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GERD: new norms of cooperation in the Nile Basin?



This article analyzes the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam both as an outcome of shifts in the regional hydropolitical dynamics in the past decade and as a catalyst of future cooperation developments in the Nile Basin region. First, it analyzes the GERD in the context of changing power relations, including a critical discussion of the role of multilateral cooperation process and norms. Second, it examines the GERD as a shaper of future hydropolitical dynamics, and how the complex trilateral cooperative process around the GERD (2011–2015) can represent a constructive step towards wider institutional transboundary cooperation and regional economic integration in the Nile Basin.
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GERD: new norms of cooperation in the Nile Basin?
Ana Elisa Cascão & Alan Nicol
To cite this article: Ana Elisa Cascão & Alan Nicol (2016) GERD: new norms of cooperation in
the Nile Basin?, Water International, 41:4, 550-573, DOI: 10.1080/02508060.2016.1180763
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GERD: new norms of cooperation in the Nile Basin?
Ana Elisa Cascão
and Alan Nicol
International Centre for Water Cooperation (under the auspices of UNESCO), Stockholm, Sweden;
International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka
This article analyzes the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam both as
an outcome of shifts in the regional hydropolitical dynamics in the
past decade and as a catalyst of future cooperation developments
in the Nile Basin region. First, it analyzes the GERD in the context
of changing power relations, including a critical discussion of the
role of multilateral cooperation process and norms. Second, it
examines the GERD as a shaper of future hydropolitical dynamics,
and how the complex trilateral cooperative process around the
GERD (20112015) can represent a constructive step towards
wider institutional transboundary cooperation and regional eco-
nomic integration in the Nile Basin.
Received 17 February 2016
Accepted 18 April 2016
GERD; cooperation;
multilateral; trilateral; Nile
In recent years much has been discussed about the impacts the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam (GERD) is having or will have on the hydropolitical relations between
Nile riparian states and the wider cooperation process (Bayeh, 2015; Chen & Swain, 2014;
Gebreluel, 2014;Tawq, 2015; Whittington, Waterbury, & Jeuland, 2014). These analyses
usually frame the GERD as a major game changer representing the beginning of a new
era in the Nile Basin, and focus mainly on potential impacts of the GERD on trans-
boundary processes. The authors of this article contend, however, that before analyzing
the GERD as the catalyst of change, we need to start by understanding the GERD as an
outcome of change. In particular, there is a need to understand the GERD as a direct
outcome of a shifting and complex multilateral cooperation process that began in the
mid-1990s. This article comprises two separate (though complementary) parts: the rst
part analyzes the GERD as an outcome of change, whilst the second analyzes the GERD
as a cause of further change. Overall, the analysis is informed by critical theoretical
concepts such as those developed in the Transboundary Water Interaction school by the
London Water Research Group (Zeitoun & Mirumachi, 2008; Zeitoun, Mirumachi, &
Warner, 2011;Zeitounetal.,2014,2016).
The rst part of this article analyzes how the GERD can be understood as an outcome
of change. Going back to early 2010, the scenario was one of strengthening multilateral
cooperation. Since 1999, under the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) banner, all the Nile
CONTACT Ana Elisa Cascão
VOL. 41, NO. 4, 550573
© 2016 International Water Resources Association
countries had sought the achievement of a shared vision for the Nile Basin. This
cooperation also included joint identication, study and planning of investment pro-
jects that would, it was envisaged, bring tangible benets to Nile countries and their
populations. Against a background of past hydropolitical conict and generalized
mistrust between upstream and downstream riparians, the cooperation process was
remarkable for its constructiveness and depth of engagement. For example, the NBI
developed a detailed portfolio of investment projects with potential to deliver socio-
economic benets in the elds of energy production and trade, agriculture, watershed
management and environmental protection (Nile Basin Initiative, 2014). In the hydro-
politically complex Eastern Nile Basin, the three riparian states worked together
towards the preparation of the ambitious Joint Multipurpose Project (JMP), which
included potential development of hydraulic infrastructure in the Blue Nile Basin.
This was a huge departure from existing norms, considering that Egypt was initially a
full part of this process alongside Sudan and Ethiopia under the Eastern Nile Subsidiary
Action Program (ENSAP). In this context, the article attempts to analyze Ethiopias
decision to move ahead in 2011 with the GERD as a national project, when it was
originally expected that a series of dams would be built on the Blue Nile under the NBI/
Eastern Nile Technical Regional Oce (ENTRO) more generally and the JMP in
particular. Two questions are addressed: (1) Can we assume that the GERD is an
outcome of failure and/or delays in multilateral cooperation? Or (2) should we assume
that GERD is actually an indirect (though unintended) consequence of the evolution of
a wider cooperation? This article seeks to understand how the cooperation process and
normshave actually contributed to changing the status quo in the basin and how they
might have both directly and indirectly contributed to the status of the GERD as major
new factor in the wider hydropolitical landscape.
The second part of this article looks at GERD as a catalyst of further change in the Nile
Basin and analyzes its potential to become a shaper of future development and cooperation.
It will be discussed how the announcement of GERDs construction as a national Ethiopian
project in 2011 was followed by technical talks and cooperation and then by political
negotiation even to the extent of entailing the adoption of a new instrument (a declaration
of principles) in March 2015. In brief, the GERD is a milestone in the Eastern Nile
landscape, and from several perspectives: in hydropolitical terms, but also in terms of
regime change over the management of the shared water resources, the dynamics of water
utilization and management, economics and incentives for regional economic integration
approaches, and more generalized awareness that water cooperation is more essential than
ever. These new norms and processes will be analyzed, as well as their hydropolitical
impacts on the Eastern Nile basin. Finally, the article looks at what wider implications
the new hydropolitical landscape in the Eastern Nile might have on Nile Basin multilateral
cooperation processes, namely the NBI, ENTRO and Cooperative Framework Agreement
(CFA) processes and eventual establishment of a Nile Basin Commission.
Pre-GERD cooperation norms and processes
At the beginning of 2011, when the Ethiopian government publicly announced its intention
to build the GERD, the Nile Basin cooperation process was already in a state of ux and the
region was experiencing a set of new and unprecedented economic, socio-political and
hydropolitical dynamisms (Cascão & Nicol, 2013;Matthews,Nicol,&Seide,2013;Nicol&
Cascão, 2011). This rst section analyzes how from the 1990s onwards basin countries had
been working together towards the establishment and strengthening of cooperative institu-
tions, and how new cooperative norms for the management and development of the shared
Nile water resources were being adopted. Further, it analyzes how political events in 2010
when signing of the Nile CFA by upstream riparians took place, with consequent reactions by
downstream riparians aected the ongoing cooperation process. The section also briey
analyzes relevant political changes at the national level in the three Eastern Nile countries that
are also considered to have had hydropolitical impacts. This section introduces the key
analytical elements for discussion in the next section, namely how the GERD and
Ethiopias decision to build the dam can actually be considered an outcome of change(s).
1990s: towards a new multilateral cooperative setting
In the 1990s all the Nile riparian countries came together to establish a multilateral
initiative to manage the Nile Basin water resources. The main implicit goal was to move
from a legacy of hydropolitical conict towards one of regional collaboration and
cooperation. This process was strongly supported not only by the riparian countries
themselves but also by the international community. A number of important develop-
ment partners nancially supported cooperative activities, including the Canadian
International Development Agency (CIDA), UNDP, the World Bank (since 1997) and
many European bilateral donors from 2001 onwards, when the First International
Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile took place (GTZ, 2007; Kirmani & Moigne,
1997; Nicol et al., 2001). Until the 1990s the Nile region was mainly characterized by
asymmetric development of the water resources and a lingering diplomatic hydropoli-
tical conict between downstream and upstream riparians, which was intimately linked
to dierent political positions on past legal agreements regarding allocation of the Nile
waters (Brunnee & Toope, 2002). On the one hand, up to that point Egypt and Sudan
had been the main users of the Nile, with hydraulic infrastructure in place, and a
bilateral agreement signed in 1959 that dened their rights and specic water quotas
(Agreement, 1959). On the other, the upstream riparians had hitherto made little use of
Nile river water resources, had invested in limited hydraulic infrastructure and had no
agreements dening their own water rights, whilst highly contesting the 1959 Nile
Waters Agreement (Arsano & Tamrat, 2005; Tvedt, 2004). Up to the mid-1990s, the
scenario was one of a prevailing and long-standing hydro-hegemonic stasis down-
stream riparians wielding stronger material, bargaining and ideational power capable of
inuencing the outcomes of hydropolitical interaction across the basin and maintaining
their hegemonic position; and upstream riparians exhibiting weak capacity to change
this status quo due to intrinsic and extrinsic factors including low national economic
development, limited capacity to exert power at regional and international levels and a
global political scene marked by stasis under the Cold War (Cascão, 2009; Cascão &
Zeitoun, 2010a,2010b; see also Zeitoun et al., 2011). It was in this context that past
attempts to promote multilateral cooperation had been unsuccessful, partly because
they would not address the major challenge, i.e. the need for a multilateral framework
agreement between all Nile riparian countries (Brunée and Toope, 2002; Arsano and
Tamrat, 2005).
The new cooperation process initiated in the mid-1990s would bring a novel
approach to promote transboundary cooperation in the hydropolitically complex
Nile Basin with two parallel tracks: a technical track, with the NBI as a transitional
cooperative arrangement; and a political track, driving negotiations for a CFA, which
would promote the establishment of a functioning basin-wide framework for legal and
institutional arrangements. Despite the parallel tracks, the rationale was that once
countries adopted the CFA, the NBI as a transitional arrangement would be replaced
by a permanent river basin commission (Amare, 2000;Brunnee&Toope,2002;Nile
Basin Initiative, 2002;UNDP,2006). Meanwhile, the countries were expected to build
progressively new cooperative norms through their joint activities under a Shared
Vision Program (SVP) and two Subsidiary Action Programmes (SAPs), one for the
decade much had been achieved in that regard. For example, under the SVP, the
NBI and the riparian countries promoted collaborative action, exchange of experi-
ence, and trust and capacity building intended to build a strong foundation for
regional cooperation, of which the main goal was the creation of an enabling envir-
onment for investments and action on the ground (Nile Basin Initiative, 1999,2009;
Cascão, 2012). Later in the process, as an outcome of the SVP, the NBI would be
entrusted with three core functions: water resources management, water resources
development, and promotion of basin cooperation (Nile Basin Initiative, 2014).
