At the World Meeting of Environmental Lawyers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ryan Stoa (GLOWS Program Executive Officer and Fellow in Water Law and Policy at FIU’s College of Law) spoke of the need to harmonize and integrate international water laws.
A side event that took place during the United Nation’s Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the World Meeting brought together environmental legal experts from around the world to discuss pressing issues and propose a way forward.
Harmonizing various legal instruments that codify or promote international water law – the Watercourses Convention and the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, in particular – would strengthen existing principles and lay a foundation for the development of a more robust and synergistic regime in water management worldwide, Stoa said in his presentation.
Stoa traced the history of international water laws and the role they have played in human society. While local water laws have been in place for millenia, international water laws are a relatively recent, albeit urgently needed, development.
Stoa made the case for harmonizing and strengthening the various legal instruments in the field of international water law:
An international legal framework governing water resources is needed to promote sustainable management of these resources. Ninety percent of the world’s population lives in a country that contains transboundary surface waters and 2 billion people depend on groundwater for their survival. Meanwhile, most of the world’s 563 transboundary watercourses lack a cooperative management framework.
Stoa urged the participants to consider focusing on freshwater governance, with an effort to integrate and promote the various legal instruments, adding: “Many surface and ground waters remain ungoverned and mismanaged.”
—Blanca Mesa, GLOWS Communications