Policy Brief.2018

Transboundary waters: cooperation from source to sea

Integrating a source-to-sea approach into transboundary water cooperation is needed to the meet the goals of the Water Convention. Marine and coastal resources are jeopardized by upstream activities on land and along rivers. Harnessing stronger integration and coordination from source to sea will strengthen the Water Convention and its contribution to sustainable management and peaceful sharing of transboundary waters.

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Parties to the transboundary water conventions – UNECE Water Convention and UN Watercourses Convention – have recognized the important connection between transboundary rivers and the coastal and marine environment. As the 8th Session of the Meeting of Parties to the Water Convention convenes, evidence of the linkages between terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments suggests it is time to strengthen source-to-sea connections in transboundary water cooperation.


  • Address source-to-sea priorities as part of the transboundary river basin cooperation: More firmly integrating source-to-sea priorities as part of transboundary river basin cooperation will accrue greater benefits, reduce risks and avoid unintended consequences for the signatories of the Water Convention and coastal and marine environments.
  • Incentivize source-to-sea priorities in transboundary cooperation: Directing funds toward source-to-sea priorities in transboundary river basin countries and their water cooperation activities will contribute to the international community’s commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Develop shared definitions and approaches to source-to-sea implementation: Investing in methods, tools, capacity building and technical assistance in applying the source-to-sea approach to transboundary river basin cooperation will strengthen source-to-sea implementation through shared definitions.
  • Consider the UNECE Water Convention as a mechanism to enhance marine protection: Incorporating the source-to-sea approach into transboundary water cooperation will lead to marine protection through reducing unsustainable human activities on land, along rivers and the coast and at sea that are imposing a heavy burden on water-related ecosystems.
  • Address source-to-sea priorities in relevant working groups and task forces of the UNECE Water Convention: Building on the existing source-to-sea commitments, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) should include the source-to-sea approach in Water Convention meetings, working groups and task forces.