However, it was under the two SAPs that major normative changes took place in
terms of thinking (and action) about water resources management and development at
a transboundary level. The goals of the SAPs were to identify cooperative investment
projects at the sub-basin levels that would confer mutual benets on the co-riparians
and contribute to realizing transboundary development projects on the ground (Nile
Basin Initiative, 1999). ENSAP and NELSAP, through multiple projects, have promoted
the joint identication, study and planning of hydraulic projects (including large-scale
infrastructure) that would bring tangible benets to the countries in the Eastern and
Equatorial Nile sub-basins, respectively. The SAPs developed an impressive portfolio of
investment projects with potential to deliver socio-economic benets in the elds of
energy, agriculture, environmental protection, etc. (Nile Basin Initiative, 2009,2014).
For the rst time in the history of the Nile Basin, upstream and downstream countries
had established a joint and all-inclusive platform through which to discuss, consult and
even implement optimal approaches to the development of common water resources. It
was under ENSAP/ENTRO, for example, that Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan agreed upon
and jointly implemented region-based projects such as the Regional Power Trade Study,
Watershed Management and Irrigation and Drainage (ENSAP, 2008,2009). Next we
look at the particular case of the ENSAP JMP to show how these new cooperative
norms and processes worked in practical terms.
Joint Multipurpose Project: a promising example of a new setof cooperation
norms in the Eastern Nile Basin
The JMP was one of the eight ENSAP projects identied and agreed upon by the
decision makers of the Eastern Nile Basin countries in 2003. Most of the projects were
fast-track, small-scale and sectoral projects, but the JMP was a long-term, large-scale
and multipurpose investment project aimed at identifying major optimal outcomes in
terms of water resources management for all three Eastern Nile sub-basins (Blue Nile,
Atbara/Tekezze and Baro-Akobo-Sobat). In 2005, the Eastern Nile Council of Ministers,
which includes the ministers of water aairs of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia and
ministers of the energy sector, started the launch phase of the JMP. The objective was
to initiate eorts to identify and prepare a major initial project, within a broader
multipurpose programme, to demonstrate the benets of a cooperative approach to the
management and development of the Eastern Nile(World Bank, 2009). The JMP
would build on earlier cooperative eorts already embraced and endorsed by the three
Eastern Nile countries under ENTRO: the Power Trade Study; the associated pre-
feasibility study of three hydropower sites on the Blue Nile; and an ongoing feasibility
study of power transmission interconnection among the three countries. In 2007, a
series of high-level consultations between relevant stakeholders of all three countries
was held, leading to a joint call to accelerate cooperative action on the ground (ENSAP,
2007). As a follow-up, the Eastern Nile Council of Ministers commissioned an inde-
pendent scoping study, Opportunities for Cooperative Water Resources Development
on the Eastern Nile: Risks and Rewards(Blackmore & Whittington, 2008). This study
represented an important milestone for Nile Basin cooperation and should be seen as a
landmark in its own right. It was the rst time that such a signicant study had been
jointly commissioned, and it was expected that such ground-breaking work could
contribute to crucial changes in the decision-making process in the basin. The high-
level political involvement exhibited by all three countries provided evidence of the
expectations for the project, and in itself showed that the normative focus had begun
shifting towards joint management and development.
High expectations existed at ENTRO, including among its member states and the
wider international community, that the multi-billion-dollar JMP project would
become the rst large-scale project in the Eastern Nile Basin to apply a genuinely
transboundary approach to development and execution, epitomizing for those involved
the new spirit of Nile regionalism. This would include: (1) planning and implementa-
tion based on regional decision-making processes; (2) regional condence building
based on joint communication and consultation mechanisms; (3) a benet-cost-
sharing formula between the riparians under a no-borders perspective; and (4) that
it would ultimately contribute to ensuring ecient and optimal use of the Nile waters
through equitable and reasonable utilization (Eldaw & Fekade, 2009). JMPs long-term
objective was dened as a programme which included a coordinated set of investments
and an enabling institutional environment that would facilitate the sustainable devel-
opment and management of the Eastern Nile shared water resources to provide a range
of transformational development benets across sectors and countries (World Bank,
2009). It was anticipated that the JMP would be the key to unlocking further linkages in
terms of regional cooperation, trade and integration, and provide transformational
socio-economic benets to the region as a whole.
