Athens Declaration Process

The Athens Declaration Process is a framework for regional cooperation on Transboundary Water Resources Management (TWRM) in Southeastern Europe (SEE) and the Mediterranean.

 

The Athens Declaration Process is intended among others, to assist SEE countries, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, to prepare IWRM and water efficiency plans for major river basins and lakes, including a range of complementary interventions, with a coordinated mechanism to allow for exchange of information and experience between activities.

Core Partners in this process are the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs , the Hellenic Ministry for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change and the World Bank.

 

Background

The roots of the process go back to the International Conference on “Sustainable Development for Lasting Peace: Shared Water, Shared Future, Shared Knowledge” organized in May 2003, at Vouliagmeni, Greece.

The Hellenic Presidency of the European Union, acting through the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, organized jointly with the World Bank the International Conference which focused on the critical issue of management of shared surface and ground waters in Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean. The Conference was conducted in collaboration with the Hellenic Ministry for Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works. The process was technically supported by the Global Water Partnership Mediterranean (GWP-Med).

The Conference reviewed the experience with transboundary water resources management in three complementary areas: river basin management; lake basin management; and shared aquifer management. In addition, it considered long-term development trends, legal instruments and institutional developments in the concerned regions; these in turn were linked to socio-economic developments that can influence the broader setting in which cooperative programs for transboundary water resources management are undertaken. It recognized the importance of development of water resources for drinking water supply, sanitation, food production, water storage and renewable energy. The economic benefits of water resources management and development were seen as necessary for responsible growth and poverty reduction. The vital role played by aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity received emphasis given their importance to sustainable development and nature conservation.

The Conference served as a platform to assemble leaders, experts and civil society representatives from the countries of Southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean regions and beyond to share lessons learned and identify the mechanisms that can be used to increase effective regional cooperation and promote sharing of benefits from the cooperative management of transboundary waters and assist in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Johannesburg targets. It was attended by sixteen Ministers, the Vice President of the World Bank, 320 representatives from governments, international, regional and national organizations, local authorities and NGOs.

 

The “Athens Declaration”

The Conference resulted in the adoption of the “Athens Declaration” concerning Shared Water, Shared Future and Shared Knowledge, which provides a framework for a longer-term process to support cooperative activities for the management of shared water resources in the Southeastern Europe and Mediterranean regions.

The Declaration concluded with four Recommendations for Action developing:

1. Diplomacy for Environment and Sustainable Development.
2. Southeastern Europe Transboundary River Basin and Lake Basin Management Program.
3. Mediterranean Shared Aquifers Management Program.
4. Assessment of Regional and National Frameworks to Implement Integrated Water Resources Management.

The objective of the recommended actions is to realize and expand the significant opportunities that exist for cooperation in the Southeastern Europe and Mediterranean regions for management of transboundary river basins, lake basins and shared aquifers. The recommended actions have been developed to provide the basis for strategic partnerships and are directly linked with a series of ongoing and planned activities supported by a variety of partners including national and local governments, the European Union, international and regional organizations, international financial institutions, bilateral donors, civil society organizations and non-governmental organizations. The recommended actions seek to support progress in sustainable economic development, social development and poverty reduction, as well as measures to promote peace and security.

Since its adoption, the Athens Declaration has become a reference for many other processes and activities in the region and has been translated into 8 languages.

The Athens Declaration Process is closely linked to the Petersberg Process- Phase II which is coordinated by the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the World Bank. It also provides background to the Mediterranean Component of the European Union Water Initiative (MED EUWI).

Relevant documents: