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close this bookCentral Eurasian Water Crisis: Caspian, Aral, and Dead Seas (UNU, 1998, 203 pages)
close this folderPart V: International organizations and inland seas
close this folder12. The role of international organizations in the integrated management of international water bodies: The activities of the UNU, UNEP, and the World Bank in the Middle East
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInternational water bodies require integrated management
View the documentThe need for international efforts and a role for international organizations
View the documentThe UNU: Accomplishments to promote sound management of international waters
View the documentAssistance given by UNEP and the World Bank to the Aral Sea programme
View the documentProgramme for the Caspian Sea basin as an international effort
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences

The need for international efforts and a role for international organizations

Basin states in developing regions may lack the capacity to develop and manage their own portion of shared water resources. The international community may provide both technical and financial supports to develop and implement an integrated water resources management scheme. Through cooperation, states may obtain aid that might not otherwise be available to them (LeMarquand, 1981).

Overcoming institutional barriers, between riparians and within the various basin countries, to the management of international watercourses is not an easy task. Managing institutions, such as river basin authorities, often involve only one ministry in a basin country, and the decisions of such an institute may not be conveyed to the central decision-making mechanism of that basin country. Thus, specific treaties or agreements are needed to codify the responsibilities of participating nations and the facilitating agency. The lessons of experience with agreements and joint actions between riparians, such as the World Bank's difficult but successful nine-year effort to facilitate the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan, suggest that external assistance and encouragement are valuable and sometimes essential ingredients in establishing international water agreements. Where the basic institutional framework exists, international agencies should provide support and encouragement. However, in case the regional institutional framework does not work satisfactorily, an international organization could still serve as a mediator. It was actually the case with the Interim Mekong Secretariat, which was composed of three basin countries of the Mekong river basin, in the 1991-1995 period. The member states failed to solve by themselves the "veto power" issue, namely if a riparian country could put a veto on another basin country's project in an international water body, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) acted in a mediatory role to get through the impasse and let the basin countries develop a new agreement (Nakayama, 1997). International agencies can also assist riparians in developing and managing water resources and in facilitating the implementation of treaties.

The three main objectives of international efforts should be (a) to help riparian countries address their problems with international water resources, (b) to remove the obstacles to priority development activities that are usually held hostage by disputes over shared watercourses, and (c) to reduce inefficiencies in the use and development of scarce water resources caused by the lack of cooperative planning and development. Since no single international organization commands all the skills, experience, or resources necessary to achieve the needed cooperation, collaborative efforts among potential donors, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) would promote the sound management of international waters (World Bank, 1993).

The cooperation and good will of riparian countries are essential ingredients for the efficient development and utilization of international waterways. International organizations should attach the utmost importance to riparians entering into appropriate cooperative arrangements for such purposes, and stand ready to assist them in achieving these objectives. In cases where differences remain unsolved, international organizations should require that the country offer to negotiate in good faith with other riparians in order to reach appropriate agreements or arrangements (World Bank, 1994b).

Experience in the past has shown that the use of third parties in a mediator's role can facilitate dispute resolution, guide complex bargaining toward acceptable outcomes, and help maintain balance and commitment by riparian countries to the negotiating process (World Bank, 1994c). International organizations, such as the United Nations University (UNU), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), or the World Bank, have many advantages as such a third party because each one of these can (a) act as an independent broker; (b) provide leadership inherent in its international role in donor coordination; (c) catalyse the mobilization of official as well as private funding; (d) provide an important channel for gaining access to expertise; (e) be creative in promoting appropriate process solutions; and (f) help ensure systematic evaluation of alternative solutions through the appropriate use of analytical techniques.