Very relevant for the purposes of this article is that the JMP scoping study concluded
that the Blue Nile sub-basin in Ethiopia provided the best opportunity for a rst set of
JMP investments, including new water storage facilities that would generate large
amounts of hydropower with potential for use by the three Eastern Nile countries
and that would provide important multipurpose benets to downstream riparians,
including ood control, sediment management, water availability for irrigation, and
improved navigation (Blackmore & Whittington, 2008). The study included several
modelling results for ve dierent Blue Nile development scenariosand analyzed the
dierent options for a cascade of dams on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia and their respective
benets and risks. This launching phase of the JMP was expected to be followed by
another phase where countries would move on to the identication of the rst projects
to be implemented and then to the implementation stage itself, whilst continuing to
build the enabling technical and political environment for the new transformational
approach to managing the Blue Nile waters (Cascão, 2012). Interviews by the authors
with relevant key authorities in Cairo, Addis and Khartoum (in 2008 and 2009) revealed
that soon after the scoping study was released, the Egyptian authorities contested the
ndings and challenged the technical validity of the study conducted by the indepen-
dent experts, following which their involvement in the JMP started to wane. In 2008
and 2009, there were several attempts by Ethiopia and Sudan through ENSAP to bring
Egypt fully back into the JMP, the most relevant transboundary project in the Eastern
Nile Basin. Implicitly it was assumed that the joint development of the Blue Nile Basin
was the best-case scenario for all three countries, including (and perhaps above all)
Egypt, in particular when compared to unilateral developments.
However, in 2010, due to disagreements within the political cooperation track (see next
sub-section), the expectation that the JMP project could still oer a ground-breaking
platform for joint large-scale hydraulic development disappeared, and the project came
to a halt in 2012 before it could deliver any of the anticipated tangible results. In brief,
however, the JMP provided clear evidence of a window of opportunityfor Eastern Nile
countries: if major long-standing political stumbling blocks could be overcome, countries
would have to eventually agree and jointly implement large-scale projects in the Blue Nile
(and other basins), based on a new set of cooperative norms that had already been accepted
and were being deployed in the technical cooperation track within the Eastern Nile sub-
basins. However, this window of opportunity was missed. One might now ask in hindsight
whether under the JMP scenario Egypt might not have fared better than under the highly
charged political process which the GERD became?
Political track: progress and failure to reach a multilateral framework agreement
While the Nile riparian countries and NBI institutions were developing and expanding
transboundary technical cooperation, and at the same time imprinting a new set of
cooperation norms, in the parallel track legal and political negotiators from all Nile
riparians worked towards the achievement of a multilateral and comprehensive CFA.
Negotiations had been initiated in 1997, the goal of which was to agree on an institu-
tional mechanism for cooperation among the Nile Basin states. The rst part of the
agreement (Agreement, 2010) dealt with guiding legal principles, namely the adoption
of principles of international water law, such as the principle of equitable and reason-
able utilization and the principle of no signicant harm. The second part was on more
specic principles regarding the institutional structure of the would-be Nile River Basin
Commission. Once the CFA was agreed upon, signed, ratied and adopted, the Nile
River Basin Commission would replace the transitional arrangement the Nile Basin
Initiative (2002).
From 1997 to 2007 the negotiations experienced several dierent phases, and there
was general optimism regarding outcomes (Brunnee & Toope, 2002; Salman, 2013).
Once again, the Nile Basin was experiencing a new type of setting which involved all
riparians in open discussion of key transboundary issues and in search of a compre-
hensive agreement. After all, in a spirit of negotiation the legal and political represen-
tatives of all Nile riparian countries were able to agree on all 45 legal articles except
Article 14b, on water security (see annex of Agreement, 2010). Egypt and Sudan have
expressed strong reservations to Article 14b, because of the possible implications of this
specic article for their current utilization of the Nile waters and, implicitly, the
implications for what the two downstream riparians considered their historical and
acquired rights, as enshrined in the 1959 Nile Waters Agreement (see e.g. Al-Ahram
Weekly, 2015; Reuters, 2009; State Information System, Egypt, 2011). The argument
had been very similar to the long-standing ocial Egyptian position regarding any new
legal agreement in the basin (Amer, 1997). In 2007, confronted with a negotiation
deadlock, the countries decided to refer the issue upwards to the heads of state, but the
result was a stalemate that lasted until May 2009, at which point, during a Nile Council
of Ministers meeting in Kinshasa, all of the upstream riparians decided that they would
not wait any longer (The East African 2009). They decided to annex the controversial
Article 14b (to be resolved by the Nile River Basin Commission within six months of its
establishment) and press on with signing the remaining negotiated articles. The signa-
ture by six countries occurred on 14 May 2010. As of early 2016, three countries had
ratied (Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania), and four others were in the process of
ratication/accession (Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan).
