International Watercourses

Introduction

International Watercourses - Research Guide International Law

The Law of International Watercourses is evolving with increasing importance despite its relative youth as a subject of public international law and the fact that much of the law is emerging but not as yet well established law. From times of Antiquity, when early civilizations settled along the great rivers of the world, water has played an important role in economic and social development. Apart from domestic consumption, navigation was the most important use of water, and early doctrine and State practice reflect this. Following the Industrial Revolution, competition over the non-navigational uses of international watercourses spurred the development of international water law. In recent years rules have been developed and codified through the work of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, institutions and associations for international law, including the International Law Association (ILA) and the Institut de droit international (IDI). Central is the work of the UN International Law Commission (ILC), which led to the adoption of the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997. The entry into force of this convention and the recent amendment of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki, 17 March 1992) to open it up to non-UNECE States have given a boost to this field of international law. As water scarcity and increasing environmental pollution will inevitably result in more disputes over international watercourses in the future and, at the extreme, in armed conflict, the further codification and progressive development of the law of international watercourses is essential to prevent this.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research in the field of the Law of International Watercourses. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library’s classification index code 74. Boundary Waters or Lakes, International Waterways and Canals and subject heading (keyword) International Watercourses are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

Latest acquisition

472 B 25Thielbörger, P., The Right(s) to Water: the Multi-Level Governance of a Unique Human Right, Heidelberg, Springer, 2014.

Politicians and diplomats have for many years proclaimed a human right to water as a solution to the global water crisis, most recently in the 2010 the UN General Assembly Resolution “The human right to water and sanitation”. To what extent, however, can a right to water legally and philosophically exist and what difference to international law and politics can it make? This question lies at the heart of this book. The book’s answer is to argue that a right to water exists under international law but in a more differentiated and multi-level manner than previously recognised. Rather than existing as a singular and comprehensive right, the right to water should be understood as a composite right of different layers, both deriving from separate rights to health, life and an adequate standard of living, and supported by an array of regional and national rights. The author also examines the right at a conceptual level. After disproving some of the theoretical objections to the category of socio-economic rights generally and the concept of a right to water more specifically, the manuscript develops an innovative approach towards the interplay of different rights to water among different legal orders. The book argues for an approach to human rights – including the right to water – as international minimum standards, using the right to water as a model case to demonstrate how multilevel human rights protection can function effectively. The book also addresses a crucial last question: how does one make an international right to water meaningful in practice? The manuscript identifies three crucial criteria in order to strengthen such a composite derived right in practice: independent monitoring; enforcement towards the private sector; and international realization. The author examines to what extent these criteria are currently adhered to, and suggests practical ways of how they could be better met in the future.

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  • Thielbörger, P., The Right(s) to Water: the Multi-Level Governance of a Unique Human Right, Heidelberg, Springer, 2014.

    Thielbörger, P., The Right(s) to Water: the Multi-Level Governance of a Unique Human Right, Heidelberg, Springer, 2014.

    Politicians and diplomats have for many years proclaimed a human right to water as a solution to the global water crisis, most recently in the 2010 the UN General Assembly Resolution “The human right to water and sanitation”. To what extent, however, can a right to water legally and philosophically exist and what difference to international law and politics can it make? This question lies at the heart of this book. The book’s answer is to argue that a right to water exists under international law but in a more differentiated and multi-level manner than previously recognised. Rather than existing as a singular and comprehensive right, the right to water should be understood as a composite right of different layers, both deriving from separate rights to health, life and an adequate standard of living, and supported by an array of regional and national rights. The author also examines the right at a conceptual level. After disproving some of the theoretical objections to the category of socio-economic rights generally and the concept of a right to water more specifically, the manuscript develops an innovative approach towards the interplay of different rights to water among different legal orders. The book argues for an approach to human rights – including the right to water – as international minimum standards, using the right to water as a model case to demonstrate how multilevel human rights protection can function effectively. The book also addresses a crucial last question: how does one make an international right to water meaningful in practice? The manuscript identifies three crucial criteria in order to strengthen such a composite derived right in practice: independent monitoring; enforcement towards the private sector; and international realization. The author examines to what extent these criteria are currently adhered to, and suggests practical ways of how they could be better met in the future.

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  • Brown-Weiss, E., International Law for a Water-Scarce World, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2013.

    Brown-Weiss, E., International Law for a Water-Scarce World, Leiden, Nijhoff, 2013.

