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Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes
Wouters P. and Vinogradov S. (2003/4) “Analysing the ECE Water Convention: What Lessons for the Regional Management of Transboundary Water Resources?”, Yearbook of International Co-operation on Environment and Development, 2003/4, 55-63.

Abstract: With the year 2003 designated as the year of 'international freshwater', it is an appropriate time to consider more critically the role of water law in meeting some of the global challenges related to the effective management of the world’s shared water resources. This article examines the regime established by the 1992 Helsinki Conventionon the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (ECE Water Convention), concluded under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), and identifies some of the challenges facing it in the future. Has the ECE Water Convention had any impact on improving transboundary water-resource management in Europe, or is it, as some assert, merely an instrument of 'symbolic politics'? Is there an identifiable legal regime effectively operating and evolving? What is the level of implementation and how tangible are the results on the ground?
In addressing these questions, this article will first examine transboundary freshwater issues in the more broad international context, highlighting the current global focus on the urgent need to manage the world’s increasingly limited water resources effectively. Given the radical geopolitical changes in Europe — including the emergence of a large group of newly independent states (NIS) and the substantial expansion of the European Union (EU) — the article will then consider the issue of transboundary water resources in the regional European setting. And, finally, it will critically examine the evolution of the legal regime established under the ECE Water Convention, including its normative interface with other regional and global water-related legal and institutional vehicles through the prism of three main dimensions:
• the 'internal dimension' — the evolution of the ECE Water Convention legal regime per se, through the adoption of auxiliary binding and non-binding instruments; the focus will be on operational mechanisms and implementation;
• the 'external dimension' — the legal connection of the ECE Water Convention with other transboundary watercourse agreements that were concluded independently, but under the umbrella of the former, as well as with other relevant UNECE environmental conventions; the focus will be on the normative influence of the rules of the 'water regime' and their interaction with related legal instruments;
• the 'global dimension' — the normative interface and legal relationship between the ECE Water Convention and other principal water-related instruments, adopted outside the scope of the UNECE; the focus here will be on the potential conflict or complementarities of the instruments in question and whether or not this may have an impact on the ECE Water Convention regime.