The fact that a coalition of upstream countries had decided to sign the CFA and
proceed to ratication, rejecting the pressure from both Egypt and Sudan, represented a
major tipping point in Nile transboundary relations. This was a tipping point in both
hydropolitical and legal terms in the sense that upstream countries openly challenged
the downstreamersposition and mounted an eective joint upstream challenge to the
legal status quo, i.e. the hydro-hegemonic setting that had been in place in the Nile
Basin for decades (Zeitoun et al., 2014,2016). However, that unprecedented move by
upstream countries did not come without further implications, as it would have a
strong impact even on the multilateral cooperation process and the NBI institutions
themselves. As a reaction to the CFA signature, in June 2010 both Sudan and Egypt
froze their participation in all NBI activities and projects (Sudan Tribune, 2010). This
had an immediate set of impacts, including contributing to slowing down implementa-
tion of ongoing projects and hindering mobilization of external funding for projects,
both ongoing and future, which implicitly contributed to problems of institutional and
nancial sustainability (Nile Basin Initiative, 2014). Regarding the freeze, Sudan later
changed its position (in November 2012) and returned as a full member of the NBI and
ENTRO, after considering that there was no alternative to basin-wide cooperation
between all Nile riparians; subsequently, Sudan has used its leveraging powers in trying
to coax Egypt back into the NBI, though so far without success (Sudan Tribune, 2012a;
AFP, 2014). The fact is that in 2016, almost two decades after the transboundary
cooperation process was initiated, the NBI continues to be a transitional arrangement
and is now experiencing several institutional and nancial challenges; and the process
of adoption of a comprehensive legal framework has yet to be nalized. However, the
Nile institutions and riparians, including Egypt, continue to highlight that multilateral
cooperation is deemed necessary in order to promote regional economic development
and integration, and implicitly regional peace and stability (Nile Basin Initiative, 2016;
SIS, 2016). How this will be realized in the short, medium and long term remains to be
National economic and political changes with regional hydropolitical impacts
Although this article aims mainly at analyzing the regional and cooperation dimensions
(and associated changes) that have contributed to GERD becoming a reality, the fact is
that one cannot ignore other signicant and concomitant economic and political
changes at the national level in all three Eastern Nile countries that have contributed
to this new hydropolitical scenario. On the one hand, Ethiopia, a country marred by
civil war and severe poverty up to the early 1990s, has changed signicantly in the last
two decades. Improved political stability, strong leadership by the late Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi, new economic and trade partnerships with China, and substantial
economic growth have transformed Ethiopia into a country with increasing demand
for new infrastructure and food and energy resources and, at the same time, a growing
capacity to mobilize external funds and to self-nance implementation of large-scale
projects. Numbers show that the Ethiopian GDP has been increasing at around 10% per
annum on average in the last decade, and that the government has dramatically
expanded the national infrastructure in order to grow capacity to meet increasing
national economic demands (AfDB, OECD & UNDP, 2015). This has also been
supported by a substantial increase in foreign direct investment in the country
(Financial Times, 2015). These factors have contributed to increasing the ambition
and capacity of the Ethiopian government to project economic as well as political
power, both within its borders and regionally. In the last decade, for example,
Ethiopia has signed several economic and trade agreements with its East African
neighbours, including Kenya and Sudan, namely on power trade (Makonnen & Lulie,
2014; Verhoeven, 2011). This has signicantly increased the visibility of Ethiopia as a
major regional economic actor in the East and Horn of Africa regions. The decision to
move ahead with the GERD was partly an outcome of these structural changes to the
economy and polity of Ethiopia in the past decade.
On the other hand, Egypt, once the most politically stable country in the basin and with
by far the strongest economy (roughly as large as the sum of all other basin economies
combined), has since arguably experienced a downward trajectory in its political and
economic inuence. The Egyptian Spring of 2011 and subsequent years led to a decline in
the national economy, generalized social and political instability, changes in key Nile
decision-making bodies and a more opaque regional strategy. For example, since 2011 the
Egyptian minister of water resources and irrigation has changed ve times, and according
to several interviews conducted by the authors in Cairo (in 2011 and 2012), there has been
an increasing involvement of foreign aairs and other high-level political circles in Nile
aairs. This is thought to have contributed to an increased politicization and securitization
of water issues. Although formal national water policies have changed little, attitudes
towards neighbouring riparians and the cooperation process more generally have changed
signicantly, including returning to a more confrontational tone during President
Muhammad Morsis short presidency when even the threat of military action against
Ethiopia was expressed in public (BBC News, 2013a; Al-Jazeera, 2013). A succession of
facts taken together Ethiopias decision on GERD, Burundis signature of the CFA in
2011, Sudans new plans to increase irrigated agriculture, the support of a new Nile
country (South Sudan) for the CFA, and the ratications of the CFA by three upstream
countries can be viewed as setbacks in Egypts capacity to inuence its neighbours
(Cascão & Nicol, 2013). At the same time, the ostensibly equivocal reaction to the GERD
project rst an ocial rejection of the project, and then threats of sabotaging the dam,
followed by later participation in trilateral negotiations and agreements, and showing
acceptance of the dam indicate that Egypt was initially unprepared to deal with such an
emblematic event, particularly when distracted by internal political and economic change.
