1. Transboundary Management Arrangements Expanded and Supported
Many of the world’s rivers are shared between jurisdictions and positive examples of cross-border cooperation in managing these rivers exist (Danube, Mekong, Orange-Senqu, etc). The legal conventions establishing transboundary commissions are often the basis for cooperation. At a global level, these instruments need to be maintained and strengthened and resources be made available for their implementation. Such transboundary plans should be included in relevant national planning exercises as well, ensuring coherence with other national and regional policies.
2. Achieving Interdisciplinary Action in Support of Rivers
Climate change, biodiversity loss, and water are all connected. National plans and actions as well as the conventions and international agreements like CBD, UNFCCC for providing the response to each of these issues need to be linked and mainstreamed for complementary objectives and for sharing resources. Regional river basin planning (often of a transboundary nature) needs to be the basis for addressing these three issues or, at least mitigation measures, simultaneously.
3. Actions in Climate and Biodiversity Conventions (COPs) agreed upon by the Conference of the Parties in Support of Rivers
The International Conventions (Climate, Biodiversity, Wetlands) all need to explicitly identify and address the direct link between climate change, biodiversity loss, and freshwater ecosystems like rivers and wetlands, and thus coherently implement decisions to reach their objectives. Climate resilience needs to be embedded in integrated river basin management plans and/or integrated water resources management plans.
4. Mechanisms to Achieve Intersectoral Dialogue
The damage to rivers worldwide is a result of multiple pressures and threats. Mechanisms to establish dialogue and create optimal scenarios between the key actors that influence rivers (hydropower, navigation, water supply and wastewater treatment, tourism and recreation, flood protection, and agriculture) need to be established. Good examples for this dialogue and cooperation exist in river basins throughout the world (the Murray Darling, the Ganges in India, the Danube and Rhine in Europe, and the St Lawrence between Canada and the US). These examples need continued support and to serve as positive examples for other river basins.
5. Developing Cooperative Actions for River Cities and Their Connected Landscapes
The recently convened IRS 2022 showcased a number of important initiatives where cities of varying size and complexity have been developing wholistic strategies to manage the rivers that flow through them and to develop actions and initiatives to improve urban rivers and their connection to the basin and surrounding landscapes. An urban river needs to be managed and governed by development plans that include the hydrological basin of which it is a part of. Cities are showing they can be forward thinking and develop actions for flood protection, water supply, recreation and economic development that acknowledge and work to support this connection through cooperative strategies and planning with municipalities and authorities further upstream (Brisbane, San Antonio, Manila, Vienna). These regional planning initiatives provide a basis to maintain and restore health to rivers and have the potential to reduce risk to people living in harm’s way.
6. Corporations Acting to Protect and Restore Rivers
Corporate actions can often affect the natural values and assets of rivers (overuse, pollution) and lead to an undermining of the health of a river. Fortunately, many corporate actors have begun to develop and utilise efforts to ensure that new initiatives and actions are in keeping with maintaining or improving the quality of rivers. These have included cooperative dialogue with NGOs and local governments, support for clean-up and pollution elimination, water use reduction, and overall internal awareness in the company of its impact on rivers and water. Voluntary accountability schemes such as that of the Water Stewardship Alliance have provided an important framework for assessing the impact of companies on water and rivers and promoting actions to limit or reduce negative impacts and strengthen support for rivers.
7. Cross-Generational, Inclusive and Equitable Decision Making
The water sector needs a culture change. To achieve the SDGs, there is a need to bring together the knowledge and lived experiences of all generations, cultures and diverse perspectives to find better solutions and deliver them rapidly and at-scale. No generation can make rivers resilient by working in isolation from the other generations. River commissions and other institutions making decisions affecting rivers need to ensure the input and involvement of diverse perspectives, cultures, generations, affiliations, and groups, thereby expanding and accelerating better solutions to bring our rivers from crisis to resilience. The role of indigenous knowledge and involvement in how we manage rivers is crucial.