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Electronic Newsletter of the International Network of Basin Organizations


6th World Water Forum

World Water Forum – Marseilles - March 2012


At conclusion time...
tangible progress for basin management and transboundary cooperation has been made.

The theme of basin management and transboundary cooperation has been widely discussed during the recent World Water Forum in Marseilles.

UNESCO and the International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO) jointly coordinated the nine official sessions of Priority 1.5 «Contribute to cooperation and peace», mainly on the management of the basins of transboundary river, lakes and aquifers. 
INBO also coordinated "target" 3, Condition for Success 1 "Good governance” related to the development and implementation of national or transboundary Basin Management Plans.
The European Commission and UNECE also coordinated two sessions of the European process: one (Eu1), on the "Water Convention" (Helsinki 1992) and transboundary basin management in Europe , the other (Eu2), on the implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), in close liaison with the "Europe-INBO" group.

A large preparatory mobilization has taken place for over a year:

Several regional meetings were organized in 2011 with our partners, especially in Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Rio (Brazil), Porto (Portugal), Guadeloupe (Overseas France), Tbilissi (Georgia), Panama (Panama) ...etc, and during the Ministerial Conference of the UNECE Countries on "Environment for Europe" in Astana (Kazakhstan) or the "UN Water" conference - preparing RIO + 20 in Dushanbe (Tajikistan), among others…

Many contributions were received on the Forum website and the "platform for solutions" or directly by the coordinators of each target.

These sessions, held on 12 and 16 March 2012, allowed hearing the speeches of various organizations, representing all kinds of opinion and the different parts of the world, including a high proportion of basin organizations presenting their practical experience in the field. They left wide room for lively and rich, sometimes flaming, debates and discussions!

Such issues, as the statute of transboundary waters, the means of implementing and financing joint facilities, the ratification of the UN Convention of 1997 or the management of transboundary aquifers were subject to sometimes divergent positions, showing that it is still difficult to reach a general consensus among all countries and all partners concerned.

But a large majority of participants converged on the interest of the basin approach, either national or transboundary, to address the global challenges of water resources management.

Taking into account these many contributions, radical positions excluded, the conclusions and recommendations drawn from the discussions can be summarized as follows:

Significant progress has already been made since the 1960s, but especially since the 1990s, with the reforms undertaken in many regions and countries worldwide which have adopted or are experimenting basin management, including in transboundary basins. These experiments now provide useful and effective orientations and tools for countries wishing to implement modern management of their national basins and strengthen their transboundary cooperation. However, progresses made up to now remain insufficient to adapt to a changing world;  

Strong political will and long-term commitments are essential to develop basin management and, whenever necessary, transboundary cooperation to cope with future changes;

River, lake and aquifer basins seem to be the relevant territory for the organization of joint management of water resources, aquatic ecosystems, and all water-related activities;

The basins of transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers are to be paid special attention and it is advisable that their management be jointly organized by the riparian Countries;

The establishment and strengthening of basin organizations in best suited forms, and in transboundary basins,  international commissions, authorities or other transboundary basin organizations facilitate dialogue, cooperation, information exchange and implementation of joint projects and actions, for sharing benefits, anticipating the future and preventing potential conflicts between the stakeholders concerned;

It is necessary to increase regional integration by harmonizing policies and laws and by implementing the regional programmes of common interest needed to improve surface and groundwater resources management at basin level;

Creating or strengthening the funding dedicated to the management and administration of water resources and aquatic environments and generally of the "great water cycle" is needed;

The stakeholders of the civil society and the local authorities should be better associated and involved in the management of the basins where they live;

Making better use of water is required as well as ensuring low consumption of this scarce resource by better control of the demand, encouraging more efficient uses, and according to the case, the use of unconventional resources;

The different ecosystems found in river basins are very important both for biodiversity and environmental services, including for the regulation of the hydrological cycles and risk prevention, as well as for the treatment of pollution;

It is necessary to better take into account water resources issues into sectoral policies, especially in the sectors of drinking water supply, sanitation, health, energy, agriculture and fishing, waterways transport, protection against risks and biodiversity conservation, thus contributing to sustainable development and poverty alleviation;

Increasing cooperation among basin organizations worldwide and in each region is needed to facilitate the sharing of experience and know-how on best practices in river basin management and their adaptation to different contexts.


