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UNECE supports policy response to recent accidents of dams in Kazakhstan

26 September 2014

On 17 September 2014, the government of Kazakhstan, UNECE, and the Executive Board of the International Fund for the Saving of the Aral Sea organised a roundtable on dam safety in Astana, to discuss and plan for improved dam safety in Kazakhstan. Representatives from key authorities and stakeholders from Kazakhstan participated in the roundtable, along with international experts.

Dams and reservoirs are efficient means of addressing floods and droughts, but ageing dams represent increased risks to life, health, property, and the environment. In 2010, the failure of the Kyzyl-Agash Dam in Kazakhstan caused the flooding of the nearby village, killing at least 43 and leaving some 300 people injured. Another accident in spring this year stresses the need for improved policies and control in this sector.

The conclusion of the roundtable is that Kazakhstan needs to strengthen its legislation, as well as institutional capacity, to guarantee the safety of existing hydraulic infrastructure, and that international experiences are important in this process. Support from UNECE was requested for further development of national legislation, capacity-building, and the development of an international training centre.

Another issue discussed was the cooperation of Kazakhstan with neighbouring countries on transboundary rivers and its infrastructure. With the support of UNECE safety assessments of the Kirov and Ortotokoi dams in Kyrgyzstan upstreams of Kazakhstan on the Talas and Chu rivers have been made. It was concluded that steps should now be taken to improve the safety monitoring of these dams in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan.

The roundtable was organised as part of the Environment and Security Initiative. The UNECE dam safety project is also a component of the UNECE Water Convention and SPECA programmes of work and is implemented in cooperation with the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

For further information please contact: Mr Batyr Hajiyev Economic Affairs Officer Deputy Head ESCAP/UNECE SPECA Office Almaty, Kazakhstan Office: + 7 727 338 4402 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Mr. Bo Libert UNECE Regional Adviser on Environment Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2396 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Note to Editors: The project “Capacity-building for cooperation on dam safety in Central Asia” is organised to help Central Asian countries to set up or revise national dam safety regulatory frameworks, to achieve their harmonization and to promote subregional cooperation for information exchange and notification in case of accidents or emergency situations related to hydro-technical infrastructure. For more information see: http://www.unece.org/env/water/damsafety.html

The Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative was established in 2003 and includes the OSCE, the Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNECE and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The ENVSEC Initiative works to assess and address environmental problems, which threaten or are perceived to threaten security, societal stability and peace, human health and/or sustainable livelihoods, within and across national borders in conflict prone regions. http://www.envsec.org/

ENVSEC Eastern European Regional consultation meeting

Minsk, Belarus - 08 September 2014 - 09 September 2014

The Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Eastern European Regional consultation meeting took place from 8 to 9 September 2014. The meeting saw broad participation from representatives of governments of Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine, academic and non-governmental institutions, and ENVSEC’s international partners.

The meeting was convened by UNEP as the Eastern European regional desk of the ENVSEC Initiative, and generously hosted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus.

The high-level participants deliberated for two days in plenary and group discussions, analysing the future outlook for ENVSEC in Eastern Europe in a joint effort to work out priority areas where immediate attention and action is needed on the part of the Eastern European countries and their ENVSEC partners, especially in the context of the current tense situation in the region.

As a result of the two-day negotiations, which necessitated an intense closed-door session moderated by UNEP, an Outcome Statement was produced, elaborating the main challenges in the area of environment and security and giving the region a new vision of cooperation.

The priority areas identified are as follows: Water issues and transboundary water basins; Climate change: an ecosystem approach; Management of chemicals and hazardous wastes; Transboundary environmental security; Environmental cooperation in conflict situations; and Industrial activity and environmental security.

The Outcome Statement is posted on the ENVSEC website under Meetings .

Transboundary Cooperation and Climate Change Adaptation in the Neman River Basin

Lithuania - 19 June 2014 - 20 June 2014

The draft strategic framework for basin adaptation and a possible way forward to strengthen transboundary cooperation in the Neman River watershed in Eastern Europe was discussed in a meeting on river basin management and climate change adaptation held in Vilnius, Lithuania. The recommendations include expanding the scope of technical cooperation, improving cross-border exchange of information, for instance to support river basin management planning in Lithuania with Belarusian inputs, and to continue exploring opportunities for a basin-level policy instrument for the Neman River basin.

