While Management of Transboundary Aquifers Critical for 2030 Agenda Success, Draft Articles Must Be Tailored to Each State, Speakers Tell Sixth Committee

GA/L/3528
20 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 18th & 19th Meetings (AM & PM)

While Management of Transboundary Aquifers Critical for 2030 Agenda Success, Draft Articles Must Be Tailored to Each State, Speakers Tell Sixth Committee

Final Format for Draft Articles, Principles on Transboundary Harm, Allocation of Loss Also Debated

While the management of transboundary aquifers was critical to the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, States needed to approach the matter in a manner conducive to their situation and region, delegates stressed, as the Sixth Committee (Legal) took up the International Law Commission’s work on the subject today.

The Committee also had before it the reports of the Secretary-General on consideration of prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and allocation of loss in the case of such harm (documents A/71/98A/71/136 and A/71/136/Add.1), with speakers debating on what form the related draft articles and draft principles should take.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development called for ensuring the sustainability of water for all, the representative of Japan reminded the Committee as it began its consideration of the law of transboundary aquifers.  The International Law Commission’s draft articles on the topic were relevant and useful, as they adequately reflected a wide range of State practices and were well-supported by scientific evidence.  Surrounded by oceans, her country did not have any transboundary aquifers, she pointed out.  Regardless, as a responsible member of the international community her delegation would continue to work on the matter.

The representative of Tunisia, speaking for the Arab Group, also noted that the International Law Commission’s work had developed a number of flexible articles that provided a good basis on which countries could proceed.  However, in light of water shortages in her region, it was important to consider different State practices and factors, including the weather forecast, the economic and social and considerations of the countries, and hydrological issues. 

Argentina’s representative, also speaking for Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, stated that the Commission’s draft articles were the first systematic formulation of international law at the global level.  Nonetheless, he emphasized that the text began with the recognition that the States in which the aquifers were located had sovereignty over the portion of water or aquifer system located within their territory and that States which had transboundary aquifers also had the responsibility to develop effective mechanisms of cooperation for their equitable and reasonable management. 

Noting that his country was “climate-vulnerable”, due to the increased pressure on his country’s natural groundwater because of a fast-growing population, Bangladesh’s delegate said that one part of the draft text presented the fundamental principle of sovereignty of States.  Still, others pointed to the value to managing the aquifers.  The issue should be addressed in a context-specific manner rather than a broad-based international convention. 

Taking up the reports on transboundary harm and the allocation of loss, the representative of Australia, also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, observed that the world was faced with increasingly interconnected challenges.  Thus, the risk of transboundary harm from hazardous activities was also growing.  That called for an international framework of standards of conduct and practice addressing the issues of harm and loss.  Still, while the draft texts would contribute to the progressive development of international law, any attempt to consolidate them into a binding convention would take many years.

The representative of Iran also said that adoption of the texts into an international convention did not seem appropriate at the current stage.  Although the draft articles and principles were the result of extensive research on diverse issues pertaining to international liability, civil liability and relevant legal regimes, due to the progressive nature of certain elements, States would require time to adapt them and incorporate them into domestic legislations. 

The Committee also concluded its consideration of the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law (see Press Release GA/L/3527), with a round of applause for Virginia Morris, Secretary of the Advisory Committee of the Programme who had, for almost thirty years, ushered the Programme through many trials and tribulations.

Delegates enumerated the Programme’s many benefits, with the delegate of Ethiopia praising the Audiovisual Library for providing high quality training at a relatively low cost, and voicing support for the efforts of the Codification Division to make the lectures available on flash drives for use in developing countries.

Myanmar’s representative noted that, as a nation emerging from decade-long internal strife, her country was committed to the settlement of dispute by peaceful means.  Myanmar wanted to be considered a priority recipient for the opportunities offered by the Programme of Assistance, as it had not been able to use them in the past. 

The Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said the representative of Lebanon, called on every individual and organ of society “to strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights.”  The Programme of Assistance was carrying out that task and its longevity was proof of the importance of the advancement of international law. 

The Committee also heard the introductions of four resolutions pertaining to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) by the representative of Austria.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Sudan, Russian Federation, Chile, United States, Brazil, Nigeria, Algeria, Peru, China, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Malaysia, Morocco, Paraguay, El Salvador, Philippines, Israel, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Viet Nam, and Qatar.

The Sixth Committee will next convene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 24 October, to begin its debate on the report of the International Law Commission.

