Protecting  One of the World’s Most Important Resources

Water - One of the World's Most Important Resources10 December 2014, Geneva, Switzerland - Groundwater makes up the majority of the volume of freshwater which is available and easily accessible for people, and is particularly attractive as a source for potable water because it is typically relatively pure. The demand for groundwater is likely to increase in the future in order to offset declining surface water availability, as well as increased consumption and climate change. However, it is vulnerable to both over-exploitation and contamination, which may remain in groundwater for long periods of time. Internationally shared groundwater resources are even more vulnerable than groundwater resources which are not shared by two or more States. Many policymakers and decision makers lack a full understanding of the characteristics of groundwater, and moreover, until relatively recently, groundwater has been largely out of the sight of international law. Thus, there is a growing need for increased awareness of groundwater, as well as the continued development of international rules to protect and insure sustainable management of groundwater resources.

In response to this need, UNITAR and the University of Geneva (UNIGE), through the Platform for International Water Law, with financial assistance from the Swiss Confederation (through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC), have launched the first edition of an Online Advanced Course on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers. This course is designed specifically for past participants from UNITAR/UNIGE online courses on international water law that also received the support from the SDC. The main objective of these online courses is to train and cultivate a network of professionals working in the field of the international freshwater and groundwater protection.

Confirming the importance of and interest in this rapidly developing field of international law, demand for the course has far outstripped the available space for participants. This first offering of the course was limited to 43 participants, for which UNITAR received more than 100 applications. Selected course participants for this first offering included representatives from every region, with over half of the participants coming from Africa or Asia and the Pacific. African participants were the largest group represented, with 12 out of 43 participants (28%), followed by Asia and the Pacific (26%), Latin America and the Caribbean (16%), Europe (16%), the Middle East (12%), and North America (2%). Geared towards a range of practitioner backgrounds, the course brought together a nearly even mix of professional backgrounds between lawyers, engineers, environmental scientists, economists, and political scientists. Enrollment for the course was gender balanced, including a representation of 53% women and 47% men.

UNITAR, the University of Geneva and the SDC are exploring possibilities for continuing this cooperation by launching an Online Community for the study and promotion of International Water Law. Furthermore, the partner organizations are considering implementing a series of online courses on international water law that develop additional sub topics, such as: freshwater and international economic law; and water and human rights. These courses would be offered in both English and French. More information on these exciting new developments will follow in 2015.

Related Links

UNITAR's courses on International Law

Platform for International Water Law

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

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