    The fresh water crisis is the new environmental crisis of the 21st century. By 2050, 993 million people are projected to live in cities with perennial water shortages; 3.1 billion will confront seasonal water shortages within their urban areas. The traditional legal principles upon which existing water management is based are likely to be insufficient to deal with the water problems that loom from projected climate change, population growth, food production, increased industrialization, and ecosystem needs. This volume, a fully revised and expanded version of the lectures given by the author at the Hague Academy of International Law in 2007, focuses on the evolution of international water law in the context of this changing world. Chapter I covers the basic principles of international water law. Chapter II offers a critique of international water law and challenges for the future. Chapter III analyses the evolution of international water agreements over the past two centuries. The analysis draws upon empirical data from more than 2,000 international agreements in a database developed by the author. Chapter IV focuses on the different techniques for resolving disputes and the international fora for doing so. Chapter V considers international institutions associated with international water agreements. Chapter VI addresses the issue of a human right to water and the right of indigenous peoples to water. Chapter VII analyses the implications of international water markets for international trade law, and vice versa, and addresses increasingly important issues associated with virtual water.

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  • Cuq, M., L'eau en droit international: convergences et divergences dans les approches juridiques, Bruxelles, Larcier, 2013.

    Cuq, M., L'eau en droit international: convergences et divergences dans les approches juridiques, Bruxelles, Larcier, 2013.

    L’eau est omniprésente sur notre planète : 70% de la surface de la terre est constituée par les océans. Cependant, l’eau douce rendue disponible aux besoins humains ne compte que pour 0,25% du total des réserves mondiales en eau. On comprend dès lors les interrogations actuelles liées à la diminution de la disponibilité de l’eau douce dans le monde. Ce constat, dû à une convergence de plusieurs facteurs tels que l’accroissement démographique, la salinisation progressive des eaux, le déversement de polluants divers ou les aléas climatiques rendent les enjeux de sa conservation et de son utilisation durable d’autant plus vifs. Dans ce contexte, une approche juridique est nécessaire pour concilier les différents usages de l’eau, assurer sa préservation et son utilisation durable. Le droit international trouve son fondement dans la nécessité d’une approche globale du cycle naturel de l’eau, mais ne rencontre pas moins de difficultés à concrétiser une approche intégrée des différents usages de l’eau. La prise en considération simultanée de l’eau en tant que marchandise, droit de l’homme, élément du territoire de l’État ou investissement privé pousse le droit international à appréhender juridiquement ces différents aspects. Celui-ci le réalise à travers l’application à l’eau de ces branches de droit spécialisés mais cela aboutit à une approche qui reste fragmentée et sectorielle. Ce constat explique que, face à ce qui est présenté comme une impossibilité du droit international positif à envisager l’eau de façon globale, des propositions doctrinales en appellent à l’élaboration d’un nouveau statut juridique de l’eau au niveau international, mais leur concrétisation se heurte à des obstacles parfois surmontables, parfois insurmontables. L’originalité de l’ouvrage intéressera tant les praticiens du droit international que les professeurs, les chercheurs et les étudiants de dernier cycle.

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  • Boisson de Chazournes, L., Fresh Water in International Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.

    Boisson de Chazournes, L., Fresh Water in International Law, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013.
    This book provides a comprehensive overview of the legal regime governing fresh water, its protection, management, and uses. It looks at the status of water in international law, taking into account its multi-faceted nature, whether environmental, social, cultural, or economic. It examines the universal and regional dimensions of the regulation of water, including issues surrounding the treatment of water in environmental, human rights, trade, and investment law. It addresses links between international, regional, and national water regulatory frameworks, and assesses the role of dispute settlement mechanisms and procedures in the area of water. The role of the concerned institutions is analyzed as well as the contribution of non-state actors. Arguing that the protection and management of water has permeated and is linked to all sectors of human activity, the book promotes an integrated perspective by not only taking account of the legal instruments that specifically deal with water issues, but also of other legal principles and rules that have an impact on water management and protection.
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  • Rocha Loures, F., The UN Watercourses Convention in Force, London, Routledge, 2013.

    Rocha Loures, F., The UN Watercourses Convention in Force, London, Routledge, 2013.

    At the UN General Assembly in 1997, an overwhelming majority of States voted for the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses – a global overarching framework governing the rights and duties of States sharing freshwater systems. Globally, there are 263 internationally shared watersheds, which drain the territories of 145 countries and represent more than forty percent of the Earth’s land surface. Hence, inter-State cooperation towards the sustainable management of transboundary water supplies, in accordance with applicable international legal instruments, is a topic of crucial importance, especially in the context of the current global water crisis. This volume provides an assessment of the role and relevance of the UN Watercourses Convention and describes and evaluates its entry into force as a key component of transboundary water governance. To date, the Convention still requires further contracting States before it can enter into force. The authors describe the drafting and negotiation of the Convention and its relationship to other multilateral environmental agreements. A series of case studies assess the role of the Convention at various levels: regional (European Union, East Africa, West Africa, Central Asia, Central America and South America), river basin (e.g. the Mekong and Congo) and national (e.g. Ethiopia and Mexico). The book concludes by proposing how future implementation might further strengthen international cooperation in the management of water resources, to promote biodiversity conservation as well as sustainable and equitable use.

