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Water: A Driver of Growth

May 7, 2003—Calling for a new form of environmental diplomacy, an Athens Declaration today applauded the potential of two new cooperative water programs—the Southeastern Europe Transboundary River Basin and Lake Basin Management Program and the Mediterranean Shared Aquifers Management Program.

The declaration was adopted at a conference held in Athens this week, entitled "Sustainable Development for Lasting Peace: Shared Water, Shared Future, Shared Knowledge." Organized by the Government of Greece, which holds the Presidency of the European Union, and the World Bank, the conference assembled public sector officials, civil society actors, private sector representatives, and international experts for a thematic review of opportunities and constraints related to cross-border management of river basins, lake basins, and shared aquifers.

The Athens Declaration endorsed a new form of Diplomacy for Environment and Sustainable Development to enhance cooperation on water at all levels of foreign and domestic policy, among governments, international agencies, private industries, and the full array of nongovernmental organizations.

Commenting on the two regional framework programs, Ian Johnson, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, said "Based on the sustainable management of water resources as a means to promote responsible growth and stability, these cooperative programs represent the way forward in scaling up the positive lessons from the ongoing programs such as the Danube River Basin Program as well as the Lake Ohrid Conservation Project that borders Macedonia and Albania."

The Southeastern Europe Transboundary River Basin and Lake Basin Management Program would focus on a series of international river basins lying south of the Danube River Basin, which flow into the Adriatic, Aegean, Black, and Ionian Seas, and on a series of international lake basins in this area.

The program would assist countries of the region, in cooperation with key stakeholders, to draft integrated water resources management (IWRM) and water use efficiency plans for all major river basins, and would include a range of complementary interventions in individual river and lake basins, with a coordination mechanism to allow for exchange of information and experience between activities.

The Mediterranean Shared Aquifers Management Program will link ongoing programs to: facilitate broader of exchange of planning, management, and implementation experience; develop a mechanism for initiating cooperative work on additional shared aquifers on a case by case basis; and provide a means for development and dissemination of information on good practices. The program would play a valuable role in highlighting the importance of management of shared aquifers. The knowledge gained in the Mediterranean could be transferred to other regions of the world that have less experience on this critical topic.

The Athens conference carries forward the recognition made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), held in Johannesburg during last year, that the international community needs to revisit, reorient, and enhance its efforts at all levels to promote peaceful and mutually beneficial management of shared natural resources in order to achieve the goal of sustainable development in a peaceful world. The Athens Declaration will be forwarded as a contribution to the Kyiv International Conference "One Environment for Europe", in the framework of which transboundary issues will be of key importance .

Useful links: For more information on the World Bank’s work on water, please click here.

To read the Bank’s recently issued report on water in South eastern Europe, please click here.

For more information on the Athens Water Conference, please click here.


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