The meeting on 19 and 20 June 2014 convened experts and representatives from environmental authorities in Belarus, Lithuania and the Kaliningrad oblast of the Russian Federation. It was hosted by the Lithuanian Ministry of Environment in the framework of an international process on river basin management and climate change adaptation led by UNECE and UNDP Belarus.

The Neman Basin conference was organized as part of the project “River basin management and climate change adaptation in the Neman River Basin”, which is carried out by UNECE and UNDP Belarus in the ENVSEC framework.

The project aims to improve integrated river basin management and transboundary cooperation in times of a changing climate in the Neman River basin, to strengthen the capacity of the riparian countries to adapt to climate change by supporting dialogue and cooperation on the necessary steps to design an adaptation strategy in the transboundary context. The project has, for the first time, enabled modelling and forecasting of climatic and hydrological characteristics for the entire transboundary Neman River basin. It has also resulted in a strategic framework for basin adaptation, similar to a transboundary adaptation strategy. It has reached a common understanding on future water availability and water use, taking into account possible climate change impacts.

The project was launched in 2011 and is funded by Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. It is one of the pilot projects on climate change adaptation in transboundary basins under the UNECE Water Convention.

Integrated Water Management for the Lepenec River

29 May 2014

REC has ensured cooperation between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo (Territory under UN Resolution 1244) concerning the management of shared transboundary water resources of the Lepenec river in South Eastern Europe (SEE). In a project aiming to introduce integrated water management, a joint expert group was set up to assess water supply and wastewater management. Based on the technical documentation and results of the assessment, the expert group have also analysed the legal and institutional set-up concerning the management of the Lepenec river and created a stakeholder map for introducing integrated water management.

On 29 May 2014 in Skopje, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a bilateral meeting between the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo (Territory under UN Resolution 1244) was organized. In the meeting high-level officials from the Macedonian and Kosovan ministries, responsible for environment, physical planning, agriculture, transportation and economy, and representatives from hydrometeorology and health-care institutes, the business sector and non-governmental organisations met and jointly reviewed the project activities and next steps. The project is funded by the Government of Finland.

Workshop on Climate Change and Security in Yerevan

Armenia - 12 May 2014

A national consultation workshop in Yerevan, 12 May 2014, focused on identifying the security implications of climate change for Armenia. The meeting convened representatives and experts from national ministries and agencies, international organizations and civil society including the Aarhus Centres of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, to examine recent analyses of the trends and impacts of climate change, discuss related policy and to map out the areas most at risk.

“Over the past years, climate change has moved from being a purely environmental and development issue to one of national and international security,” said Tomasz Dembski, Economic and Environmental Programme Officer at the OSCE Office in Yerevan. “Moreover, it has a direct impact on many other environmental and socio-economic issues, such as biodiversity, water resources, energy and public health, among other things.”

Vartouhi Asatourian, Head of the UN Division at the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “Climate change is a global issue and its prevention, response and adaption measures require international collaboration. Due to the seriousness of the implications of climate change, it is one of the priorities in the Armenian Government’s agenda for a number of years. Armenia appreciates the efforts of the international organizations and, in particular, the ENVSEC Initiative, in supporting the country’s measures on tackling the challenges posed by climate change.”

The results from the national workshop will feed into a report on climate change and security in South Caucasus, which will be further discussed at a regional consultation workshop later this year.

The event was organized jointly by OSCE and UNEP, in the framework of the ENVSEC project “Climate Change and Security in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the South Caucasus”, funded by the EU Instrument for Stability, together with the Austrian Development Agency.

National Consultation Workshop on Climate Change and Security in Tbilisi

Georgia - 08 May 2014

A national consultation workshop took place on 8 May 2014 in Tbilisi, under the ENVSEC project “Climate Change and Security in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus”.

The project aims to increase the understanding and awareness of climate change as a security challenge, and the consequent need for transboundary cooperation on climate change adaptation in the three regions as well as enhancing national and local stakeholders’ capacity to anticipate, prevent and mitigate effectively and in a timely manner potential security risks resulting from climate change.

