December 8, 2005

IJC releases discussion paper on its International Watersheds Initiative

The International Joint Commission (IJC) released a paper today on strengthening capacities in watersheds to prevent and resolve transboundary disputes.

The report proposes that the IJC's boards in three watersheds - the St. Croix River (Maine and New Brunswick), the Red River (Minnesota, Manitoba and North Dakota) and the Rainy River, including the Rainy and Namakan lakes (Ontario and Minnesota) - be the testing grounds for the development of the IJC's Watersheds Initiative.

In its 1997 report, The IJC and the 21st Century, the IJC recommended the establishment of permanent IJC international watershed boards in a number of U.S.-Canada transboundary watersheds. These boards would monitor, study, and report to the IJC on a full range of transboundary environmental and water-related issues and, additionally, improve dialogue and information sharing to resolve issues.

The two federal governments expressed interest in the IJC's watershed board proposal and in November 1998 requested further development of the concept. This discussion paper, the product of many substantive consultations, is the IJC's second progress report since 1998.

The International Watersheds Initiative proposal is based on the premise that local people, given appropriate assistance, are those best positioned to resolve local transboundary issues. The IJC believes that effective trust-building and problem-solving capabilities at the local watershed level will substantially prevent, reduce and perhaps eliminate the need to directly involve the two national governments, or the IJC at the formal request of the governments, to resolve specific international watershed issues.

As we look to the future, creating local solution-building capabilities will represent a significant investment in the management of the shared and precious water resources of Canada and the United States. The IJC looks forward to discussing these ideas and to moving forward on this initiative with the two federal governments.

The report, A Discussion Paper on the International Watersheds Initiative, is available at, under Publications (use the search term "watersheds initiative") or

The International Joint Commission is an international organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. It assists the governments of Canada and the United States in managing waters along the border for the benefit of both countries in a variety of ways, including examining issues referred to it by the two federal governments.

More information, including the full text of the Commission's report may be found on the Commission's Web site. Printed copies are available on request.


Ottawa Paula Fedeski-Koundakjian (613) 995-0088
Washington Frank Bevacqua (202) 736-9024


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