The Nile: Moving Beyond Cooperation


This paper examines the development of cooperation on the River Nile. The challenge of creating a more cooperative environment for the management of Nile waters has existed for centuries. In recent years political conditions have emerged in basin countries that have provided a window of opportunity for taking forwards cooperative development of the shared waters. With the support of external agencies, since the late 1990s nine of the 10 Nile riparian countries have been setting in train a process of institutional development that has cemented cooperation and charted a way forward for future development in the Nile Basin. Yet the challenge remains to put this institutional development and cooperative thinking into practice through the development of projects of mutual benefit that are both sustainable and able to deliver benefits to the poorest.

This key challenge is now being faced by the states party to the Nile Basin Initiative. Based in Entebbe, Uganda, the NBI comprises representatives of all basin states except Eritrea and is helping to coordinate separate Vision and Subsidiary Action programs with broad development agendas. The implementation of these projects now presents the key challenge. With success in processes of cooperation, the transition to development activities needs to be made. This process has to become the mainstay of the NBI.

The paper outlines key aspects of the Nile Basin’s history, geography and politics before looking at some of the legal, socioeconomic and development challenges that lie ahead. Exploring the challenges inherent in shifting from cooperation to development, the paper concludes by suggesting that a further – perhaps even more important challenge lies ahead – in terms of ensuring that development processes set in train require clear links to poverty reduction within the basin. Without these, there would be a disconnection between the goals of dispute resolution, the move to cooperation, the transition to development and the achievement of benefits for all throughout the basin.

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