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Report on the progress of transboundary water cooperation (SDG 6.5.2) now available in 5 languages

Paris, France
06 - Clean Water and Sanitation

The second progress report on the Sustainable Development Goal indicator 6.5.2, which focuses on transboundary water cooperation, is now available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian. The report had been published in English in 2021 by UNECE and UNESCO, co-custodian agencies for SDG indicator 6.5.2, on behalf of UN-Water.

The SDG Indicator 6.5.2 report suggests that not nearly enough operational arrangements for transboundary water cooperation are in place. At continental level, the report shows that Europe and North America have the fullest coverage of operational arrangements, followed by sub-Saharan Africa. However, across Asia, Latin America and North Africa/Western Asia, the levels of operational arrangements in place for transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers remain low.  At country level, the report states that 153 countries share transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers, while only 24 countries report having operational arrangements in place for all their transboundary waters. A level of cooperation which  contrasts with one of the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework to ensure that all transboundary rivers, lakes and aquifers are covered by operational arrangements by 2030 (SDG 6.5.2).

A further challenge, highlighted in the report, relates to transboundary aquifers. While there have been improvements since the first report in 2018, many countries still have limited knowledge of the groundwater resources they share with their neighbours as well as low levels of cooperation. Despite a vital role of groundwater, only 12 countries report transboundary agreements developed for transboundary aquifers. However, more and more River Basin Commissions also integrate activities on groundwater.

The SDG indicator 6.5.2 report promotes the importance of transboundary groundwater. Countries are requested to report on the status of their transboundary aquifers, revealing also the need for human and instituional capacity development regarding the role of groundwater and aquifers in transboundary cooperation.

As one of the custodian agencies of the SDG 6.5.2 Indicator report, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through its  Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP) stands ready to support countries for the next reporting round in 2023. 

UNESCO-IHP has been working actively in the area of transboundary groundwater cooperation, groundwater management and governance, as well as water education. 
In 2021 , UNESCO-IHP organized the Second International UNESCO Conference on transboundary aquifers, ISARM2021 which focused on  the Challenges and the way forward in groundwater aquifer management. The conference aimed at showcasing diverse efforts made by UNESCO and the International and Donor communities (the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank (WB), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and others, to focus on groundwater as an enabler for achieving the water-related SDGs. ISARM 2021 announced the 2022 Groundwater focus for UNESCO-IHP, which will culminate with the UN-Water Groundwater Summit to hold in December 2022 at UNESCO, Paris.