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. Almost all countries sharing transboundary waters in the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) are Parties to the Convention.

The Water Convention strengthens transboundary water cooperation and measures for the ecologically-sound management and protection of transboundary surface waters and groundwaters. The Convention fosters the implementation of integrated water resources management, in particular the basin approach. The Convention’s implementation contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other international commitments on water, environment and sustainable development.

The Water Convention requires Parties to prevent, control and reduce transboundary impact, use transboundary waters in a reasonable and equitable way and ensure their sustainable management. Parties bordering the same transboundary waters have to cooperate by entering into 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 fosters their establishment and implementation, as well as further development. In 2003, the Water Convention was amended to allow accession by countries outside the UNECE region. The amendment entered into force on 6 February 2013, turning the Water Convention into a legal framework for transboundary water cooperation worldwide.

The main body of the Convention is the Meeting of the Parties, at which all decisions are taken to implement the Convention. This body is responsible for identifying and reviewing the policies and approaches of the Parties to transboundary water management. The meeting also exchanges information on the experience gained in the conclusion and implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements on transboundary waters and takes decisions necessary to achieve the objectives of the Convention. Parties meet every three years to develop their work program for the next three years or for a longer period. The Meeting of the Parties shall also decide on the organizational structure and the role of the bodies it creates to implement its program of work. In more detail about the Meeting of the Parties, as well as other bodies of the Convention:
Convention bodies