Milena Oravcová • 17 June 2022

The Transboundary Freshwater Security Governance Train stopped at its next destination on the 15th of June in 2022. More event details and materials are available here.

The event was joined by participants from all around the world who ensured very lively discussions also after the plenary session. This time our speakers talked about multilevel governance (MLG) in the context of transboundary waters.

As was highlighted by one of the speakers: “by sharing basins, we are sharing our destinies and we all strive for the same thing, so let´s continue to work together and really get everyone on board and get everyone involved!”  

This session was co-organized by GWP and the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU CRIS). It is part of the ongoing efforts to engage more with participants of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Governance for Transboundary Freshwater Security. 

The chair of the session Prof. Dr Nidhi Nagabhatla, (Senior Fellow United Nations University (UNU CRIS)/ McMaster University, Canada) introduced the multi-level governance approach which was discussed mainly in the integration plans of the European Union. MLG emerged to support not only regional but also international relations as well as public policy discourse. The structural component – horizontal and vertical relationships between different actors form the basis of the MLG approach. As she highlighted, this also creates barriers to the implementation of MLG.  On the other hand, the MLG helps to boost coordination, cohesiveness, and collaboration between such actors, therefore trying to fill existing gaps.  

“Climate change does not recognize borders and at the same time more than 60% of first water flow is located in transboundary basins, therefore transboundary cooperation is crucial to address floods and droughts more efficiently.” – words raised by the first speaker of the session Hanna Plotnykova, (Environmental Affairs Officer at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)​. She underlined the role of the Water Convention in this context which provides a unique global legal framework for transboundary cooperation in climate change adaptation, including floods and drought management. The convention is supporting countries in this regard, by developing guidance such as the Implementation Guide for Addressing Water-Related Disasters and Transboundary Cooperation. The guide focuses on integrating disaster risk management with water management and climate change adaptation in transboundary basins. Furthermore, it´s devoted to water management at different levels, including local and regional levels as well as private sectors such as industry, agriculture, energy, etc. The practical recommendations were given, in particular, on how to develop climate adaptation strategies based on the guide.  

Helene Masliah-Gilkarov, (Technical Expert - Public Participation & Communication, The International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR)​ brought another perspective on the MLG topic, talking about the experience from Danube River Basin. She highlighted the role of the ICPDR as a common platform for transboundary cooperation on water management. She described briefly also the EU Floods Directive. Based on it, the Danube Flood Risk Management Plan (DFRM) is created and updated every 6 years with mandatory public participation. The ICPDR governance model on floods management involves three levels: international basin-wide level (ICPDR), national and sub-unit level (management units within the national territory).  

As Helene mentioned, “the most challenging is the vertical coordination between countries.” 14 countries have different histories, conduct different activities, and create their own legislation which is making the MLG more difficult.  

The last speaker of the session, Shawahiq Siddiqui, (founding partner of the Indian Environment Law Organization (IELO)​ discussed two case studies from South Asia. Within the first case study - the Kosi Basin, he underlined the nature of the bilateral agreement between Nepal and India that is, in his view, rather barrage-centric agreement than a water cooperation agreement which has to be improved. Moreover, he emphasized the role of the Indo-Nepal Community Water Dialogue in this case. The second case study from Gandak Basin is also an example of how communities play important role in the MLG by improving the governance of the basin in the area and therefore resolving existed conflict. However, “there are two issues that you found very pertinent in terms of MLG, the one is recognition, the second one legitimacy.”  The formal mechanisms do not recognize informal community-level mechanisms. Therefore, the role of local communities should be legitimized and acknowledged.  

The main session was followed by breakout room discussions where participants could directly ask speakers questions of their interest and discussed topics in more depth.  

At the end of the session, the moderator Dr Yumiko Yasuda (Senior Network & Transboundary Water Cooperation Specialist, Global Water Partnership) expressed her appreciation to all participants for their very active participation. She invited all who are interested, to join also the post-event discussion on Transboundary Water Knowledge Exchange Hub.