The national consultation workshop was designed to identify security implications of climate change at national and transboundary levels. It identified and mapped geographic areas requiring priority action (hot-spots), reviewed links between climate change and socio-economic aspects, and contributed to developing recommendations for reducing potential security risks that stem from climate change. The workshop brought together representatives of national authorities, climate change experts and civil society. The meeting was opened by the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation in Georgia, Mr Boris Iarochevitch, representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection as well as the Office of the Co-coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA).

The results from the national workshop will feed into a regional report on climate change and security in the Southern Caucasus, which will be further discussed at regional consultation workshop later this year. The project was launched in 2013, and it is funded by the EU Instrument for Stability, together with the Austrian Development Cooperation.

ENVSEC Technical Mission to Arsenic Mining Site

Georgia - 02 May 2014 - 06 May 2014

In Lentekhi municipality of Georgia over 50.000 tons of arsenic containing waste resulting from former Soviet production of arsenic anhydride and metallic arsenic pose significant risks to the surrounding environment and health of local communities. The waste is stored in deteriorated steel containers with a high probability of leakage or remains unprotected in surface impoundments. After a flooding in September 2013 the security risks for the surrounding environment significantly increased when the wall of the container burial site was washed away, exposing the steel containers and escalating the risk of hazardous waste leakage.

Following the flooding, the Minister of Environment and Natural Resource Protection of Georgia appealed to OSCE and the ENVSEC Initiative, and as a result, a technical mission led by UNEP and OSCE was established. In the framework of this new ENVSEC project to address emergency environment and security threats at the arsenic mining site in Tsana, national and international experts visited Georgia on 2-6 May 2014 to assess the situation at the three locations in the Lentekhi municipality where arsenic containing mining waste is stored. The expert team also visited the laboratory of the Georgia National Environmental Agency, in charge of environmental monitoring and undertaking the analysis of the Tsana soil and water samples, and held meetings with the Lentekhi local administration and the Ministry.

Based on their findings, the expert team will determine immediate contingency measures for the arsenic waste, suggest appropriate waste management options for Tsana area, and design appropriate waste containment structures to completely seal the mining waste.

The group photo of the technical mission team is courtesy of Doug Hickman, Team Leader of the ENVSEC technical mission to the arsenic mining site in Georgia.

ENVSEC Embarks on a New Decade in South Eastern Europe

31 March 2014 - 01 April 2014

The annual ENVSEC Regional Coordination meeting for South Eastern Europe (SEE) convened on March 31 - April 1, 2014 in Podgorica, Montenegro. Through the support of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), ENVSEC partner organizations, OSCE, REC, UNDP, UNECE, UNEP and associated partner NATO, have ushered in a new decade of work in the region through a multi-annual regional programme. Continuing work in the region for 2012-2015 is currently funded by ADA, with additional financial resources available for selected activities by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and the Swiss Development Cooperation.

Mr. Branimir Gvozdenovic, Minister for Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro, in the opening session called for stronger support from the donor community to the countries of SEE and praised ENVSEC for their significant support to resolving environmental concerns in the region.

Over 100 participants attended the meeting including high level officials from Montenegro, national focal points from the SEE region, international organizations, academia, civil society organizations, corporate leaders and other partners. The meeting was an opportunity to acknowledge the relevance and progress made in addressing environment and security risks in the SEE region. Participants in the meeting stressed that regional cooperation is a key generator of political stability and economic process in the region, and that in this regard ENVSEC activities in the region contribute solid support to the Western Balkan countries in meeting the demanding requirements of EU membership.

The meeting consisted of a high-level opening panel which discussed the added value of ENVSEC, a working meeting of the ENVSEC National Focal Points representing Ministries of Environment and Ministries of Foreign Affairs from each country in the SEE region, a world café, and a roundtable discussion. Through the working meeting and subsequent discussions, participants were exposed to the priority areas for ENVSEC actions in the SEE region for increased regional cooperation. Additionally participants were given tools to gain new opportunities for ENVSEC to synergise with partners for greater efficiency; to expand upon recognised tools and methods that are applied in other regions; to mainstream disaster risk reduction, management and preparedness; and to support political instruments and processes, such as the SEE 2020 Strategy, with ENVSEC expertise for orchestrated activities that can catalyse resources and strengthen the region.

