A Modern Approach to Water Management: The UNECE Protocol on Water and Health

The Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes was adopted at the third Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, London , 1999. It entered into force in August 2005 and to date has been ratified by 21 countries. It is jointly serviced by the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe .

The main aim of the Protocol is to protect human health and well being by better water management, including the protection of water ecosystems, and by preventing, controlling and reducing water-related diseases.

The Protocol recognizes that engaging in intersectoral partnerships and increased coordination greatly enhances sustainable development. It is therefore a pioneering multilateral agreement linking social and environmental aspects and addressing development and poverty issues. It is closely linked to the MDGs (Goal 4, Goal 7 and in particular target 10 - Halve the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation by 2015).

Furthermore the Protocol offers a platform to go beyond target 10, since its final objective is to grant access to drinking water and sanitation to everybody. It therefore provides a useful framework for implementing the human right to water.

The Protocol is one of the most advanced multilateral agreements in many respects. It is impressive in its detail and provides clear indications for its implementation. At the same time, it takes into account differences in health, environmental and economic conditions in the region, and gives Parties the latitude to establish their priorities and to set targets and target dates tailored to their specific situations.

Moreover the Protocol displays innovative features of modern environmental law which will be strong assets for its implementation:

The presentation will also review the decisions taken by the Protocol's Parties at their first meeting in January 2007 which set the future direction of work and established the institutional architecture of the Protocol.