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

Francesca Bernardini
Secretary, Convention on the Protection and
Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes,
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE),


The Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes entered into force in August 2005. It is jointly serviced by the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organisation 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 recognises that engaging in intersectoral partnerships and increased coordination greatly enhances sustainable development. It is closely linked to the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), more particularly, the Protocol offers a platform to go beyond MDG target 10, since its final objective is to grant access to drinking water and sanitation to everybody. The Protocol takes into account differences in health, environmental and economic conditions in the region, and gives State Parties the freedom to establish their priorities tailored to their specific situations.

Moreover the Protocol displays innovative features of modern environmental law:

  • It provides for the establishment of a mechanism for review of compliance of a non-confrontational, non-judicial and consultative nature which will significantly increase its effectiveness;
  • It includes provisions for international cooperation and international support for national action to support its implementation.

This article reviews the decisions taken by the Protocol's Parties at their first meeting in January 2007 which set the future direction of work and establish the institutional architecture of the Protocol.


Environmental law, health, MEA, MDG, sustainable development, UNECE Protocol, water, water ecosystem, water management, WHO.


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