Negotiation in the Context of International Water-Related Agreements


The report describes the results of a study to identify, analyze, and discuss negotiation processes taking place in the context of international water-related agreements and conventions. An introduction is given to the role of legal arrangements in fostering cooperation in transboundary water basins, with special emphasis on the economic, environmental, and security dimensions of integrated water management. The study concentrates on the analysis of lessons learnt from a limited number of test cases. The focus is on agreements addressing water allocation and pollution control, thus excluding the issue of navigation. The paper introduces a life-cycle model of negotiating agreements, and in this context reviews selected water-related agreements at the global, regional, and water-basin level. The role of negotiations is highlighted for the initiation, adoption, and implementation phases. Special attention is given to the negotiations leading to the relevant agreements established under the UN Economic Commission for Europe (the Helsinki and Espoo Conventions and corresponding guidelines). The negotiations leading to, and in the context of, some basin agreements (Rhine, Danube, Aral Sea) are also analyzed and compared. Some experiences in negotiating international water-related agreements are identified, analyzed, and generalized. Aspects and factors that determine the prospects, progress, and products of the negotiation process include:

  • initiating development leading to formal negotiation
  • organizational setting, procedural rules, and negotiation culture
  • balancing of interests (upstream.downstream, intersectoral) in the negotiation process
  • windows of opportunity that promote and accelerate negotiations
  • relationship and synergy with other, legally binding and non-binding, instruments as a source of synergy in the negotiation process
  • role of technology, research and monitoring in the negotiation process
  • negotiation on implementation and compliance
  • role of human rights, transparency, and participation/role of the stakeholders/public in the negotiation process
  • role of management and financing issues in the negotiation process.

The study makes use of various sources of information, including (where available and accessible) the texts of agreements, reports of negotiation sessions, secondary literature, and in some cases, oral reporting (interviews with actors and witnesses of negotiations). The study summarizes the findings and formulates conclusions and recommendations on lessons learnt and how to improve processes in the practice of future negotiations.

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