UN Treaty on International Watercourses Entered into Force
On 17 August 2014, Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UN Treaty on International Watercourses-UNIWCT) has entered into force.
Actually, on May 24, Vietnam has become the 35th nation to join the Treaty, thus completing the number of endorsement required for the Treaty to come into force. The Treaty therefore became effective as of 17 August 2014, that is 90 days after lodging the 35th endorsement, acceptance or approval, as provided for in Article 36 of the Treaty.
Prolonged road to adoption
International Law Committee began work on the UNIWCT in 1970. It took 23 years and required 5 rapporteurs and 15 reports to be prepared. The Committee finally was able to reach agreement on the final draft of the provisions of the Treaty in 1994 and submit it the UN General Assembly in the same year.
The UN General Assembly adopted Resolution No. 51/229 passed the UNIWCT on 21 May 1997 with 103 nations voting for the Treaty, three nations (Burundi, Turkey and China) against it and 27 nations abstaining. However, another 17 years elapsed before the completion of the number of approvals required for the UNIWCT coming into force.
States Parties to the UNIWCT are Finland Norway, Hungary, Sweden Holland, France, Denmark, Luxembourg, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy, Monte Negro, UK, Ireland, South Africa, Namibia, Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Chad and Ivory Coast, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Qatar and Morocco, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Importance of the Treaty
In the use of terms, article 2, UNIWCT gives the definitions of some of the terms;
“Watercourse” means a system of surface waters and groundwaters constituting by virtue of their physical relationship a unitary whole and normally flowing into a common terminus.
“International watercourse” means a watercourse, parts of which are situated in different States.
With regard the general principles adopted in the UNIWCT, we will look at the Part II,
Watercourse States shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner.
Watercourse States shall participate in the use, development and protection of an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner.
Watercourse States shall, in utilizing an international watercourse in their territories, take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm to other watercourse States.
Shortly, there is an equitable and reasonable utilization” principle with regard to the “no harm” obligation.
However the utilization of an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner within the meaning of article 5 requires taking into account all relevant factors and circumstances, including:
(a) Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural
(b) The social and economic needs of the watercourse States concerned;
(c) The population dependent on the watercourse in each watercourse State;
(d) The effects of the use or uses of the watercourses in one watercourse State on other watercourse States;
(e) Existing and potential uses of the watercourse;
(f) Conservation, protection, development and economy of use of the water resources of the watercourse and the costs of measures taken to that effect;
(g) The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use.
The UNIWCT will play a significant role in the future especially with regard solving the water-based crisis might be occurred in Africa, Middle East and Central Asia.