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The UN Convention on International Watercourses: Do we need it?

IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
5. Water Governance and Water Security
Author(s): Maria Tzatzaki Vasiliki
LLB Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Postgraduate Certificate in European Higher Legal Studies, UNiversity of Leicester LLM University of Athens (Thessis: The Law of International Watercourses) LLM candidate the London School of Economics abd Polit

Keyword(s): UN Convention, ecosystem, human right to water, holistic approach

AbstractThe United Nations on International Watercourses: Do we Need it? WATER GOVERNANCE AND WATER SECURITY: 30 YEARS AFTER THE UN MAR DEL PLATA CONFERENCE OF 1977 Improving legal and institutional frameworks (Oral Presentation) Vasiliki-Maria Tzatzaki 7 P. Sindika Street 54 643 Thessaloniki Greece 0030 6948507466 tz_vicky@yahoo.gr Introduction The Convention on the Law of the Non Navigational Uses of International Watercourses was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 1997. It is a framework Convention, setting the general principles for the management of international watercourses that the states have to abide by, when concluding regional agreements. The obligation to cooperate, not to cause significant harm to other riparian states, to use the fresh water resources in a reasonable and equitable manner and to protect the environment are the core rules of the international agreement. However, the adoption of the Convention has proven to be controversial, since its efficiency is disputed. The fact that so far it has not attained enough ratifications, so as to enter into force, makes this legal framework weak. For that reason, scholars have made suggestions in order to improve the legal mechanism. The ecosystemic and the human right to water approaches are the two most common. This paper is going to argue that these approaches deal with the problem in a fragmented way, making thus a holistic approach necessary. Such an integrated approach takes into account the interests of the riparian states, the needs of the population, the preservation of the aquatic environment and the fact that water is an economic good. Objectives The objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the international legal framework needs to be improved. The UN Convention has to enter into force and it has to be used by the riparian states as a guideline for the conclusion of regional agreements. A holistic view of the issue will show that the UN Convention is a necessary tool for the sound management of fresh water resources. Methods The analysis is going to be based on a comparative method of the different approaches for the management of international watercourses and at the same time is going to examine the rules of the UN Convention along with disputes adjudicated by the International Court of Justice and other international tribunals. Results The result of this paper is going to be that a holistic approach to the management of international watercourses is an imperative in order to improve the international legal framework. All the factors that are necessary for the equitable and reasonable utilization of international rivers and lakes should be taken into account in order to avoid future conflicts. Conclusion The UN Conventions on International Watercourses is the legal framework of the international community for the management of international fresh water resources. However, it has to be strengthened in order to be more efficient; a view of the international basins in toto is a step forward for the sound management of international watercourses.
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