In a detailed account of Egypts trajectory regarding the GERD process from 2011 to 2016,
Mohamed Allam, the minister of water resources at the time of the revolution, is sharply
critical of the processes that left Egypt facing an upstream fait accompli (Al-Ahram
Weekly, 2016;seealsoTawk, 2015,Tawq, 2016,thisissue).
Lastly, but signicantly, the third Eastern Nile riparian Sudan has perhaps experi-
enced the largest economic and political changes of all, not least because of its division in
2011 into two independent states. From 2002 to 2005, the government of Sudan and its
southern region negotiated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which enabled further
large-scale investment in the oil sector. Massive oil revenues had allowed Khartoum to
invest in large infrastructure in the country during the early 2000s, including the Merowe
hydropower dam on the fourth Nile cataract, which was the rst in a series of planned
hydraulic infrastructure projects (Tvedt, 2013; Verhoeven, 2011). The anticipated inde-
pendence of South Sudan in 2011 and the consequent decline in oil revenues, the global
food crisis in 2008 and other factors contributed to greater foreign investment in Sudans
fertile lands and inuenced Sudan to refocus its economic development on the agriculture
sector, and in particular irrigation within the Blue Nile schemes. This could have huge
implications for demand for water and for potential ows downstream to Egypt
(McCartney, Alemayehu, Easton, & Awulachew, 2012). In order to proceed with these
new plans, the Sudanese government has leased several thousand hectares of land to
private investors, embarked on heightening of the Roseires Dam to increase water storage
capacity, and lately, supported the GERD project, expecting that it will provide additional
water for the countrys ambitious new irrigation plans. Meanwhile, political-diplomatic
alliances with Egypt have deteriorated, whilst those with Ethiopia have improved, includ-
ing several agreements on bilateral trade and economic integration. The internal changes
in Sudan are of great hydropolitical importance, and their magnitude has yet to be fully
understood. Nevertheless, there are already several indications that Sudan is becoming the
kingmakerin the Nile hydropolitical game, because of its vested interests in negotiating
water and hydraulic infrastructure to expand its large-scale national irrigation potential
(see Cascão & Nicol, in press, for more details).
Discussion on the GERD as an outcome of change
One of the main arguments of this article is that the GERD project is an outcome of
multiple changes that were ongoing in the region before 2011. One can argue that
economic and political change at a national level in Ethiopia were key driving factors,
and signicantly contributed to a sense of urgency surrounding water resources devel-
opment and hydraulic infrastructure in order to respond to internal energy demands, in
particular. In this section, however, we are more concerned with understanding and
analyzing how the cooperation norms and processeshave actually contributed to
GERD becoming a reality.
GERD: an outcome of failed expectations?
It was mentioned in the rst section that the cooperation process was progressing
relatively well along both technical and political tracks until mid-2010. Under the NBI
and its centres, the countries had adopted new joint and cooperative norms in the
planning, management and development of the Nile basins shared resources. The NBI
had formed an all-inclusive cooperative platform where riparians could work together
on ambitious projects, including several investment projects that could bring future
socio-economic benets for all countries (Nile Basin Initiative, 2011b). Despite the
limited tangible results achieved until then, expectation remained that in the medium or
long term benets would be delivered through actual investment in hydraulic infra-
structure (Earle et al., 2013; Nile Basin Initiative, 2012; Cascão, 2012. But how much
longer could the Nile riparians (in particular Ethiopia) wait for those investments to
take shape which faced rapidly growing national demand for economic development
and, by extension, internal pressure to develop Nile basin resources?
It is useful to recall that when Ethiopia joined earlier multilateral cooperative
processes in the Nile basin, this was based on the strong belief that (eventual) CFA
negotiations would bring about a new comprehensive legal agreement for the basin and
that the NBI would promote an enabling environment to facilitate actual development
of joint multipurpose infrastructure in the Ethiopian highlands (Amer, 1997; Arsano &
Tamrat, 2005). In this context, Ethiopias expectations that NBI/ENSAP investment
would take place were high, and the government considered this a golden opportunity
to develop its portion of the Blue Nile Basin, turning long-standing plans into reality.
The hydraulic ambitions of Ethiopia can be traced back to the 1960s, when the US
Bureau of Reclamation developed an in-depth study on the Ethiopian Blue Nile and
identied major sites for hydropower and irrigation development, in the context of
superpower politics and Russias decisions to nance and build the High Aswan Dam in
Egypt (Waterbury, 2002). In the 1980s and the 1990s, successive Ethiopian governments
developed master plans that included a cascade of dams on the Blue Nile, namely the
Karadobi, Mabil, Mandaya, and Border (the last being the most downstream and only
40 km from Sudan). Further in-depth studies conrmed the huge hydropower potential
of the dams in this sub-basin (Block, Strzepek, & Rajagopalan, 2007). However, for
decades Ethiopia has been unable to muster sucient economic, political and nancial
power to develop these projects (Cascão, 2009; Arsano, 2007). Therefore, for Ethiopia
the ENSAP JMP was the rst real opportunity to develop major hydropower on the
Blue Nile, with the added advantage of doing it jointly with neighbouring riparians and
in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation, as well as receiving the support of the
international community, through which Ethiopia could access external funding. As
mentioned earlier, the 2008 JMP scoping study identied the cascade of hydropower
dams on the Ethiopian Blue Nile as the project that could promote more opportunities
and rewards for all the Eastern Nile countries (Blackmore & Whittington, 2008).
