Enhancing hydro-diplomacy to facilitate the review of the draft IGAD Regional Water Resources Protocol

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Water Unit in collaboration with the International Union for the Conversation of Nature (IUCN) conducted a two-day training course on Hydro-diplomacy and International Water Law to officials hailing from IGAD member states water sector ministries in Naivasha, Kenya from 7 to 8 July 2015.

Proyecto BRIDGE

One of the main outcomes of the meeting was the establishment of a committee representing IGAD Member States to negotiate and finalize the draft Regional Water Resources Protocol. The IGAD Member States are expected to appoint the members of the negotiating committee (two members per country) for their respective countries and submit their names to the IGAD Secretariat by end of July 2015. The first meeting for the negotiation committee is scheduled for September 2015. The overall objective of the Protocol is to promote closer cooperation in the equitable, sustainable and coordinated utilization, protection, conservation and management of trans-boundary and shared water resources in the IGAD region.

Upon adoption by IGAD Member States, the Protocol will be legally binding. The Protocol will facilitate the implementation of the IGAD Regional Water Resources Policy which was adopted by the IGAD Council of Ministers on Water Resources in January 2015. Among the key provisions of the Protocol is the obligation of IGAD Member States to equitably and reasonably utilize trans-boundary water resources within their territories.

The Protocol also requires States while utilizing trans-boundary water resources within their respective territories, to take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm to other Member States. These provisions will ensure that a basin or catchment approach is taken into account when water resources developments are planned and implemented, territorial boundaries notwithstanding.

Data and information is a prerequisite for the planning, management and development of shared water resources and related projects. As such, the protocol requires IGAD member States sharing transboundary water resources to regularly exchange data and information on conditions of their trans-boundary water resources, and in particular data and information of a hydrological, meteorological, hydrogeological and ecological nature. Information related to water quality, climate change effects, as well as forecasts is also required to be shared by States.

The Protocol equally prescribes a detailed notification procedure for Member States planning for, or permitting the implementation of development projects on their part of the transboundary/shared water resources that may have a significant adverse effect upon on neighbouring States. The notification procedure is based on a consistent state practice and aims at safeguarding the positions of both the notifying and the notified States. In the event that State alleges that the implementation of planned measures is inconsistent with the principles of the Protocol, the State alleging the inconstency and the State that has given notification of planned measures are required to enter into consultations and where necessary, negotiations aiming at resolving the impasse. This provision generally reflects IGAD’s mission to promote cooperation, peace and stability in the region and recognizes the need for States to effectively communicate so as to solve any stalemates that could arise out of opposition to utilization of transboundary water resources.

The Protocol requires Member States to protect and preserve the ecosystems of trans-boundary water resources. To achieve this, States are required to take measures to prevent, reduce and control pollution, alien or new species that may cause significant harm to the ecosystems, and human health. This takes note of the role of healthy river basins and ecosystem in pursuit of socio-economic development. The Protocol is progressive as it provides for the establishment and operationalization of an institutional framework responsible for the implementation of the Protocol. The Protocol designates a set of institutions with responsibility for different aspects of implementation protocols such as monitoring and coordination of activities, policy making, technical support and the design of regional strategic plans.

IGAD Member States are obligated by the Protocol to cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, sustainable development, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain equitable and reasonable utilization and adequate protection of their trans-boundary water resources. The provisions of the draft IGAD Regional Water Resources Protocol were mainly derived from the UN Watercourses Convention of 1997 and the 2008 draft Law on Trans-boundary Aquifers.

To improve the understanding of the participants and enhance their participation in the review of the draft Protocol, a training on hydro-diplomacy was conducted by the BRIDGE team. The training entailed the participants’ analysis of conflict scenarios in fictitious basins shared by fictitious States. Using some guiding questions related to International Water Law, the participants also analyzed the UN Watercourses Convention using the Legal Analytical Framework of International Water Law based on the parameters of scope, substantive rules, procedural rules, institutional mechanisms and dispute settlement mechanisms in assessing the effectiveness of transboundary water governance regimes. The training deepened the participants’ understanding of important concepts, processes and institutional frameworks provided for in International Water Law.

By: John P. Owino, Programme Officer, Water and Wetlands, IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Programme.

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