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  • Leb, C., Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    Leb, C., Cooperation in the Law of Transboundary Water Resources, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    Climate change, population growth and the increasing demand for water are all capable of leading to disputes over transboundary water systems. Dealing with these challenges will require the enhancing of adaptive capacity, the improving of the quality of water-resources management and a reduction in the risk of conflict between riparian states. Such changes can only be brought about through significant international cooperation. Christina Leb’s analysis of the duty to cooperate and the related rights and obligations highlights the interlinkages between this duty and the principles of equitable and reasonable utilisation and the prevention of transboundary harm. In doing so, she considers the law applicable to both international watercourses and transboundary aquifers, and explores the complementarities and interaction between the rules of international water law and the related obligations of climate change and human rights law.

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  • Abukhater, A., Water as a Catalyst for Peace: Transboundary Water Management and Conflict Resolution, London, Earthscan, 2013.

    Abukhater, A., Water as a Catalyst for Peace: Transboundary Water Management and Conflict Resolution, London, Earthscan, 2013.

    Examining international water allocation policies in different parts of the world, this book suggests that they can be used as a platform to induce cooperation over larger political issues, ultimately settling conflicts. The main premise is that water can and should be used as a catalyst for peace and cooperation rather than conflict. Evidence is provided to support this claim through detailed case studies from the Middle East and the Lesotho Highlands in Africa. These international cases – including bilateral water treaties and their development and formation process and aftermath – are analyzed to draw conclusions about the outcomes as well as the processes by which these outcomes are achieved. It is demonstrated that the perception of a particular treaty as being equitable and fair is mainly shaped by the negotiation process used to reach certain outcomes, rather than being determined mechanistically by the quantitative allocation of water to each party. The processes and perceptions leading to international water conflict resolutions are emphasized as key issues in advancing cooperation and robust implementation of international water treaties. The key messages of the book are therefore relevant to the geo-political and hydro-political aspects of water resources in the context of bilateral and multilateral conflicts, and the trans-boundary management of water resources, which contributes insights to political ecology, geo-politics, and environmental policy.

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  • Chellaney, B., Water, Peace and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis, Lanham, MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.

    Chellaney, B., Water, Peace and War: Confronting the Global Water Crisis, Lanham, MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.
    This pioneering and authoritative study considers the profound impact of the growing global water crunch on international peace and security as well as possible ways to mitigate the crisis. Although water is essential to sustaining life and livelihoods, geostrategist Brahma Chellaney argues that it remains the world’s most underappreciated and undervalued resource. One sobering fact is that the retail price of bottled water is already higher than the international spot price of crude oil. But unlike oil, water has no substitute, raising the specter of water becoming the next flashpoint for conflict. Water war as a concept may not mesh with the conventional construct of warfare, especially for those who plan with tanks, combat planes, and attack submarines as weapons. Yet armies don’t necessarily have to march to battle to seize or defend water resources. Water wars—in a political, diplomatic, or economic sense—are already being waged between riparian neighbors in many parts of the world, fueling cycles of bitter recrimination, exacerbating water challenges, and fostering mistrust that impedes broader regional cooperation and integration. The danger is that these water wars could escalate to armed conflict or further limit already stretched food and energy production. Writing in a direct, nontechnical, and engaging style, Brahma Chellaney draws on a wide range of research from scientific and policy fields to examine the different global linkages between water and peace. Offering a holistic picture and integrated solutions, his book promises to become the recognized authority on the most precious natural resource of this century and how we can secure humankind’s water future.
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  • Milas, S., Sharing the Nile: Egypt, Ethiopia and the Geo-Politics of Water, London, Pluto Press, 2013.

    Milas, S., Sharing the Nile: Egypt, Ethiopia and the Geo-Politics of Water, London, Pluto Press, 2013.

