The constraints in implementing International Water Treaties: a case study of Nile Basin treaty of 1929
AbstractThe River Nile is shared by 10 river basin countries also known as riparian states. It is the main vital water artery in the North Eastern region of Africa. The river is fed by several tributaries originating from downstream states which join to form the mighty Nile; the White Nile from the East Africa lake region and the Blue Nile rising from Ethiopia highlands, are the main tributaries. The prevailing water policy regulating the distribution of water among the countries of the Nile basin is dictated by the Nile Treaty of 1929 signed between Egypt and Great Britain representing her colonies giving exclusive rights to Egypt for the use of the Nile; and also the bilateral agreement of 1959 signed between Egypt and Sudan sharing the river flows volumes to the two states with Egypt getting the larger share.
The study sought to investigate constraints of implementing international water treaties and examine the extent to which the perceived illegality of the 1929 treaty by the main actors has affected its implementation and to what extent the 1929 Nile treaty is binding to the riparian states. The study made use of both quantitative and qualitative research methods and extensive interviews were made with government officers, Non Governmental organization officers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, politicians, key individuals and academicians and reviewed vast literature on the subject of study.
It emerged from the study that there are constraints in implementing international treaties hence all main actors must work toward a common vision in order to avoid conflict. From the interviews it was revealed that, there are no uniform formulae to enforce the signing and ratification of treaties which guarantee that parties are bound by the treaty. In addition, the creation of institutions which are beneficial for all the riparian states, are key. Institutional frameworks like the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI), Steering committee meeting, Nile Technical Advisory Committee and the Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP), have seen member states cooperate beyond water issues to demonstrate belief through effective joint action.
The challenge for implementing international water treaty is on how to get parties on the negotiation table to ratify them. Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties States 'A party cannot invoke the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to carry out a treaty'. To avert conflicts and long disputes associated with water and international water treaty, guidance is sought on sovereign equality of all member states on legal status. Lesson learned is that, although it is easy to enumerate duties of states, it is very difficult to get them observed in practice. The challenge is that treaties at best are only standards of conduct that states are enjoined to observe as a moral duty.