IWRA Proceedings

< Return to abstract list

Water Challenges In The Igad Region: Towards New Legal Frameworks For Cooperation

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
12. Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers
Author(s): Marcella Nanni (Bologna

Marcella Nanni, Vice Chair of the Executive Council, International Association for Water Law (AIDA) Via Sabbioni 15, 40136 Bologna, Italy. Tel: +39 051 332268; email: marcellananni@gmail.com Theme area: Dimension of transboundary river basins and aquifers

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 12: Transboundary river basins and shared aquifers,



The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was first established in 1986 as a regional integration organization to address drought-related problems affecting the Greater Horn of Africa. The member states of the IGAD region are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. It is currently implementing a regional programme aiming at the setting up of new or improved policy and legal frameworks for the management of transboundary water resources. This paper aims at illustrating the way in which these frameworks may be established in spite of differences in the socio-economic, climatic and other conditions of the parties concerned.


The paper is based on work actually performed by the author within the programme to which it refers.

Discussion and results

The IGAD region covers an area of 5.2 million square kilometers and has a total population of more than 140 million people. With an average population growth rate of 3%, it has one of the highest population growth rates in the world.

There are a number of international watercourses and transboundary aquifers in the IGAD region, including the Nile river basin. Over 60 percent of the region is arid or semi-arid and is prone to droughts that often lead to catastrophic famines and exacerbate competition for the limited water resources, and conflicts. The situation is aggravated by the quest for new development projects on transboundary water resources that, in the absence of active stakeholder involvement, often result in losses in terms of livelihoods and displacements of communities. Finally, there are considerable imbalances in the social and economic conditions of the member states. While some are at a relatively advanced stage of development, others are still suffering from civil strife and war. Pastoralism or agro-pastoralism is the way of life for over 20 million people. Agriculture, crop farming and cash crops cover only 8% of the land area.

The IGAD member states recognize the strong connection between water reliability -- or, in the worst-case scenario, scarcity -- and conflict. They recognize that central to the well-being of the population is access to a sufficient quantity of water of reliable quality. Much of the water resources of the region originate in well-watered areas and flow through increasingly arid areas crossing national boundaries. A key element for transboundary water management in the region is equitable, reasonable and sustainable water resource development, utilization and management, backed by adequate policy and legal frameworks at the regional, basin/aquifer and national levels, that meet the different needs and interests of the member states.

There is no overall policy and legal framework for water resources management in the IGAD region. While several international agreements concluded over time deal with the Nile basin, few agreements, often outdated, relate to the other shared water resources. Water laws are in place in most of the IGAD member states, but are obsolete in many. No national legal framework for water resources management is in place yet in Somalia and South Sudan.

In 2012 IGAD started the implementation of a programme focusing in particular on the improvement of policy and legal frameworks for water resources management. Based on the experience of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and drawing lessons from the Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework of 2010, the programme has developed a draft regional policy and regional protocol to facilitate cooperation among member states in the management of their shared water resources. The draft regional protocol is in line with the UN Watercourses Convention and the Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers. The challenges underlying the drafting process have been many, and are due to the different climatic, social and economic conditions of the member states, which require approaches acceptable to all, as well as to the different interests at stake. Nonetheless, a final version of the two draft documents has been agreed upon by the country representatives at the technical level, and the draft regional policy has been submitted to the competent authorities, for their official endorsement.

It is within this regional policy and legal framework that bi- and multilateral agreements will be developed for specific river basins and aquifers. This effort, also, will face considerable challenges for the reasons mentioned above. The regional policy and legal frameworks will also be drivers for the harmonization of national laws, regulations and institutional arrangements, which will facilitate the implementation of the international agreements.


This paper illustrated the process followed, and the challenges encountered, in the drafting of the two regional instruments (the policy and the protocol). It further focused on the steps that are expected to be taken in the near future towards the establishment of agreements and institutional arrangements for specific transboundary river basins and aquifers.

The aim of the paper was to demonstrate that a framework for cooperation in the management of transboundary water resources may always be arrived at, in spite of differences in the conditions of the parties involved. In some instances, however, original solutions might need to be sought.

IWRA Proceedings office@iwra.org - https://www.iwra.org/member/index.php