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Draft Guiding Principles for the International Watersheds Initiative

In letters dated November 19, 1998, the governments of Canada and the United States of America gave the International Joint Commission a Reference pursuant to Article IX of the Boundary Waters Treaty asking the Commission, in consultation with the two federal governments, the relevant states and provinces, tribes and First Nations, and local interests, as appropriate, among other things, to “further define the general framework under which watershed boards would operate, including, but not limited to mandate, scope of activities, and operating principles, recognizing that boards would be modified to meet the special circumstances of each watershed.” The following draft operating principles have been developed by the Commission in response to that request.

  1. The International Watersheds Initiative aims to promote an integrated, ecosystem approach to issues arising in transboundary waters. It seeks to facilitate the development of watershed-specific responses to emerging challenges such as intensified population growth and urbanization, global climate change, changing uses of water, pollution from air and land, and introductions of exotic species. The underlying premise is that local people, given appropriate assistance, are those best positioned to resolve many local transboundary problems.

  2. To facilitate a better integrated and more participatory approach, the IJC promotes and encourages the establishment of International Watershed Boards that will serve as fora to promote partnerships and improve collaboration, information sharing and coordination among stakeholders. The Boards work closely with and through existing institutions and organizations, identifying critical gaps in local capacity that each Board is uniquely positioned to address. Within available resources, the IJC will undertake to support projects and activities by the Boards aimed at strengthening local capacity and expanding scientific knowledge of the watershed to address transboundary environmental challenges.

  3. International Watershed Boards continue to carry out the pre-existing mandates of any predecessor IJC Boards in their geographic area, but with increased emphasis on ecosystem-wide approaches and local ownership that will contribute to more durable solutions to transboundary issues.

  4. In their deliberations and activities, the International Watershed Boards strive to uphold the IJC's principles of independence, impartiality, openness and equal binational participation in the search for consensus solutions based on the best available scientific data, taking into account existing statutory responsibilities of federal, provincial/state authorities, First Nations/tribes, and local authorities.


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