurasian countries see an urgent need for the Silk Belt and other Eurasian initiatives to adopt advanced environmental and social standards and policies, develop public participation mechanisms and subscribe to safeguards in transboundary water management. Without such safeguards risks of this new integration for environment and local communities may be very high. There is an urgent need to ensure protection of river and lake ecosystems and promoting green development and ecosystem-based climate adaptation policies within the framework of the Silk Belt and other initiatives.
UNECE environmental conventions and first of all the Water Convention could serve as a ready source of tested safeguard mechanisms that could be used in new Eurasian integration programs. Majority of UNECE members and Water Convention parties are actively participating in new Eurasian integration initiatives: planning megaprojects, co-founding investment banks, coordinating spatial planning schemes, building energy networks, etc. We wish that all those parties apply robust toolkit of this Convention in new Eurasian integration initiatives and projects and urge neighbors to join this wonderful Convention and adopt its principles.
All official and unofficial documents for the Convention meeting is available on the website of the Meeting of the Parties: http://www.unece.org/env/water/mop7.html#/