Statements on Programme of Assistance

HASSAN ALI HASSAN (Sudan), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as the African Group, said the Programme of Assistance had raised awareness of the principles and aims of international law among students, jurists and diplomats.  He also underscored the importance of the United Nations Audiovisual Library, which provided for the dissemination of international law.  The Programme was an essential activity that has laid the foundations for the efforts of the Organization to improve knowledge in international law, he said, and hailed the role played by the United Nations in arranging courses in Addis Ababa in 2016.

SERGEY LEONIDCHENKO (Russian Federation) expressed his satisfaction that the Programme of Assistance was being funded by the regular budget and said he hoped such funding would continue.  He also noted the personal contributions of colleagues in the Secretariat in protecting and developing the Programme.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), associating herself with the African Group and the Group of 77, lauded the inclusion of additional funding for the Programme into the regular budget.  That funding would allow for three Regional Courses to be conducted on a regular basis.  However, funding for future activities was needed.  The Codification Division was still dependent on voluntary contributions to hire temporary staff and a solution to that needed to be found.  Referring to the Secretary-General’s report, which proposed the identification of permanent venues for the Regional Courses, she reiterated her country’s readiness to serve as a permanent venue for Africa’s regional course.  The Audiovisual Library gave the Organization the capacity to provide high quality training at a relatively low cost, and she voiced support for the efforts of the Codification Division to make the lectures available on flash drives for use in developing countries.

JAVIER GOROSTEGUI OBANOZ (Chile), associating himself with Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, welcomed all activities carried out under the auspices of the Programme of Assistance.  The report presented to the Committee was “a detailed panorama of achievement” and the four volumes of the Handbook of International Law as well as the Audiovisual Library would provide irreplaceable tools to the field.  Providing funds from the regular budget had been key to the proper management of the Programme, and he would continue to advocate for that.  His country was honoured to host the next round of the International Law Fellowship Programme in Santiago.

YOUSSEF HITTI (Lebanon), expressing gratitude to the Codification Division for its work, recalled the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which called on every individual and organ of society “to strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights.”  The Programme of Assistance was carrying out that task and its longevity was proof of the importance of the advancement of international law.  The number of lawyers, diplomats and jurists who benefited from the Programme continued to grow.  Treaties were becoming more numerous and complex and there was a growing demand for training and dissemination activities.  Therefore, it was especially necessary to ensure the sustainability of the Programme by providing it a predictable budget. General Assembly resolution 70/116 was a major step forward in that regard.

EMILY PIERCE (United States), noting that the Secretary-General’s report showed that more than $2 million was designated for the Programme of Assistance, said that the Programme had made a tremendous contribution to educating students and practitioners for more than fifty years.  Its inclusion in the regular budget showed it had earned the support of Member States.  Also highlighted was the creative ways the Codification Division had kept its initiatives going in the face of limited resources, including the Handbook and the Audiovisual Library, among other activities.  The Programme was well-run and worthy of support.

PATRICK LUNA (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), welcomed the fact that with adequate funding, the Organization would be able to conduct Regional Courses in Africa, Asia and Latin American and the Caribbean.  He urged that any voluntary contribution be used to provide additional fellowships to those 20 covered by the Organization’s regular budget.  Noting that since 2014, no legal publication had been issued due to lack of resources, he urged for adequate resources to resume desktop publishing.  He asked that the Regional Courses be continued to be funded by the regular budget, as education in international law was a cornerstone of lasting peace.

MYAT NYI NYI WIN (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that as a nation emerging from decade-long internal strife, Myanmar was committed to the settlement of dispute by peaceful means of negotiation.  Her country had completed the maritime boundary demarcation process peacefully with Bangladesh under the purview of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.  Myanmar had not been able to make good use of the opportunities offered by the Programme of Assistance in the past and would therefore like to be considered as a priority recipient.  As voluntary contribution was not a sustainable method for funding the Programme of Assistance, she called for the Programme’s funding under the regular budget.

TIWATOPE ADELEYE ELIAS-FATILE (Nigeria), expressing gratitude for his country’s appointment as a member of the Advisory Committee on the United Nations Programme of Assistance, voiced support for additional funding for that Programme, commenting that it continued to have positive impact on students and practitioners of international law throughout the world.  Similarly, he emphasized the importance of predictable funding for the Codification Division so that it could continue publishing training materials on international law and distribute hard copies to academic institutions in countries that had limited internet access.  He finally called for an increase in fellowships in training courses for international law using available resources, given the large number of applicants. 

