International Water Law – Dundee Symposium and London Workshop

Debates on the UN Watercourses Convention, transnational water resources, and international cooperation

August 5th 2015

‘Law and Hydro-Hegemony’

The London Water Research Group is holding a workshop on international water law in October. This is its eighth international workshop under the banner of ‘Hydro-Hegemony’ and will take place in London on the 24th and 25th of October.

The London Water Research Group has been organising workshops around the themes of water resources, distribution, power and politics since 2005, and this one focuses on international law in the context of water resource management and the broader issues of distribution and power, as the organisers explain:

“Water and law intersect around multiple issues. International water law, most notably the UN Watercourses Convention, influences the ways that countries interact with each other, particularly around the utilisation of transboundary water resources that in turn significantly impacts the distribution of water for human use. Other relevant bodies of international law include international environmental law, which in part governs pollution in shared water sources and other related ecological concerns; international trade law, which implicitly directs policy over the ‘movement’ of virtual water by regulating commercial transactions between countries; and international human rights law, as individuals and communities make use of extant redress mechanisms and ‘rights’ discourses to call attention to water access and allocation at local levels. None of these sectors of international law or issues of water management and distribution are free from issues of power, justice, and hydro-hegemony…”

For further information on the event, see the London Water Research Group website.

‘New Directions in International Water Law’

On a similar theme, the Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science at the University of Dundee hosted a symposium on ‘New Directions in International Water Law’ last month, under the auspices of UNESCO. The aim of the symposium was to explore recent developments in international law relating to transnational waters.

In their publicity for the event, the organisers state that international law relating to transnational rivers, lakes and aquifers has undergone significant developments in recent times. The UN Watercourses Convention is now in place, 18 years on from its adoption by the UN General Assembly, whilst an amendment to the UNECE Water Convention allows all UN member states to be a party to it. In addition, the International Law Commission has completed a set of draft articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers. The statement adds: “There has also been notable developments at the basin and regional level, where states have utilised international law in order to deepen cooperation with their riparian neighbours, or made claims and counter-claims concerning the planned uses of international freshwaters.”

The symposium brought together specialists from across the globe to discuss these developments and to share current research related to international water law. The topics discussed included how to achieve the aim of preventing transnational water pollution through the UN Watercourses Convention and UNECE Water Convention; whether the goal of communality and solidarity in international water law is achievable or a utopia; and the benefits of global and regional framework conventions in supporting transnational water cooperation at a basin level. A number of examples from across the globe provided focal points for the speakers on the topics, including the Mekong, the Jordan River Basin, the Orentes River Basin, and the Meric River Basin.

The event was held at the Graduate School of Natural Resources Law, Policy and Management, University of Dundee, on the 3rd July 2015. The full programme is available as a PDF from the University of Dundee website.