Environment in emerging and transition economies

Partnership with the EU Water Initiative (EUWI): Water Policy Reforms in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA)


The European Union Water Initiative (EUWI) supports the achievement of the water-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through targets for the integration of sustainable development principles into country policies and programmes (goal 7) and a reversal of the losses of environmental resources (target 9). It comprises an ambitious target to halve the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015 (target 10). It takes a partnership approach with national governments, donors, the water industry, NGOs and other stakeholders.

A key operational tool of the EUWI is the Water Framework Directive (WFD) which can be tailored to respond to local conditions and priorities. The OECD and UNECE are implementing partners of the EUWI in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA). To find out more, follow the links below. 

The EUWI in EECCA                EUWI implementation:
OECD and UNECE as strategic partners

National policy dialogues (NPDs)  Major outcomes
of the EUWI in EECCA countries



Ten countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) are currently adopting a range of policy reforms with regard to water management in cooperation with the EUWI. These are: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukriane. The EUWI EECCA component is financially supported by the European Union and other donors.

Key objectives


Water resources management:
- Improving the institutional and regulatory framework with a view to approximate to the WFD and related legislation;
- Managing water in a way that contributes to water-, food- and energy security, and economic development;

Water supply and sanitation:
Ensuring access of the poor to essential water services as a basic human right;
- Improving the institutional and regulatory framework;
- Encouraging investment in water supply and sanitation and ensuring the financial viability of utilities;
- Safeguarding public health;

Transboundary cooperation:
 Contributing to peace by developing inter-state cooperative structures for water management.

Current activities


EUWI implementation: OECD and UNECE as strategic partners

The European Union identified the OECD and the UNECE as strategic partners for the implementation of the EUWI in EECCA. The OECD focuses on the economic dimension of water resources management: managing water as a driver for growth; making the best use of economic instruments for water management; and enhancing the financial sustainability of water supply and sanitation services. The OECD’s contribution is provided within the framework of the Task Force for the Implementation of the Environmental Action Programme (EAP Task Force). The UNECE is the strategic partner for work on Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), including transboundary river basin management. It contributes to the approximation of the EU acquis, building on the Water Convention and its Protocol on Water and Health.

The implementation of the EUWI in EECCA relies on National Policy Dialogues (NPDs). These are platforms where key stakeholders meet to discuss and advance policy reforms (see more details about NPDs in Section 5). NPDs are fed by robust analytical work and international good practice. They are jointly facilitated by the OECD and UNECE.


  • 23 February 2015 - Georgia
  • 27 February 2015 - Azerbaijan

The EUWI EECCA Working Group

The Working Group consists of representatives of all partner countries (EECCA countries and their partners supporting the reform of water policies). It involves NGOs, private sector and international organisations active in the region as well. Romania acts as Chair of the EECCA Working Group. The Working Group meets once a year, to set priorities, review major EU and EECCA developments regarding water management policies and share the experience of partner countries and information about relevant projects.

The EUWI EECCA supports the overall goals of the European Neighbourhood Policy and priorities established by the EU-CA Strategy which constitutes a framework for the implementation of the environment and water pillar of the EU Strategy for Central Asia. Support to implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is another core aim of the work.

The last meeting was held on 12-13 May 2016 in Paris.

Past meetings were held in: 



Major outcomes of the EUWI in EECCA countries

Work under the EUWI EECCA is demand driven. It covers a range of topics related to the reform of water policies in EECCA. The following cross-cutting outcomes deserve particular attention:

  • Transparency of decision-making

The key principles of IWRM and the EU WFD are transparency and stakeholder consultation in policymaking and basin management. National Policy Dialogues (NPDs) have been highly effective in instilling these principles in the EECCA region.

  • Coordination across government institutions

Another essential principle of IWRM is to foster coherence and consistency across policies that affect water demand and water availability. NPDs typically convene representatives from a wide range of government ministries and agencies (e.g. those responsible for policy in the areas of water, economic development, finance, agriculture, energy, housing, health) as well as NGOs, allowing for truly integrated decision making on cross-cutting policy issues.

  • Coordination of international organisations and donors

NPDs have become a platform for donors’ exchange of information and coordination on water-related projects. Representatives of EU member states and international organisations are invited to present and share their work in the region. Such coordination supports the planning of activities, avoids duplication of work and ensures efficient and effective use of available funds. It also ensures sharing of best practices and promotion of the EU acquis across the region.