    The Nile is widely regarded as the longest river in the world and has played a crucial role in the development of both agriculture and industry in the Horn of Africa, particularly Egypt. In Sharing the Nile, Seifulaziz Milas draws on decades of experience in the region to reveal the politics of the ‘Great River’, and the long-standing dispute between Egypt and the upstream countries over control of its waters. Milas challenges the myth that any attempt by the those countries to use this resource in their own interests, without Egypt’s permission, would inevitably lead to war. The book examines Cairo’s interest in Ethiopia’s Blue Nile, the main source of Egypt’s water supply. It recounts the history of the dispute, and describes the impact of successive Egyptian regimes’ policies toward Ethiopia. Finally, Milas suggests a way forward, based on co-operation, peace and development.

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  • Summitt, A.R., Contested Waters: an Environmental History of the Colorado River, Boulder, CO, University Press of Colorado, 2013.

    Summitt, A.R., Contested Waters: an Environmental History of the Colorado River, Boulder, CO, University Press of Colorado, 2013.

    The Colorado River is a vital resource to urban and agricultural communities across the Southwest, providing water to 30 million people. Contested Waters tells the river’s story-a story of conquest, control, division, and depletion. Beginning in prehistory and continuing into the present day, Contested Waters focuses on three important and often overlooked aspects of the river’s use: the role of western water law in its over-allocation, the complexity of power relationships surrounding the river, and the concept of sustainable use and how it has been either ignored or applied in recent times. It is organized in two parts, the first addresses the chronological history of the river and long-term issues, while the second examines in more detail four specific topics: metropolitan perceptions, American Indian water rights, US-Mexico relations over the river, and water marketing issues. Creating a complete picture of the evolution of this crucial yet over-utilized resource, this comprehensive summary will fascinate anyone interested in the Colorado River or the environmental history of the Southwest.

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  • Dinar, A. (et al.) (eds.), Bridges over Water: Understanding Transboundary Water Conflict, Negotiation and Cooperation, Singapore, World Scientific, 2013.

    451 A 34

    This book places the study of transboundary water conflicts, negotiation, and cooperation in the context of various disciplines, such as international relations, international law, international negotiations, and economics. It demonstrates their application, using various quantitative approaches, such as river basin modeling, quantitative negotiation theory, and game theory. Case studies of particular transboundary river basins, lakes and aquifers are also considered. This second edition updates the literature on international water and in-depth analyses on political developments and cooperation between riparian States. With an appended chapter on principles and practices of negotiation, and a new case study on the La Plata Basin, this edition is a timely update to the field of transboundary water studies.

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  • Boisson de Chazournes, L., C. Leb and M. Tignino (eds.), International Law and Freshwater: The Multiple Challenges, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2013.

    Boisson de Chazournes, L., C. Leb and M. Tignino (eds.), International Law and Freshwater: The Multiple Challenges, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2013.

    The issues surrounding water embody some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. The editors of this timely book have brought together the leading authors in the field to explore the key questions involving international law and water governance. International Law and Freshwater connects recent legal developments through the breadth and synergies of a multidisciplinary analysis. It addresses such critical issues as water security, the right to water, international cooperation and dispute resolution, State succession to transboundary watercourse treaties, and facets of international economic law, including trade in ‘virtual water’ and the impacts of ‘land grabs’. Containing detailed analysis and thought-provoking solutions, this book will appeal to researchers and academics working in the legal field, as well as international relations and natural sciences. Water practitioners, public officials, diplomats and students will also find much to interest them in this insightful study.

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  • Woldetsadik, T.K., International Watercourses Law in the Nile Basin: Three States at a Crossroads, London, Routledge, 2013.

    Woldetsadik, T.K., International Watercourses Law in the Nile Basin: Three States at a Crossroads, London, Routledge, 2013.

    The Nile River and its basin extend over a distinctive geophysical cord connecting eleven sovereign states from Egypt to Tanzania, which are home to an estimated population of 422.2 million people. The Nile is an essential source of water for domestic, industrial and agricultural uses throughout the basin, yet for more than a century it has been at the centre of continuous and conflicting claims and counter-claims to rights of utilization of the resource. In this book the author examines the multifaceted legal regulation of the Nile. He re-constructs the legal and historical origin and functioning of the British Nile policies in Ethiopia by examining the composition of the Anglo-Ethiopian Treaty of 1902, and analyses its ramifications on contemporary riparian discourse involving Ethiopia and Sudan. The book also reflects on two fairly established legal idioms – the natural and historical rights expressions – which constitute central pillars of the claims of downstream rights in the Nile basin; the origin, essence and legal authority of the notions has been assessed on the basis of the normative dictates of contemporary international watercourses law. Likewise, the book examines the non-treaty based claims of rights of the basin states to the Nile waters, setting out what the equitable uses principle entails as a means of reconciling competing riparian interests, and most importantly, how its functioning affects contemporary legal settings. The author then presents the concentrated diplomatic movements of the basin states in negotiations on the Transitional Institutional Mechanism of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) – pursued since the 1990′s, and explains why the substance of water use rights still continued to be perceived diversely among basin states. Finally, the specific legal impediments that held back progress in negotiations on the Nile Basin Cooperative Framework are presented in context.

