On 14 September 2021, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) co-organized and conducted a webinar on the Launch of the 2nd Progress report on the indicator prepared in 2021 and discussion of concrete actions that can be taken to accelerate progress on transboundary water cooperation in support of the SDG 6.5 target.

The webinar has been attended by more than 200 participants from interested parties from different parts of the world, including Ministries responsible for water management, Ministries of foreign affairs and permanent missions, National statistical offices, International organizations working on transboundary water management, and other experts working on transboundary water cooperation, as well as International Water Assessment Center.

The opening words were given by Alistar Rieu-Clarke, legal advisor to UNECE and Professor at Northumbria Law School, who introduced the SDG indicator 6.5.2 and moderated the webinar.

Sarah Thiefenauer-Linardon, UNECE Environment Officer, and Aurelien Dumont, UNESCO IHP Representative, presented the results and key findings of the second SDG indicator 6.5 reporting cycle.

The reporting process on the achievement of a single indicator on transboundary cooperation 6.5.2 of the SDG “Proportion of transboundary basin area covered by existing agreements” has been conducted by UNECE and UNESCO since 2017, with UNECE being responsible for analyzing and calculating results for river and lake basins, and UNESCO for aquifers. Reporting is provided every three years. So the first pilot cycle took place in 2017, the second in 2020, and the third is planned for 2023. In 2020, 129 out of 153 countries submitted their national reports under the second reporting cycle. Of these, only 24 countries showed 100% achievement of the indicator, and 22 countries > 70% to <100%. Therefore, serious efforts are needed to accelerate progress through better funding, better data and information, capacity development, innovation and governance.

Analysis of the data showed that an immediate and comprehensive global response is needed to rapidly improve progress towards SDG 6 - “ensure accessibility and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”. In 2020, the UN-Water-coordinated Framework Program was launched, which will bring together the support of the international community to countries in achieving SDG 6. Ms Alisa Aureli from UNESCO in her speech called the entire water community to join this program and invited to participate in other workshops that will take place this month.

The next four speakers - Gerta Lubonja (Albania), Carmen Cartagena (Honduras), Gerald Mundondwa (Zimbabwe), Christian Severin (Global Environmental Facility) – presented their country/organization’s perspective on how the monitoring on SDG indicator 6.5.2 can be used to focus efforts towards advancing transboundary water cooperation and the achievement of Target 6.5.

By the end of all presentations an interactive session of the webinar was held, at which participants discussed the main obstacles countries face to achieve SDG 6 indicators and what steps need to be taken to strengthen transboundary water cooperation by 2030. Most of the participants agreed that the main “barrier” for transboundary water cooperation is the lack of political will and trust between the countries. To enhance cooperation in a cross-border context, it is necessary to promote dialogue between different parties, invest in education and research, build trust and exchange of data and information.

Closing remarks were made by Alice Aureli, Chief of the Groundwater Systems and Settlements Section, UNESCO IHP Programme Coordinator, and Sonja Koeppel, Secretary of the Water Convention, UNECE. They highlighted the main points that have been mentioned during presentations and expressed their gratitude to all the participants of the webinar.

This webinar forms part of the series of webinars to launch SDG6 indicators reports in 2021 under the umbrella of UN-Water Integrated Monitoring Initiative for SDG 6 (IMI-SDG6).

Sustainable Development Goal  6 on water and sanitation (SDG 6) seeks to ensure safe drinking water and sanitation for all, focusing on the sustainable management of water resources, wastewater and ecosystems, and acknowledging the importance of an enabling environment. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries have committed to engage in systematic follow-up and review of progress towards the Goals and targets, using a set of global indicators.