However, after 2008 the project came to a stalemate (see previous section), and the
ensuing hydropolitical crisisof 2010 had immediate impacts on Ethiopias expecta-
tions including the curtailing of NBI activities and projects, and decreasing nancial
support of the overall cooperation process (Earle et al., 2013; Nile Basin Initiative,
2014). As a result, the possibility of moving ahead in the short term with NBI-
supported large-scale projects, such as those in the Blue Nile Basin, rapidly faded.
In this context, implementation of the JMP and plans to jointly (trilaterally under
ENTRO) develop dams in the Ethiopian Blue Nile ground to a halt. According to
interviews conducted by the authors with Ethiopian decision makers at the Ministry of
Water Resources in Addis Ababa (in 2009 and 2010), the JMP project was losing
political momentum, and Ethiopia understood that the possibility of developing the
Blue Nile cascade through NBI/ENTRO was fast becoming more remote and unlikely.
Accordingly, Ethiopian ocials decided to go back to their pipeline of national projects
for the Blue Nile, arguing that they were not in a position to wait any longer to develop
the countrys hydropower potential, taking account of energy demand in a fast-growing
economy, as highlighted in the GERD inauguration speech of the late Prime Minister
Meles Zenawi (Horn Aairs, 2011). Consequently, at the end of 2010 the Ethiopia
government made the decision to develop one of the dams, in the same location as the
Border Dam (identied in the US Bureau of Reclamation study of 1964, and also
included in the JMP Scoping Study of 2008, but with dierent characteristics and of
substantially greater dimension, namely regarding its storage capacity), which was
followed by a public announcement in April 2011. In early 2016, the GERD was
scheduled to be completed by 2017. Plans are for power to be traded soon after
completion of the dam on the basis of power-purchase agreements signed as early as
2011 with a number of neighbouring countries, such as Kenya, Djibouti and Sudan
(Addis Fortune, 2013; Capital, 2011; Daily Nation, 2011; Sudan Tribune, 2012b).
In brief, Ethiopias decision to move ahead in 2011 with the GERD as a national
project can be considered an outcome of failed expectations under the two parallel
cooperation tracks. A comprehensive legal agreement was not endorsed, even after
13 years of negotiations; nor had the NBI-identied investment projects achieved the
implementation stage, partly because of the uncertain institutional and legal situation
after 2010. As a result, the Ethiopian government moved ahead with one of its national
projects; however, this did not preclude Ethiopias continued engagement with and
support for multilateral cooperation as the way forward to manage and develop the
Niles water resources. Indeed, Ethiopia has continued without interruption to provide
political, technical and substantial nancial support to the NBI and ENTRO, whilst
reiterating the need for a guiding comprehensive framework agreement that can sup-
port equitable and reasonable utilization of the water resources in the Nile Basin
(Ethiopian Herald, 2015a; Horn Aairs, 2013).
GERD: an outcome of changes in the regional power balance?
Power asymmetry, and changes in these asymmetries, can aect actual interactions
between riparian states in a transboundary river basin (Zeitoun & Mirumachi, 2008;
Zeitoun et al., 2014). A core argument of this article is that cooperation processes
initiated in the 1990s eventually contributed to the reduction in existing asymmetries
between downstream and upstream riparians, changing the balance of power between
upstream and downstream neighbours. Two decades of multilateral cooperation con-
tributed to strengthening upstream riparianscapacities in many ways, including idea-
tional and bargaining powers, i.e. the power to inuence the knowledge agenda,
discourse and negotiations at a basin level (Zeitoun et al., 2011; Cascão, 2009). In
terms of ideational power, at the beginning of the 1990s asymmetries between upstream
and downstream countries were great. Both Egypt and Sudan had an in-depth and
longstanding technical establishment that had built up substantial knowledge of the
Niles water and land resources (including building on the earlier colonial period),
which included knowledge of current utilization, future trajectories and scenarios, and
potential for development. At the same time, knowledge upstream was narrower, more
limited and less technically sophisticated. This more partial analysis hindered capacity
to study key potential development projects. From the early 1990s onwards, however,
countries including Ethiopia began substantial eorts to improve their own national
capacities (Arsano, 2007; Cascão, 2008; Waterbury, 2002).
