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UN / ECE strategies for protecting the environment with respect to international watercourses: the Helsinki and Espoo conventions.
In: International watercourses: enhancing cooperation and managing conflict. Proceedings of a World Bank seminar, edited by Salman M.A. Salman, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes. Washington, D.C., World Bank, 1998. 47-64. (World Bank Technical Paper No. 414)This technical report chapter provides an overview of environmental strategies for international watercourses by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE). A specific focus is on the Helsinki Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses (TWs) and International Lakes and the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a TW Context. These two Conventions provide a framework for promoting conflict prevention and settlement of disputes in TW environmental issues. Conflict prevention is based on obligation of parties to cooperate, consultation mechanisms, transboundary notification, exchange of information and technology, informing and gaining participation of the public, bilateral and multilateral cooperation and agreements, mutual assistance, and joint assessment and monitoring. The Conventions allow for the settlement of disputes. There are seven main elements in arbitration: notification of the secretariat, a 3-member arbitration panel with a selection of one by each party, adherence to international law, majority rule, equitable payment of judicial expenses by parties, a 5-month arbitration period, and justification of the tribunal decision. Europe and North America have about 150 bilateral and multilateral agreements on the protection and use of TWs. Successful environmental protection of TWs depends on a common will to solve problems, confidence in parties to act, partnerships, agreement on long- and short-term goals, flexibility in addressing new problems, and delegation of authority to joint bodies. The ECE was the first to establish ecosystem protection along TWs.