First Step Towards Enhancing National Capacities for Managing Climate Related Security Risks

29 January 2014 - 31 March 2014

In the framework of the ENVSEC project “Climate Change and Security in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus” implemented with funding from the European Union Instrument for Stability (IfS) and the Austrian Development Agency and under the overall lead of the OSCE, a first round of national multi-stakeholder consultation workshops on Climate Change and Security were organized by UNDP in all five countries of the Central Asia region. The meetings conducted in Turkmenistan (29 January 2014), Uzbekistan (5 March 2014), Kyrgyzstan (18 March 2014), Kazakhstan (28 March 2014) and Tajikistan (31 March 2014).

These multi-stakeholder workshops enabled a collection of perspectives from national stakeholders on the security implications of climate change on a national and trans-national level and they facilitated a participatory process for identifying and mapping geographic areas requiring priority action (hot-spots). Furthermore, during the meetings the links between climate change and different sectors were reviewed and recommendations for reducing potential security risks resulting from climate change were drafted. The discussions were based on the results of regional desk studies conducted by local and international experts on the security implications of climate change as a first step of this project, and the results will feed into the finalized versions of the regional “Climate Change and Security in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus” vulnerability assessment reports.

Addressing Cross-Border Transport of Hazardous Waste and Environmental Crimes in Moldova

27 March 2014 - 28 March 2014

On 27-28 March 2014 in Chisinau, Moldova, OSCE hosted a training workshop entitled “Detection and Prevention of Trafficking of Environmentally Sensitive Commodities” under the ENVSEC project “Prevention of Illegal Cross-border Transport of Hazardous Waste and Other Cross-border Environmental Crimes”.

Given the severity of the illegal border crossing of environmentally sensitive commodities, this workshop aimed to spread awareness of the need for customs capacity building and training of border guards and environmental officers to detect and prevent illegal trafficking of environmental goods, as governed by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and the Convention on International Trade in the Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Discussing National Capacity against Forest Fire in Georgia

24 March 2014

On 24 March 2014 in Tbilisi, Georgia, OSCE organized under the ENVSEC framework the fifth national roundtable on forest fire management. This was in co-operation with the Global Fire Monitoring Center based in Germany and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia, under the auspices of the ENVSEC project "Enhancing National Capacity on Fire Management and Wildfire Disaster Risk Reduction in the South Caucasus” (Phase Three).

During this roundtable the participants reviewed recent developments within the Georgian forestry sector and prepared a draft National Policy on Forest Management. The participants also discussed the future steps for application of the recommendations, in view of advancing an effective forest fire management policy to better handle and prevent wildfires and related damages. The progress made indicates the level of concern from Georgia for forest protection and their commitment to reducing risks of wildfire disasters, including by working in partnership with OSCE and the ENVSEC Initiative.

Previous achievements of this project comprise of the 2013 establishment of the National Forest Agency within the Georgian Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection, and the Forest Fire Strategy for improving forest fire management.

Water Management Responses to Climate Change for the Chu and Talas River Basins

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan - 27 February 2014

A stakeholder meeting to discuss with national officials of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan the findings of the project "Promoting Cooperation to Adapt to Climate Change in the Chu and Talas Transboundary Basins” was organized on 27 February 2014 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, by UNECE and UNDP Bishkek Office.

Under the project, a comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts on water resources has been prepared for the Chu and Talas transboundary river basins for the first time. The results indicate an increase in temperature in the basin area, especially in summer and autumn, with likely accompanying changes in rainfall which might result in a deterioration of moisture conditions during the summer-autumn. In the mountains, hotter summers and milder winters with more liquid precipitation (instead of snow) can be expected. Consequently, the area and volume of glaciers is predicted to significantly diminish. The findings have been synthesized in a project brochure.

On the basis of this outlook, an initial set of adaptation measures and recommendations has been developed. The workshop participants discussed these, and future needs and possible policy responses. The workshop made a link to the latest developments in climate policies in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and to the work of the Chu Talas Commission established in 2006 with support from OSCE, UNECE and UNESCAP. The Chu Talas Commission has enabled joint and transparent decision-making on water allocation and maintenance costs by Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as well as relevant information sharing, efficient implementation of joint projects, prevention and rapid settlement of problematic situations in the Chu-Talas river basins.

