Spending two days learning about international water law sounds like cruel and unusual punishment. But the training course on hydrodiplomacy that IUCN and the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) organized in Hanoi on September 18-19 turned out to be unusually stimulating.
The training focused on the legal and institutional aspects of transboundary water resources and looked at the opportunities deriving from the application of international water law, in particular, the Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.
Vietnam ratified the Convention in May, becoming the 35th country to do so. This brought the Convention into force. It is the only country in Southeast Asia that has ratified the Convention (nearly all the rest are in Europe and Africa).
The Convention is important for several reasons. It codifies three key principles: equitable and reasonable utilization, the duty to avoid significant harm, and the conservation of ecosystems. It also includes a dispute resolution mechanism, which provides a road map for parties to the Convention to settle potential conflicts that can arise as a result of the interpretation of the meaning of the Convention or its implementation.
The participants learned how to use the principles of international water law and hydrodiplomacy in their relationships with Vietnam’s neigbours and how the Convention can supplement existing treaties that Vietnam is a party to such as the 1995 Mekong River Agreement.
The course included three main segments: technical presentations, group discussions, and practical exercises based on conflict scenarios in transboundary basins, through which the participants practiced negotiating skills deriving from the knowledge acquired through the technical presentations.
The hydrodiplomacy training was delivered by Dr. Alejandro Iza and Juan Carlos Sanchez from IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre in Bonn, Germany to 30 officials from DAV and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was funded by Building River Dialogue and Governance (BRIDGE), an IUCN initiative supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation that focuses on enhancing water governance capacities in nine trans-boundary basins in three regions across the globe. For more information about BRIDGE, go to: https://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/water/wp_our_work/wp_our_work_bridge/