  • Resilience to political change

EUWI NPDs have proven to be resilient processes for policy reform despite political instability in some countries. This has been achieved through the long-standing engagement of a variety of stakeholders and several layers of administration. Fact-based, non-partisan analyses and recommendations developed by the OECD and UNECE have been instrumental in this resilience.

  • Implementation of the WFD principles

The Water Framework Directive and related EU Directives provide a set of principles and policy objectives which are relevant in EECCA. EUWI NPDs have supported convergence with such principles and objectives which guide the reform of water policies in the region. 

EUWI Brochure Cover - updated 2016

Water Policy Reforms in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia - Achievements of the European Union Water Initiative, 2006-16

  • The brochure highlights the main outcomes to which the EUWI contributed in the EECCA countries over the past 10 years.

Individual country fiches (2016) highlight in more detail specific achievements at country level in the context of national policy dialogues facilitated by the OECD and UNECE. The dadar charts synthetise progress along five axes (0-no activity; 2-fully achieved): 


  • Transboundary water management
  • National strategies on water, nexus
  • The development of RMBPs
  • The economic and financial dimensions of WRM
  • WSS and Water and Health
 EUWI Baikal Report Cover

OECD Water Series Publication: Improving Economic Instruments for Water Resources Management in the Republic of Buryatia (Lake Baikal Basin)

A major challenge facing the Republic of Buryatia, subject of the Russian Federation, is how to balance the task of protecting Lake Baikal – a unique water object and ecological system included in the UNESCO list of World Natural Heritage Areas – with the need for dynamic and sustainable socio-economic development of the republic.  This requires streamlining and improving water policy jointly with economic, administrative, information and other policy instruments. The recommendations in this report aim to help achieve this objective. They include the introduction of abstraction charges for irrigation water as a  natural resource; enhancement of state support to the water sector; and improvement of economic instruments for managing risks of water-related hazards (such as compulsory insurance and differentiated land tax rates in flood prone areas). A few innovative instruments are also recommended for pilot testing such as establishing limits for discharges of certain hazardous substances in a pilot area (e.g. Selenga river basin) and progressive development of market for tradable quotas for discharges of the “capped” pollutants; and introducing a charge (tax) on toxic agricultural chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.) and synthetic detergents so that to create incentives for the reduction of diffuse water pollution.


OECD Water Series Publication: Reforming Economic Instruments for Water Resources Management in Kyrgyzstan

This report presents recommendations on the reform of economic instruments for water resources management in Kyrgyzstan, specifically on tariffs for urban water supply and sanitation (WSS) and irrigation water, pollution charges, surface water abstraction charges for enterprises (consumptive and non-consumptive uses), specific land tax rates for the Issyk-Kul biosphere reserve, as well as taxes and customs duty on products contributing to water pollution. For each instrument, alternative reform options are identified and assessed, and preferred options put forward, with an action plan.

KAZ Report cover_water series

OECD Water Series Publication: Sustainable Business Models for Water Supply and Sanitation in Small Towns and Rural Settlements in Kazakhstan

This report assesses the Republic of Kazakhstan’s significant efforts to improve water supply and sanitation (WSS) services over the past 15 years, notably in terms of ambitious target-setting, implementation of a sound water tariff policy, and significant investment in the rehabilitation and development of relevant infrastructure. Generally speaking, the absence of updated data on WSS institutional development is a limiting factor for further policy and programme development in the field, including in Kazakhstan. The monitoring and evaluation system proposed in this report aims to help assess progress in the WSS sector and serve as a basis for any necessary corrective measures.

Also available in Russian.

EUWI Kura Basin Policy Highlights cover, 2016  OECD Policy Highlights 2016 - Co-operative water management in the Kura River basin

The basin of the river Kura is shared by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey. The river is 1,515 km long; it originates in Turkey, on the north slope of the Allahuekber Mountains, and discharges to the Caspian Sea. This review focuses on co-operative water management in Georgia and Azerbaijan, which are neighboring countries hosting a significant stretch of the Kura River.

EUWI Economic Instruments Policy Perspectives 2016 cover

OECD Policy Perspectives 2016 - Reforming economic instruments for water management in EECCA countries

This Policy Perspective summarises key policy messages and recommendations on the role of economic instruments in addressing challenges and achieving key water policy objectives including relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) countries.

Available in Russian

Non-OECD publications