This implies that:

essential information, both qualitative and quantitative, is produced and made available on the resources, their uses, polluting pressures, ecosystems and their functions, monitoring of their evolution, risk assessment and economy of the sector. This information should be used as an objective basis for dialogue, negotiation, decision-making and implementation follow-up, as well as for the coordination of financing from the different donors;

basin management plans or master plans provide objectives to be achieved on the long-term to ensure the integrity of water resources;

successive action and investment plans are developed to meet economic, social and environmental priorities, given in management plans, in the basins and that mechanisms for evaluating their results, based on suitable performance indicators, are implemented;

means for training and education dedicated to the implementation of cooperation and basin management, increase significantly;

financial resources are mobilized to meet the needs of countries in this area, taking into account their socio-economic, cultural, and geopolitical specificity. It is necessary to establish everywhere additional financing systems based on users’ participation and solidarity. Basin taxes may allow applying the "user- pays and polluter-pays" principles and may have an incentive effect on consumption reduction and pollution control.


The principles are reflected in « the World Pact for better basin management », officially signed in Marseilles on 16 March 2012 by 69 basin organizations from the whole world. This "Pact" is proposed to the signature of all basin organizations worldwide that could not be present in Marseilles. Our INBO World President, HE Mr. Mohamed Salem Ould Merzoug, High Commissioner of the Organization for the Development of the Senegal River, presented the "Pact" in the official closing session of the Forum.

Alongside the official sessions of the Forum, several side events allowed presenting a wide range of field experiences and direct exchanges between managers of basin organizations, in particular:

- The International Network of Basin Organizations had the honour of being invited to be a key note speaker at the ministerial round table on transboundary basins, chaired by the United States of America, Tajikistan and Zimbabwe, on Tuesday 13 March in the morning.

- The International Network of Basin Organizations (INBO), the Global Water Partnership (GWP), UNECE, UNESCO, GEF, EVREN and the French Development Agency have worked together to publish the « Handbook for Integrated Water Resources Management in the Basins of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Aquifers », presented at the World Water Forum in Marseilles on 14 March 2012. This book, which took nearly a year of work and involved many professionals, aims to provide practical advice to improve water resources management in transboundary basins, using more than 60 examples of actions already successfully initiated in various basins.

- INBO Member Organizations were also invited to present their experiences and recommendations, at an event dedicated to the management of large transboundary basins, organized on the « French Pavilion », by the French Water Agencies, the FFEM, AFD, OSS and the International Office for Water, INBO Permanent Technical Secretariat.

- An agreement was signed on 12 March 2012 by China and France, mobilizing relevant partners on both sides, to initiate the second phase of cooperation on integrated management of the Hai River basin and of its tributary the Zhou River, between 2012 and 2015, and was one of the first real commitments signed at the World Water Forum in Marseilles!

- The twelve French Basin Committees also committed themselves to increase funding for international solidarity actions on the basis of 1% of the budget of the Continental Water Agencies, and to double the number of institutional cooperation actions with twin basins. They will promote before 2015 interregional cooperation in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean, especially for supporting the creation of a Network of basin-islands, to share the experience of overseas Basin Committees with neighbouring island countries.

All the papers and photos of these events, organized during the last World Water Forum in Marseilles from 12 to 16 March 2012, may be consulted and downloaded on the website:


To be sure, the Ministerial Declaration of the Forum, presumably to get unanimity of all the delegations present, has remained virtually silent on basin management, which may seem paradoxical for a Forum organized in one of the pioneers countries on this approach for 50 years and in the European Union, where since 2000, the Water Framework Directive has required basin management from the 27 Member States and from associated and candidate Countries, not to mention the adhesion of the pan-European countries to the UNECE Water Convention of 1992?

However, the French Prime Minister, Mr. François Fillon, in his opening speech at the Forum, where he recalled the French Law of 1964 which created the river basin bodies in particular, was very offensive by stating inter alia the need "to conclude the steps for the quick entry into force of the UN Convention of 1997 on international watercourses", and by proposing that France host the first meeting of the parties, when this will be done. The French Government also committed itself in Marseilles to promote instruments for sustainable and sound governance of water resources shared by several States in transboundary basins and encourage the transfer of experience of the Intergovernmental Commissions of transboundary rivers to which France is Party to the States or regions creating or having established equivalent organizations.

The parliamentarians also approved a « Manifesto », in which they declared that "peace and equitable management of shared river basins are a necessity for sustainable development of riparian peoples", "they agree to work for the entry into force of the texts, resolutions and conventions on transboundary watercourses and aquifers" and "proposed that meetings be held between parliamentarians of the countries concerned to introduce new and better water governance"...

Of course, all the problems will not be solved by a miracle, as positions are still far different from another, but unquestionably basin management and transboundary cooperation have scored points during the World Water Forum in Marseilles!