On July 6, 2023, Panama ratified its adhesion to the United Nations Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, the so-called Water Convention, thereby becoming the first country in Latin America to do so.
The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) is a unique international legal instrument and an intergovernmental platform aimed at ensuring the sustainable use of transboundary water resources by facilitating cooperation.
The Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) was adopted in Helsinki in 1992 and entered into force in 1996.
After an amendment procedure since March 2016, all UN member States can join it. Chad and Senegal became the first African Parties in 2018. Then Ghana joined in 2020 and was followed by Guinea-Bissau and Togo in 2021, by Cameroon in 2022 and Nigeria in 2023. Iraq joined in March 2023 as the first country in the Middle East. This one.
The Water Convention requires Parties to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impacts, use transboundary waters in a reasonable and equitable manner and ensure their sustainable management.
For the purposes of this Convention, 1. “Transboundary waters” means all surface or underground waters marking, crossing or located at the borders between two or more States; as regards transboundary waters flowing directly into the sea, their boundary is an imaginary straight line drawn through the mouth between the two extreme points of the banks during low tide;
The parties bordering the same transboundary waters have to cooperate by concluding specific agreements and establishing joint bodies. As a framework agreement, the Convention does not replace bilateral and multilateral agreements for specific basins or aquifers; instead, it encourages their establishment and implementation, as well as further development.
On July 6, 2023, by becoming the first country in Latin America to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention), Panama took an important step to support the sustainable use of transboundary water resources through cooperation.
With just over 4 million inhabitants, Panama is located at the intersection between Central and South America and located between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Panama is well endowed with water resources, with approximately 33,000 m3 of fresh water per capita available, almost six times the world average, and depends mainly on surface water resources.
Panama shares river basins with Costa Rica and Colombia, and the total area of transboundary river basins represents approximately 25% of the national territory. The main uses of water are industry, agriculture, transport and navigation, drinking water supply, hydropower production, fishing, tourism and environmental services, so cooperation is key for the development of border regions.
The main transboundary river basin for Panama is the Sixaola, located in the border region with Costa Rica, which hosts an important biodiversity and agricultural activities, and is of cultural importance with the presence of indigenous peoples and Afro-Caribbean populations. Panama and Costa Rica are working together to coordinate the development of the Sixaola River basin through a Binational Commission, and it is expected that the implementation of the Water Agreement will help make operational the monitoring and data exchange systems on water quality, quantity and use. that in turn will help identify trends and potential problems and support evidence-based decision-making.
Open for accession by all UN member states since March 1, 2016, the Convention now has 51 parties so far, out of 153 that share rivers, lakes and groundwater resources.