International water protection cooperation

Finland promotes the protection of waters and the safeguarding of water resources on many levels: regionally, through bilateral cooperation with other states, and globally.

EU water strategy (Blueprint)

The European Commission published a Blueprint to Safeguard Europe's Water Resources in 2012. This Blueprint is based on a thorough assesment of the state of waters, water resources management plans made by Member States, and the competence of EU water legislation. The key conclusion of the Blueprint is that, while hardly any additional water-related legislation is needed, there is room for improvement in its implementation. The responsibilities of different sectors should be developed, as should the related funding instruments, in order to support the attainment of water-related objectives.

The Blueprint includes several measures for improving water efficiency and water conservation. Water accounting should be developed in order to obtain a better picture of the availability of water, and the needs related to water use and aquatic biota, including the availability under changing climate conditions. For example, the Commission proposes the establishment of water efficiency targets. The Blueprint emphasises improvement of the green infrastructure.

In addition, the Blueprint has a strong international dimension. Sensible management and protection of water resources is a matter of urgency, since water is becoming the most sought-after natural resource on the planet. Finland has underlined the importance of agreements on transboundary waters in the sustainable use and protection of water resources.

It is important that the Blueprint leads to the more effective implementation of legislation and, in particular, to better management of water resources and the marine environment and flood risks. Additionally, geographical and regional differences in Europe must be taken into account.

The Finnish ministries are jointly responsible for implementing the Blueprint. Several development needs related to the implementation can be taken into account in river basin management planning, and as part of various development projects. Important development objectives include measures related to the reduction of eutrophication, hazardous substances, environmental flows, restoration, climate change adaptation, and greater efficiency of water use. It would also be important to successfully integrate water resources and marine environmental protection into measures taken to manage flood risks in river basins as a whole.

Transboundary water cooperation under the UN

Approximately 40% of the world’s population live in transboundary river basins. With the shortages in water resources, it is becoming more important to conclude agreements on transboundary water cooperation to improve water security. The 1992 Water Convention of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) provides a framework for regional transboundary water cooperation. The aim of the Convention is to prevent, control and reduce the actual or potential transboundary impacts of water pollution. UN Member States which do not belong to the UNECE may also join the Convention, according to an amendment which entered into force in February 2013. This Convention has significantly improved the protection of transboundary waters and strengthened the cooperation between the Parties to the Convention. It has also had other effects, such as a reduction in conflicts and improved security and it has promoted the sustainable use of water resources. Additionally, the Convention has a global impact as it strengthens transboundary water cooperation.

The 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, of which Finland was the initiator, also provides a framework for intergovernmental transboundary water cooperation. This Convention enters into force on 17 August 2014, when it has been ratified by the required 35 states. The Convention aims to promote the balanced and reasonable use of transboundary watercourses and protect ecosystems in international river basins.

The 2013 amendment to the UNECE Water Convention and the 1997 UN Convention, which enters into force in August, complement each other. Finland has supported the enforcement and implementation of these two agreements in order that an international framework for transboundary water cooperation can be created. These global agreements lay the foundation for regional cooperation mechanisms and for the establishment of commissions for transboundary riverbasin.

The UNECE Water Convention's Protocol on Water and Health was signed in 1999, and entered into force in 2005. Its purpose is to promote the protection of human health and well-being in line with the principles of sustainable development, through better water use and management, including the protection of aquatic ecosystems, and by preventing, controlling and reducing water-related diseases.

Transboundary water cooperation with Sweden, Norway and Russia

Finland shares numerous transboundary water areas with Sweden, Norway and Russia. Its transboundary water cooperation with its neighbours is based on treaties. Finland concluded a bilateral agreement on transboundary water management with Russia in 1965, with Norway in 1981 and with Sweden in 1971.

According to the EU Water Framework Directive, Finland shares two international river basin districts: the Tornio River BasinDistrict (the rivers Tornio and Muonio), together with Sweden, and theTeno-Näätämö-Paatsjoki River Basin District,whichdischarges into the Arctic Ocean together with Norway. The Finnish-Russian transboundary water agreement covers all water bodies which cross Finland's eastern border. This cooperation is overseen by the joint Finnish-Russian Commission on the utilization of Frontier Waters.

Global water cooperation

Finland promotes the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.  In order to improve water safety, Finland supports the enactment and implementation of global transboundary water cooperation agreements in various forums.  Finland promotes the preparation of water resources management plans, which aim to ensure the sustainable use of water resources and the protection of ecosystems.

Finland has drafted an international strategy for its water sector. This strategy aims to increase the international cooperation of Finnish water-related industries and their effectiveness:

Further information

Antton Keto, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 50 431 9289,

Published 2014-06-26 at 15:05, updated 2016-10-11 at 10:00