Interactive Online Session: International Water Law and Dispute Settlement

Back by popular demand, the Transboundary Freshwater Security Governance Train starts its ‘Season 2’ in September 2021. This series of online engagement sessions follow a ‘train-like’ approach, stopping at various locations around the world and focusing on topics related to transboundary freshwater security. Each new stop explores a different topic from the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Governance for Transboundary Freshwater Security. In addition to GWP and Wuhan International Water Academy (IWLA), ‘Season 2’ will be co-organised with various partners working in the transboundary water governance space. The first session focuses on international dispute settlement, co-organised by GWP and IWLA, and takes place on 21 September.

Water is essential for human survival, but it is only available in limited quantities. In some states, this leads to disputes over user rights and conservation obligations over shared freshwater resources. Most of the disputes do not end up before an international court. Instead, they are settled through bilateral negotiations, often resulting in watercourse specific agreements. But some interstate disputes are settled through international adjudication. 

This session will focus on the International Court of Justice (ICJ), whose task is to settle all disputes brought before it based on applicable norms of international law. While decisions of the ICJ are binding only to the parties of the dispute and for that particular case, they are often cited as authoritative interpretations of international water law. With this in mind, the session revisits some of the historic cases, and looks at some pending cases, including the case between Hungary and Slovakia relating to the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project, and the dispute over the status and use of the waters of the Silala between Chile and Bolivia.

Questions will be collected in advance (through the MOOC platform) and during the 1.5-hour-long session. Panelists will provide brief presentations and then the floor is open to questions in breakout rooms, which offers an opportunity to engage directly with regional experts.

WHEN: Tuesday, 21 September, at 9:00 (Washington DC), 10:00 (Rio de Janeiro), 14:00 (London), 15:00 (Stockholm), 15:00 (Johannesburg), 21:00 (Beijing)

WHAT: The session will feature speakers with different experiences to share, discussing the following:

  • What approaches to dispute settlement can be identified in international water law?
  • Is adjudication to be preferred over other types of international dispute settlement?
  • What role do rulings of the ICJ play in the development of international water law?

HOW: Registration is required, please sign up here

WHO: The confirmed speakers are:

  • Yumiko Yasuda (Event moderator), Senior Network & Transboundary Water Cooperation Specialist, Global Water Partnership
  • Otto Spijkers (Co-chair), Academy of International Water Law, Wuhan University
  • Patricia Wouters (Co-chair), Academy of International Water Law, Wuhan University
  • Lingjie Kong, Professor of International Law and Associate Dean for Research and International Cooperation at the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies, Wuhan University.
  • Ximena Fuentes, Associate Professor of Public International Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Chile, on “Dispute over the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala (Chile v. Bolivia)”.
  • Gábor Baranyai, Senior Lecturer, NUPS, Hungary, on the “Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia)”.

Patricia Wouters, ‘Universal and Regional Approaches to Resolving International Water Disputes: What Lessons Learned from State Practice?’, PCA/Peace Palace Paper, 2013.

 Photo: Danube River in Hungary, byéter Mocsonoky