From 19 to 20 May 2022, Geneva hosted the thirteenth meeting of the Working Group on Water and Health, organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe).
The purpose of the meeting was to review progress in the implementation of the programme of work for 2020-2022 under the Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, and to discuss the draft programme of work for the next triennium.
Members of the Working Group, representatives of interested state bodies responsible for health and water resources, and international organizations were invited to participate in the meeting.
Secretary of the Water Convention
The meeting addressed issues such as progress in the ratification process for the Protocol, improving water and health governance: supporting target setting and implementation of related measures, building resilience to climate change, equitable access to water supply and sanitation, prevention and reduction of water-related diseases.
On the progress of ratification of the Protocol, representatives of three countries have spoken: Italy, North Macedonia and Kazakhstan. Information on the process of Kazakhstan's accession to the Protocol was briefly presented by Nurzhan Kisabekov, the head of the Committee for Sanitary and Epidemiological Control of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Mr. Kisabekov said that Kazakhstan is in the last stages of accession to the Protocol and plans to complete all intergovernmental procedures this year. He also thanked the UNECE Secretariat for supporting Kazakhstan in this process.
Nurzhan Kisabekov, the head of the Committee for Sanitary and Epidemiological Control of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan
During the meeting, representatives of the Parties to the Protocol reported on progress in setting and revising their targets. The Working Group also reviewed the progress made with regard to the implementation of the Protocol's programme of work for 2020–2022.
The Parties to the Protocol noted that the measures and country plans drawn up under the Protocol illustrate its effectiveness. For example, 53% of wastewater in Israel undergoes tertiary treatment (filtration and disinfection), and treated wastewater is reused, mainly in agriculture. Modernization and proper maintenance of wastewater treatment plants in the country also aims to further reduce the load of pollutants in wastewater discharged into the environment. In Luxembourg, building rainwater retention basins, storm water basins and pumping stations will help manage forecast increases of rainy periods.
Further, the Working Group took note of participants' proposals for the future work of the Working Group and the program of work of the Protocol for 2023–2025 and encouraged all Parties to the Protocol and other states to contribute to its further development.
On November 16-18, 2022, the Sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Protocol on Water and Health will take place. In this regard, the Working Group discussed the preparations for this event, including the draft agenda, thematic scope and the organization of the high-level meeting.
In the face of growing threats due to climate change, the 13th meeting of the Working Group on Water and Health provided an opportunity to discuss the way forward for countries to implement concrete measures in accordance with the legal framework of the Protocol to protect the population.