BAYA BENSMAIL (Algeria), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that over five decades, the Programme of Assistance had become more and more relevant as a tool for strengthening international peace and security.  The Programme had contributed increasingly to the dissemination of a greater knowledge of international law and the Audiovisual Library offered a rich online database for millions of people, both in developed and developing countries.  Stressing that regular resources were the cornerstone of the Programme, she welcomed the inclusion of additional resources under the budget for the biennium 2016-2017 for the organization of regional courses.

ANGEL HORNA (Peru), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77, said that the Programme of Assistance, through its support for an international order based on the rule of law as a foundation for a peaceful world, was benefiting all countries, regardless of their region or legal system.  Stressing the need to strengthen the various components of the Programme, including the Regional Courses, the International Fellowship Programme and the Audiovisual Library, he expressed his appreciation for the Regional Course that had been held in Uruguay in 2016 and the one that was slated to be held in Chile in 2017.

JI XIAOXUE (China), aligning herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, welcomed the fact that funding for the 2016-2017 Regional Courses and scholarship programmes in international law had been secured.  Noting that the Codification Division of the Office of Legal Affairs was prepared to publish a handbook in international law in English and French in 2017, she expressed the hope that other official language versions would be available as early as possible.  Her Government had provided the Programme with annual donations to fund regional courses and audiovisual libraries in Asia and Africa.  China had also provided direct help to Asian and African countries in capacity building in international law.

NAPOLEON BERAS (Dominican Republic), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77, welcomed the Programme of Assistance’s work in the dissemination of international law, adding he was struck by its impact at the regional level.  It was key in forming a critical mass of jurists, who were called to play a role in their own countries in strengthening the rule of law.  The Programme’s fellowships and courses were often the only way for some countries’ lawyers to access such information.  He expressed concern over the staffing of the Codification Division, noting there should be a lasting solution to the matter.  He called on all States to ensure that they work towards the dissemination and teaching of international law, in order to train future generations and build a pathway to international knowledge of international law.

PENNELOPE ALTHEA BECKLES (Trinidad and Tobago), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that the Programme of Assistance had made a significant contribution to the strengthening of international peace and security.  She noted that all three Regional Courses were being conducted in 2016 for this first time, which had been made possible by additional funding from the Organization’s regular budget.  In the past, the Codification Division had to discontinue its desktop publishing as a result of insufficient resources, but because of funding through voluntary contributions, the preparation of the Handbook on International Law had been possible.  Unfortunately, due to lack of voluntary contributions, no award had been made in 2016 under the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea.

MOHD RADZI HARUN (Malaysia) associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Group of 77, said that international law was the legal bedrock governing relations between States.  Reiterating support to the Programme of Assistance, he welcomed the provision of resources for its work.  However, noting that only a privileged few were able to attend the Regional Courses, he said that the international community should ensure that the study of international law was accessible to as wide an audience as possible.  It was also necessary to promote the study of international law at the national level through universities and bar associations.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that the Programme was an effective tool for building international peace and security.  It also facilitated friendly relations between States, while building the capacity of developing countries.  He also welcomed the plans to hold training courses in Asia, Latin America and Africa and hailed the “tireless work” of the Codification Division in drawing up manuals and handbooks and publishing legal documents.

ANA EDELMIRA ROLÓN CANDIA (Paraguay), aligning herself with CELAC, said that international agreements had the same weights as the laws of the Constitution in her country.  Therefore, she welcomed the initiatives and actions taken by the Programme of Assistance and was pleased that the Regional Course for Latin American countries had been held in Montevideo, Uruguay.  Highlighting the expertise of the highly qualified academics who taught the courses, she noted that they broadened the knowledge horizons of the participants and encouraged the organizers to “stay on this path.”  It was also essential to create a network of professionals who had taken part in the Regional Courses.

Statements on Prevention of Transboundary Harm from Hazardous Activities

LISA SINGH (Australia), also speaking for Canada and New Zealand, made note of General Assembly resolution 68/114, which commended the draft articles on prevention of transboundary harm from hazardous activities and the principles on the allocation of loss arising out of harmful hazardous activities.  She said she was pleased to see that the articles and principles had been referred to by a number of judges at the International Court of Justice, and also noted that the draft articles had been referenced in recent multilateral discussions.

