Resolving Water Conflicts: Dispute Settlement Mechanisms Applicable to International...

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In 2020, Ethiopia started filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile river, which comprises a major Ethiopian development project viewed of national and sovereign significance. The dam has raised concerns in particular for Egypt who claim historic treaty rights to Nile waters. The tensions between the two countries escalated in 2020, when Ethiopia started filling the dam in the absence of an agreement. Although Ethiopia has argued that the hydroelectric GERD will not significantly affect the flow of water into the Nile, Egypt depends almost entirely on the Nile waters for household and commercial uses, and sees the dam as a major threat to its water security which it understands to be protected by treaties. The dispute also affects Sudan who also rely significantly on Nile water. Over the last year, tensions have escalated significantly.

These types of issue are likely to arise more frequently in a situation of climate change, and pressure on water resources, and are likely to require mediation and agreement. This report sets out in very general terms the international legal framework that supports dispute resolution, focusing in particular on a range of dispute mechanisms that are available to states with transboundary water disputes that could be considered to be part of any ‘tool kit’ of conflict avoidance or resolution.