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  • Schmeier, S., Governing International Watercourses: River Basin Organizations and the Sustainable Governance of Internationally Shared Rivers and Lakes, London, Earthscan from Routledge, 2013.

    Schmeier, S., Governing International Watercourses: River Basin Organizations and the Sustainable Governance of Internationally Shared Rivers and Lakes, London, Earthscan from Routledge, 2013.

    This book focuses on River Basin Organizations as the key institutions for managing internationally shared water resources. This includes a comparative analysis of all River Basin Organizations worldwide and three in-depth case studies from three different continents. The detailed case studies are the Senegal (West Africa), Mekong (South-east Asia) and Danube (Europe) rivers. The book contributes to the academic debate on how shared natural and environmental resources can be managed in a sustainable way and which institutional and legal mechanisms actually matter for doing so. It adopts the neo-institutionalist approach, according to which international environmental institutions do make a difference. The analysis not only confirms this argument for the specific case of shared water resources, but also refines existing hypotheses on the influence of different independent variables, namely the nature of the collective action problem, the constellation of actors and the institutional design of an international environmental institution. The work also contributes to the policy debate on how to better govern internationally shared natural resources and the environment. It provides policy makers with advice on which exogenous conditions to be aware of when managing water resources they share with co-riparians and which institutional design features and governance mechanisms to set up in order to increase effectiveness in management.

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  • Wirsing, R.G., D.C. Stoll and C. Jasparro, International Conflict over Water Resources in Himalayan Asia, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    Wirsing, R.G., D.C. Stoll and C. Jasparro, International Conflict over Water Resources in Himalayan Asia, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    Focusing on transboundary river systems and their basins, the authors explore the fresh water crisis of Himalayan Asia. While the region hosts some of the world’s mightiest rivers, it is also home to rapidly modernizing, increasingly affluent, and demographically multiplying societies. This combination ensures both the depletion of water resources and the increase in disputes over ownership of transboundary river waters. In a thorough investigation, based on extensive field research across Asia, the authors examine how these disputes impact the present and future interstate relations of this key region.

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Database

Blogs

  • International Water Law: Recent Developments

    International water law is on the move. It is evolving with increasing importance despite its relative youth as a subject of public international law. The entry into force of the 1997 Watercourses Convention and the recent amendment of the 1992 Water Convention to open it up to non-UNECE States have given a boost to this field of international law. It is important and encouraging to see that the recently established universal norms have been nurturing each other and have inspired new agreements on individual river basins and aquifers. Further cooperation is still needed, however. International law is a recognized means for supporting and developing this.

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  • Canal Digging

    Two big canal digging plans are under way: the Interoceanic-Nicaragua Canal and the Istanbul Canal. The construction of this new canal brings into focus the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regimes of the Straits, which regulates the transit through the Straits Region. Will this new Canal undermine the principles of transit and transportation liberty, as is stipulated in Article 1 and 2. Is it time to revise the Montreux convention adapting it to modern views and situations?

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  • 40 Years of the Ramsar Convention : Appraisal and Outlook

    On 2 February 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands was adopted. The original Contracting Parties of the Convention were driven by an anxiety that migratory waterbirds were in increasing danger because of loss of their habitats. And yet in their wisdom they created a convention focused on wetland ecosystems rather than just wetland birds.

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  • Scheldt River Dispute (Part II) : Hedwige Polder

    The Scheldt is a transboundary river which originates in North-Western France and runs through Western Belgium and the South-West of the Netherlands. The Scheldt Estuary is shared between Belgium and the Netherlands. Since the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands in 1839, the free navigation of the Scheldt and the maintenance and improvement of the navigation channel have been a bone of contention and legal controversy.

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  • Transboundary Water Cooperation in the Newly Independent States

    With the emergence of the Newly Independent States (NIS) in the 1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, new borders cut through Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. As a result, many water allocation and pollution problems that were previously national issues within the Soviet Union have become transboundary issues.

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The Lecture Series contains a permanent collection of lectures of enduring value on virtually every subject of international law given by leading international law scholars and practitioners from different regions, legal systems, cultures and sectors of the legal profession. Lectures on the Law of International Watercourses by Stephen C. McCaffrey, Salman M.A. Salman, Chusei Yamada and Eyal Benvenisti.

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