Water Resources and Inter-state Conflict: Legal Principles and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD)

Funnemark, A. (2020). Water Resources and Inter-state Conflict: Legal Principles and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) (PSRP report: Climate & Natural Resources Series, Economic Series). Edinburgh: Global Justice Academy, University of Edinburgh.

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Abstract

This report draws together the key principles of international law applicable to transboundary watercourse disputes regarding quantity of water, and assesses the extent to which these principles provide guidance in negotiating the Egypt-Ethiopia watercourse conflict. This conflict is characterised by high levels of tension, and low levels of cooperation, between the two main states, with Sudan also caught up in the negotiations. There is potential for larger regional conflict due to the ways in which this opens up historic claims relating to the use of the Nile. The report examines how the principles of international law identified have been used in other similar negotiations, and may help guide the negotiations of the Egypt-Ethiopia conflict.

The report finds that, whilst principles of international law do not resolve the conflict, they suggest a number of key principles and approaches useful to supporting its resolution. It is argued that both the principle of equitable and reasonable use and a human needs approach may facilitate a shift away from a security approach and an understanding of the situation as a zero-sum game,
to an approach based on the need for cooperation between parties.

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