Exploring the Rules of Transboundary Infrastructure

On 18 May, the event series “Transboundary freshwater security governance train” continued with a session on “International Water Law and Infrastructure.” Over 100 participants took part in the event, which was co-organised by GWP and the International Water Law Academy (IWLA) of Wuhan University. The question at the heart of the discussion was: what are the rules of international law that govern transboundary infrastructure development? Each of the topics in the 6-part event series is based on survey results from previous events, to make sure they meet the needs of the participants. Event Moderator Yumiko Yasuda, GWP Senior Network & Transboundary Water Cooperation Specialist, underlined a growing interest in learning about transboundary water cooperation. This shows in the number of people signing up for the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for Governance for Transboundary Freshwater Security, which the event series is based on – the number is now up to over 2,000 people in 150 countries.
IWLA Director Patricia Wouters co-chaired the 5th event of the series together with David J Devlaeminck, a Lecturer at the School of Law at Chongqing University. Wouters explained that the organisers noticed a general interest in learning about the connection between international water law and infrastructure projects.
“There are so many transboundary waters in the world that don’t have agreements in place, and there are many different types of infrastructure. This session covers some of the available arrangements, looking at them through the lens of international water law – both treaties and customary laws,” explained Wouters in her introduction of the event.
The first speaker was Ana Maria Daza-Clark, a Lecturer at Edinburgh University’s School of Law. She spoke on the topic of investment in transboundary water infrastructures under international water law and investment law, describing the different dimensions covered under international law and how these are linked to national laws and policies, and the obligations that follow. She also touched on the subject of protecting foreign investment in infrastructure projects and shared a case study on a dispute between Argentina and Uruguay on the building of a pulp mill on the Uruguay river and how the case was resolved.
Phera Ramoeli, Executive Secretary, Permanent Okavango River Basin Water Commission (OKACOM), presented an overview of the Cubango-Okavango River Basin (CORB) which is shared by three states in Southern Africa: Angola, Botswana and Namibia. Transboundary infrastructure in the region is guided legally through several protocols and guidelines, and Ramoeli described how the different processes in the basin are co-governed.
Affiliate IWLA Member Pech Sokhem, who is also a Senior Water and Climate Change Consultant in Canada, spoke about Prior Consultation under the 1995 Mekong Agreement. He used the case of the Xayabury Dam in the Lower Mekong Basin as an example, which was the first real test case under the Agreement. Sokhem said that while this case taught the stakeholders that international cooperation is important, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The speaker presentations were followed by questions and answers in breakout groups. – Press release