Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Oz drought might help world peace

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-11-12

So… PM Platitudenmeister is going on about "a century of peace".  Perhaps our water shortage and the bickering between our states might help KRudd actually make a difference to the prospects of war around the world… and the only statemanship he needs is enough to deal with premiers!

The International Law Commission has finished work on what was to have been a set of laws, but is (pragmatically for a while at least) being treated as a set of guidelines, about how to deal with transborder aquifers.

The prospects of conflict over water availability are increasing, and the guidelines (with associated works) tries to put together a way nation states can negotiate over shared water resources, rather than resort to outright hostilities.

This isn’t a theoretical problem, India came close to shutting of Bangladesh’s water supply a while back, rivers flow back and forwards across the India/Pakistan border, and there’s many other places across the world where one nation is taking water from another.

At least our state premiers do not have armies at their disposal, so if KRudd can use the guidelines with the premiers as a dry run (pun intended), there might be useful lessons for the rest of the world.

The items for negotiation when assessing water rights can be complex: is it where the rain comes from ultimately, is it the land on top of the “upstream” aquifer, is it the number of people depending on the water, is it the dollars depending on the water?  Does one state have the right to pollute an aquifer used by another?

It gets really tricky when an aquifer can cross up to four different nation-states!

In some ways, the poor old South Australians are to NSW and Queensland what Bangladesh is to India.  Do wasteful irrigators have a greater right to water than Croweaters?  Think how Northen Victorians feel about the Brumby plans for a North-South pipeline!

Ugly set of problems, ugly negotiations.  Thank goodness we don’t have tanks facing off across the Murray or the Tweed!

If we cannot get things right in Oz (or the different jurisdictions in the US also fail), then there is no hope for peace in other areas with water scarcities and transborder water issues: the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, South America….

Let’s see if we can get a competition going: Can our Kev deal with transborder water issues between our states and debug the ILC treaty before Obama can with his states?  Which leader that promised hope and change can do something domestically that can be used as a template internationally?

Kevvie!!  Kevvie!!  Kevvie!!  Oi!!  Oi!!  Oi!!

See Also / Notes:

  • From International Law Commission, Sixtieth session, Geneva, 5 May-6 June and 7 July-August 2008, background and drafts:
  • "International Law Commission Adopts Draft Articles of a Transboundary Aquifers Convention " last revised 2008-09-22 from SSRN (it’s the abstract, but you can get a download of the full PDF for free after choosing your nearest mirror).
  • Guide to other ILC shared natural resources work underneath the ILC analytical guide
  • Anyway… and yeah, the italics look a little odd, and the sovereignty v equity is always tricky….here’s the preamble to the treaty text…
    • Conscious of the importance for humankind of life supporting groundwater resources in all regions of the world,
    • Bearing in mind Article 13, paragraph 1 (a), of the Charter of the United Nations, which provides that the General Assembly shall initiate studies and make recommendations for the purpose of encouraging the progressive development of international law and its codification,
    • Recalling General Assembly resolution 1803 (XVII) of 14 December 1962 on permanent sovereignty over natural resources,
    • Reaffirming the principles and recommendations adopted by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development of 1992 in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21,
    • Taking into account increasing demands for freshwater and the need to protect groundwater resources,
    • Mindful of the particular problems posed by vulnerability of aquifers to pollution,
    • Convinced of the need to ensure the development, utilization, conservation, management and protection of groundwater resources in the context of the promotion of the optimal and sustainable development of water resources for present and future generations,
    • Affirming the importance of international cooperation and good neighbourliness in this field,
    • Emphasizing the need to take into account the special situation of developing countries,
    • Recognizing the necessity to promote international cooperation,

    Good neighbourliness?????  Bit optimistic, aren’t they!


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