The risk of transboundary harm from hazardous activities was likely to grow as the world faced increasingly interconnected challenges, she went on to say.  It was therefore critically important to have a consistent and widely supported international framework that set out the standards of conduct and practice for the prevention of transboundary harm, and the allocation of loss in the event of its occurrence.  The draft articles would contribute to the progressive development of international law for all States to follow, and any attempt to consolidate the draft articles and principles into a binding convention would take many years.

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the prevention of transboundary harm.  He noted that States should legally address all the measures that could be legally adopted to deal with harmful activities, bearing in mind that harm could affect not just property but people and the environment as well.  He noted that the related resolutions were highly relevant and underscored the importance of the draft article text that referred to the prevention of transboundary harm and the text of the principles of allocating loss if harm did take place.  The principle on allocating loss was designed to give prompt compensation to victims where there had been harm.  It would be expedient to approve a document that regulated States to prevent transboundary harm and its consequences.

AMIT HEUMANN (Israel), stressing the importance of preventing harm to the environment through hazardous activities, whether internal or transboundary, welcomed the relevant draft articles on the topic.  However, it was necessary to address the scope of the draft articles.  In the case of an activity not explicitly prohibited by the draft articles, with reference to draft article 1 and draft principle 1, if the article contradicted a specific legal regime, the provision of the regime should prevail.  Furthermore, the draft articles should maintain their current form as recommendations.  Each situation of transboundary harm should be considered in its specific context while addressing the practical aspects of prevention and liability, as there was no added value in a convention.

IGOR GARLIT BAILEN (Philippines) said it might be too premature to negotiate an international instrument on the 19 draft articles of 2001 that aimed to establish a system of liability for transboundary harm from hazardous activities, let alone the eight principles of 2006 seeking to establish a compensation system for any loss occasioned by that harm.  The 2001 draft articles largely represented the progressive development of international law.  On the other hand, the 2006 principles were “general and residuary”, which the International Law Commission (ILC) had called a non-binding declaration.  In the absence of specific conventional or customary international law, imposing liability and allocating loss for transboundary harm, States had a general duty to observe due diligence to prevent or minimize such harm.  It was also imperative to enhance international cooperation to build scientific and technical capabilities, particularly those of developing countries, to prevent such harm.  Without that, a global convention envisioned by the draft articles and principles would not be viable.

ISAÍAS ARTURO MEDINA MEJÍAS (Venezuela) said that the work of the International Law Commission regarding the prevention of transboundary harm had contributed greatly to the progressive development of international law.  Before the international community took a decision on whether or not to adopt a convention on the topic, it was necessary to first look at the application of the draft articles in the light of bilateral, multilateral and regional relations.  Regarding allocation of loss, he recommended the compilation of the existing decisions.

CHRISTOPHER STEPHEN (United Kingdom) recalling his delegation’s previous comments on the form of the respective draft Articles and Principles in 2007, 2010 and 2013, said he did not consider that there had been any developments that would necessitate a change in position.  He noted there was no need for a convention on the prevention of transboundary harm or the allocation of loss, as those matters were already covered by a number of binding sector-specific and regional instruments.  He further questioned the benefit of adopting a convention that would assume a one-size-fits-all for categories of transboundary harm.

PHAM BA VIET (Viet Nam) said that the issue of transboundary harm could be addressed in the form of a treaty that took into account the interests of all States.  He welcomed those draft articles as a significant step, as were the draft principles on the allocation of loss.  With regard to the draft articles, he noted they would facilitate the exchange of information between States to prevent transboundary harm.  He recommended the establishment of a mechanism to help developing countries if they were not the country of origin for hazardous activities, and added his support for regional and bilateral arrangements to respond to transboundary hazardous activities.

EMILY PIERCE (United States) said that her country had not changed its position on the topic, and recalled her delegation’s statement made on October 22, 2013 in the Sixth Committee.

JI XIAOXUE (China) said the difference of views in the Sixth Committee concerning the draft articles and the draft principles was now mainly on those texts’ final format, which should be unified.  The drafts fully reflected the progressive development of relevant principles of international law, complemented the existing regime on national liability.  They served as a useful reference for States in addressing issues of transboundary harm from hazardous activities.  As a progressive development of existing international law, they should be considered as lex ferenda and be tested in future practice.  If territory, actual jurisdiction or control were considered the only criteria in determining the country of origin, it might be unfair in practice to many developing countries that hosted numerous plants belonging to transnational corporations.  The Committee’s current work should focus on collection and analysis of national practices.  Formulation of an international convention could be contemplated when requisite conditions were in place.

