Transboundary Basins // UNECE Publishes Assessment Methodology to Reconcile Competing Interests in Managing Shared Basins

Understanding the interactions between water, food, energy and water-related ecosystems in river basins can be vital in ensuring different and often competing needs are met in a coherent manner. This is even more important in transboundary basins, where identifying intersectoral synergies and mutually-beneficial solutions can help in reducing trade-offs and potential conflicts, not only across sectors, but also across borders, and support the decision-making process to enhance sustainability.

This press release was originally published on the UNECE website and republished on the Nexus Resource Platform.

UNECE has been helping to respond to this challenge through its participatory intersectoral “nexus” assessments in transboundary basins. These processes involve the basin-sharing countries jointly identifying intersectoral resource management issues and then proposing more sustainable and collaborative ways of development and stewardship of water, energy, land and environmental resources.  The overall aim is fostering cooperation and reconciling different interests. 

To date, the nexus methodology has been applied in six river basins and one aquifer, in South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North Africa, under the work of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention, serviced by UNECE).

Today, UNECE published the consolidated version of the nexus methodology. The new publication provides detailed guidance on the assessment methodology’s application for Governments and other stakeholders. A variety of participatory methods provide for consultation of authorities and key stakeholders at crucial moments of the assessment process. Various analytical tools developed by leading scientific groups can be drawn upon to support designing practical measures to rationalize resource use, improve sustainability and reduce transboundary impacts.

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A key dimension of the methodology is the facilitation of multistakeholder dialogues, which convene sector Ministries from riparian countries with often diverging interests in developing and benefitting from a river basin  ̶  be it for irrigated agriculture, eco-tourism or energy generation.  With the nexus approach, trade-offs and impacts but also mutual interests have been identified. This step was subsequently followed by determining jointly with the authorities and stakeholders packages of policy and technical measures to address the problems identified. 

Among the most problematic trade-offs in the basins assessed so far is the operation and development of hydropower.  Depending on the degree of hydropower development and the circumstances of the region, the ways to improve su

stainability and to reduce environmental and other impacts can be diverse. Among them feature duly consulting related interests, formalizing coordination of flow regulation, developing regional electricity grid connections and integrating hydro with other investments notably other renewable energy technologies. Good international practices, instruments and guidance from UNECE are recommended in the assessments, covering water management, energy and environment protection.

The findings of six years of assessing the water-food-energy-ecosystems nexus, and in particular the practical application in policy and decision-making, will be discussed with representatives of the Governments that participated in the basin processes on the occasion of the eighth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Water Convention in Kazakhstan.  

The methodology was developed at the decision of the Parties to the Water Convention in 2012, under the leadership of Finland, in response to the common occurrence of intersectoral frictions over shared water resources in the pan-European region. Shaping the methodology benefited from interdisciplinary expertise, as well as from experience of dozens of practitioners and various organizations. Among the organizations were the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Global Water Partnership, International Sava River Basin Commission, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH, Stockholm) and the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES).


28 September 2018

More Information

The methodology synthesis publication is available here. A summary brochure is available here. For media enquiries, please contact

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