For the vulnerable agricultural sector, the assessment led to identification of potential adaptation measures ranging from technical to policy and financial measures. Key issues were improvement of water use efficiency and checking the robustness of water management practices and of long-term investments in infrastructure against changing weather conditions. Coordination of water management measures will be needed, as the impacts are foreseen to propagate across borders.

This joint UNDP-UNECE project has been implemented in the framework of the ENVSEC, financed by the Government of Finland.

Strengthening Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in South Eastern Europe

24 February 2014 - 25 February 2014

With reference to the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the Aarhus Convention), the ENVSEC Initiative is carrying out country studies and a regional study on the key issues of access to environmental justice in South Eastern Europe (SEE).

The project has identified challenges and good practices in the implementation of the access to justice pillar of the Aarhus Convention by analyzing relevant legislation and practice in six countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244/99), Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia. In addition, the draft regional study provides targeted recommendations on the way forward aiming at removing barriers in access to justice on the basis of inclusive participation of all stakeholders.

The report suggest, given continued support to the project, to address these recommendations through multi-stakeholder dialogues and targeted capacity building efforts to stakeholder groups like civil society, state institutions, judiciary, environmental lawyers and legal practitioners. This would assist the regional cooperation on environmental governance through participatory and informed decision-making.

A summary of the preliminary findings and conclusions of the regional study were presented at the seventh meeting of the Aarhus Convention Task Force on Access to Justice, serviced by UNECE (Geneva, 24-25 February 2014), and will be finalized for the Aarhus Convention Meeting of the Parties (30 June-2 July 2014). This project is implemented by three of the ENVSEC partners, the OSCE, REC and UNECE.

Multi-stakeholders workshop discussing implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Belarus

29 January 2014 - 31 January 2014

Good environmental governance is key for tackling environmental challenges. In January 2014, OSCE and UNECE organized 3 days multi-stakeholder workshop on “Advancing Implementation of the UNECE Aarhus Convention in Belarus”. The workshop was organised in close cooperation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Belarus and in partnership with the RUE Belarusian SRC ‘Ecology’, with support from the Environment and Security (ENVSEC) Initiative.

The diverse participation of practitioners from the central and local level demonstrated the strong commitment of Belarus to the implementation of the Aarhus Convention. Over 50 representatives of central and local governments, academia, governmental institutions, representatives of environmental civil society organizations, as well as Minsk and Hrodno Aarhus Centers, highlighted the challenges and solutions for advancing the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and its amendment on genetically-modified organisms (GMO) in Belarus. Participants familiarized themselves with the current implementation of the Aarhus Convention; they explored different measures to enhance the implementation of the Convention and its GMO amendment at the national and local levels, including with support of the Aarhus Centres.

At the opening of the workshop the First Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Vitaly Kulik, stated that significant progress has been made in integrating the Aarhus Convention’s provisions into national legislation and in strengthening the capacities of state institutions in Belarus. He noted that "the National Workshop Advancing Implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Belarus will further promote implementation of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention".

ENVSEC report: Transboundary Cooperation and Sustainable Management of the Dniester River Basin

22 January 2014

A publication presents the achievements of the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC) project “Transboundary Co-operation and Sustainable Management in the Dniester River Basin: Phase III – Implementation of the Action Programme”. The project was led and implemented by three of the ENVSEC partners, UNECE, OSCE and UNEP.

Project activities, transboundary water monitoring, fish fauna conservation, information sharing on the basin level, public awareness, and reducing vulnerability to extreme floods and climate change, and development and signing of the Moldovan-Ukrainian Dniester River basin Treaty, are described in the publication.

The signing ceremony took place at the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) in Rome in November 2012 (see Treaty text in Russian and English as well as the related press release).

The publication provides recommendations for further activities in the Dniester basin and is a valuable reference for the further development of the transboundary integrated water resources management.
Dniester without Borders Summary (English)
Dniester without Borders Summary (Russian)
Dniester without Borders (Russian)