HARTINI RAMLY (Malaysia) noted the progressive development of international laws that was being proposed in the draft articles and draft principles, as well as the latest comments and observations from various States.  However, aligning with the cautionary view expressed by several delegations, she reiterated her position to retain the draft articles and principles in their current forms, pending further study of State practices.  Turning to specific provisions, she said that further clarifications regarding scope and more precise definitions were required for some draft articles.  With regard to draft article 9, she noted that without a compliance mechanism, it was unclear how States would comply with the mandatory requirement to enter into preventative consultations.

ALI GARSHASBI (Iran) noted that the draft articles and principles were the result of extensive research carried out on diverse issues pertaining to international liability, civil liability and relevant regional and international as well as domestic regimes on a comparative basis.  They contained elements considered to be common to domestic civil liability regimes in place in many countries.  The progressive nature of certain elements of the work, though, would require some time to effect adaption on the part of States, as well as be further incorporated into domestic legislations.  Therefore, it did not seem that the time was ripe for the adoption of the draft texts as conventions.  That being said, he underscored that some of the notions set forth in the drafts were already part of the international and national corpus of law concerning liability for hazardous activities.

Statements on Law of Transboundary Aquifers

SOUMAYA BOURHIL (Tunisia), speaking for the Arab Group, noted the water shortages in her region and commended the important work done by the International Law Commission on the topic.  Those efforts would contribute to reaching a legal framework aimed at managing transboundary aquifers.  The Commission had developed a number of flexible articles that provided a good basis on which countries could proceed. 

However, she continued, it was necessary to receive more scientific information on transboundary aquifers and their specificities.  It was also important to take into consideration different State practices when negotiating agreements, including factors such as the weather forecast, the economic and social and considerations of the countries, and hydrological issues.  Recalling previous comments on the issue by the League of Arab States, she stressed that the title should be common aquifers instead of transboundary aquifers.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), also speaking for Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, said that the Commission’s draft articles were the first systematic formulation of international law at the global level applicable to transboundary aquifers.  The articles defined a set of principles and basic rules for harmonizing the use of underground water reservoirs that were intersected by international boundaries.  Furthermore, they indicated cooperation mechanisms for the responsible management of aquifers by neighbouring States in order to avoid disputes.

He emphasized that the draft began with the recognition that the States in whose territory the aquifers were located had sovereignty over the portion of water or aquifer system located within their territory.  States that had transboundary aquifers also had the responsibility to develop effective mechanisms of cooperation for their equitable and reasonable management.  Another key aspect concerned environmental obligations, such as the duty to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the aquifer.

SAOUD AL QAHTANI (Qatar) pointed to scientific studies by organizations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that said aquifers represent sixty-five per cent of drinking water on the planet.  As a result, there were great risks if those water sources were exploited, particularly in the Arab region.  He underscored the importance of reinforcing cooperation between countries.  International mechanisms should be adopted that involved the United Nations and appropriate agencies.  He encouraged the international hydrological programme of UNESCO to continue its work, adding that a complete list of aquifers was needed so that they could be managed sustainably.

HECTOR ENRIQUE CELARIE LANDAVERDE (El Salvador) said that the issue of transboundary aquifers was of particular importance.  It did not only apply to States with such aquifers but was of interest to the entire international community to ensure the preservation and protection of resources for both present and future generations.  He underscored the importance of striking the balance between right and duty, so that the sovereign right to use natural resources was recognized, as was limiting the exploitation of their use.  That balance should be maintained by the adoption of an international instrument relating to the regulation of aquifers.

MAXIM V. MUSIKHIN (Russian Federation) said that the ILC had managed to strike the right balance between the sovereign rights of States and sensible and fair use of the aquifers.  Noting the provision of the obligation of States to cooperate in the area, he said he did not exclude the possibility that the draft articles might become a legally binding instrument in the future.  However, it was too soon to raise the issue of developing a convention.  While the question of a convention could be returned to later, it was logical to recommend that States must take the draft articles into consideration in their practice.  If the development of a convention should nonetheless arise, the international community must take into consideration existing international treaties and conventions, such as the New York Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.

KIKUKO KATO (Japan), noting that several positive developments in water management had taken place since the relevant General Assembly resolutions adopted in 2013, said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development called for ensuring the sustainability of water for all.  Also referring to the Regional Memorandum of Understanding adopted in 2014 by some African States, she commended UNESCO’S international hydrological programme.  Because water was the foundation for social development and a vital element in ensuring human security, she said that the draft articles provided a valuable platform to establish bilateral and regional legal frameworks for the responsible management of transboundary aquifers.  Stressing their “relevance and usefulness”, she added that they adequately reflected a wide range of State practices and were well-supported by scientific evidence.  Surrounded by oceans, her country did not have any transboundary aquifers, she pointed out.  However, as a responsible member of the international community her delegation would continue to work on the matter.

JAVIER GOROSTEGUI OBANOZ (Chile) said that the exercise of sovereign rights with regard to transboundary aquifers should be in accordance with equitable and reasonable use and should not cause harm.  The draft articles could contribute to the proper management of transboundary aquifers across the world.  To determine use, all relevant factors should be considered and the weight assigned to each factor should be determined on a case-by-case basis, without a pre-determined hierarchy among those factors, and with consideration to vital human needs.  He voiced support for initiatives that promoted increased scientific knowledge of aquifers, adding that it was important for States to respect the neutrality of technical bodies providing such services on the matter. 

AMIT HEUMANN (Israel) said that he was committed to the management of shared water sources, noting the challenges of desertification and shortage of potable water were a problem for humanity as a whole, as well as particular areas like the Middle East.  It was vital to avoid contamination or deterioration of water quality in aquifers, particularly contamination that might be irreversible.  Guidelines on transboundary aquifers should be drafted in such a way as to be flexible, given the variables that could affect the shared management of water.  He underscored that the topic was not suitable for codification in a binding form.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), emphasizing that his country was “climate-vulnerable”, stressed the importance of the Commission’s work on transboundary aquifers.  There was increased pressure on his country’s natural groundwater because of a fast-growing population.  The Government had undertaken a number of measures such as desalination to ensure sustainable use of water.  While draft article 3 carried the fundamental principle of sovereignty of States, draft article 4 through 9 added value to the management of aquifers.  The issue should be addressed in a context-specific manner rather than a broad-based international convention.  Lauding the General Assembly for commending the articles to Member States’ attention, he added that the draft articles concerning protection, preservation and management were particularly useful for Bangladesh because of growing industrial discharge, among other problems.

ISAÍAS ARTURO MEDINA MEJÍAS (Venezuela) said that his country, aware of the importance of aquifers as reservoirs of fresh water, had devised a systematic strategy for their management, and had included it in the domestic legal framework.  He urged nations to prioritize the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water for all.  It was also important to broaden cooperation to developing countries and build their capacity, while empowering citizens in local communities to participate in water and sanitation management.  Calling on all countries to take into account the provisions of the draft articles when making bilateral agreements, he added that Venezuela, “driven by the need to maintain good neighbourly relations,” had sought to promote actions at the national and international level to protect and preserve areas such as springs and freshwater reservoirs, whether above ground or underground.  

PHAM BA VIET (Viet Nam) stated that Viet Nam was working with other countries in the management of aquifers and promoting sustainable use of water resources in the Mekong basin, which aimed to improve the livelihood of its residents.  The draft articles could be drafted into a convention which would require a thorough review by States and taking into account State practices.  Based on the agreed text of the articles and State practices, the General Assembly would be able to decide whether or not to draft a convention.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria) reiterated the importance of bilateral and regional cooperation among shared aquifer States.  In that regard, the Consultation Mechanism of the northern Sahara aquifer system was an important regional tool used by water management institutions in Algeria, Libya and Tunisia.  He pointed out that the general definition of aquifer did not differentiate between renewable and fossil aquifers.  Regional cooperation frameworks should make that distinction in order to properly manage each type of aquifer.  It was also important to ensure the effective protection of aquifer water sources against any form of pollution, he said, adding that Algeria intended to establish a mechanism to sustainably manage water resources.  He also voiced support for the need to take into account the special situation of territories under foreign occupation or colonial domination by mentioning those cases in draft article 18.     

EMILY PIERCE (United States) said that her position with regard to the law of transboundary aquifers had not changed.  In that regard, she recalled the statement made to the Sixth Committee in October 2013.

MOHAMMED ATLASSI (Morocco) said that a legally binding instrument on transboundary aquifers would not only promote appropriate management of transboundary aquifers, but also encourage States to take bilateral and regional steps for the management of aquifers.  Furthermore, he stressed that implementing international cooperation on transboundary aquifers should not merely focus on the management of waters but also on not harming the subterranean water sources of other States.  He called on all States to be aware of the sovereign rights that each State had over its transboundary aquifers, whether surface or subterranean.

For information media. Not an official record.