Fifty years down the line, and after many NBI projects, in-depth studies, and in
particular the establishment of a Nile Decision Support System, focusing on optimiza-
tion of resources and the role of future infrastructure in that optimization, upstream
riparian states are now more empowered as knowledge inuencers(and contributors)
within the wider transboundary cooperation. They have been equipped with enhanced
analytical tools that support the development and management of Nile water resources,
and have substantially more human and institutional capacity for communication,
information, management, and hydrological and socio-economic analysis (Giupponi
& Sgobbi, 2013; Nile Basin Initiative, 2014; Qaddumi, 2008). Interviews conducted in
several forums by the authors with representatives from upstream countries
that the NBI cooperation (through its numerous knowledge-oriented programmes and
tools) has contributed to reducing past knowledge gaps, and ultimately has left
upstream riparians feeling more empowered to inuence dialogue, agenda-setting and
regional planning and policy formulation. The prospects for changing perceptions and
discourse regarding transboundary water resources management and development,
beyond the status quo situation, are now clearer.
However, it is in terms of bargaining power, i.e. power to inuence the negotiation
process and outcomes (Zeitoun et al., 2011,2016), that these changes are becoming
more visible. The capacity of upstream countries to inuence transboundary negotia-
tions and their outcomes is dierent from 20 years or even a decade ago, and two main
trends are visible. On the one hand, the NBI and CFA processes have opened up the
possibility of bringing issues onto the agenda and negotiating table(s) that were hitherto
not possible. These include the issue of hydraulic development upstream and related
benets to downstream riparians and the long-avoided issue of a new legal framework
agreement based on the principle of equitable utilization of resources (Cascão &
Zeitoun, 2010b). Until the mid-1990s, a debate over these two topics would invariably
encounter strong resistance from downstream riparians, Egypt and Sudan. On the other
hand, and less anticipated, has been that the two cooperation tracks have also opened
up the opportunity for a more complex set of sub-alliances between upstream coun-
tries, and also an eventual alliance between Sudan and Ethiopia. An example of the rst
is the coalition of interests that brought together all the upstream riparians (except
Congo) as signatories to the 2010 CFA. The other example is the growing alliance
between Sudan and Ethiopia, based on increasing understanding of the substantial
benets that Sudan can reap in technical and economic terms (e.g. power trade,
water for irrigation, sediment control, etc.) from cooperation with Ethiopia. This was
partially made possible because the NBI and ENTRO platforms allowed increased
dialogue between the two neighbours and NBI-driven studies (including the JMP)
contributed to generate scientic evidence on the multiple benets to be accrued to
Sudan from cooperative investments (Hamad & El-Battahani, 2005; see Nile Basin
Initiative, 2011a, for specic cooperation benets for Sudan).
Concerning decreasing power asymmetries between upstream and downstream
riparians, in the case of Ethiopia this is much more visible in the political and
diplomatic actions Ethiopia has taken in the past decade. According to interviews
conducted in Ethiopia in 2010 and 2011, it was Ethiopia that pushed hard for the
CFA to be signed by almost all upstream countries, and which played its diplomatic
cards to bring this new type of upstream alliance to the fore, in spite of barriers.
Ethiopia has aligned with the equatorial riparian countries and went ahead with CFA
signature in spite of reservations expressed by its two downstream riparian neighbours.
The ocial discourse of Ethiopia has hitherto been one of assuming leadership of the
upstream bloc, namely having the prime minister declare that the upper riparian
countries that signed the Cooperative Framework Agreement are highly desirous for the
Agreement to be ratied and implemented [and] Ethiopia has to be exemplary to other
riparian countries by ratifying the agreement(Horn Aairs, 2013). Ethiopia was the
rst country to ratify the CFA, in June 2013. These are examples of how Ethiopias
bargaining powers have increased dramatically over the past decade (Zeitoun et al.,
2014). But in discursive and ideational terms, the cooperation process has also provided
Ethiopia an opportunity to sit at several negotiating tables. Without renouncing the
supremacy of the CFA as a mechanism for eective cooperation in the Nile Basin,
simultaneously Ethiopia has leveraged its diplomatic strengths under the GERD pro-
cess and, indeed, has been able to transform an initially national-only project into a
tripartite process with Sudan and Egypt (as analyzed in next section). In both its
multilateral and its bilateral/trilateral relations with neighbouring riparians, it is possi-
ble to conclude that Ethiopia has substantially increased its capacity to inuence the
current state of aairs in the Nile Basin, and has done so through foregrounding two
issues: the need for a new legal framework and the benets of water infrastructure
development upstream.
In conclusion, the authors of this article consider the two tracks to multilateral
cooperation to have partially contributed to changing relations between riparians by
increasing upstream ripariansknowledge of resources at their disposal and potential
development opportunities, whilst at the same time increasing their overall capacity to
shift perceptions and the discourse on development at a basin-wide level. This has
reduced the hitherto rather asymmetric balance of bargaining power between riparians
and increased opportunities for alliance building at bilateral and trilateral levels. The
20 years of cooperation processes on the Nile since the mid-1990s have been a partial
but signicant contributory factor in Ethiopias capacity to inuence the
hydropolitical landscape of the Eastern Nile, of which the GERD is the clearest and
most immediate manifestation.
GERD-related cooperation norms and processes
In April 2011, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi publicly announced his countrys decision
to build the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Although project identication and
planning had been carried out by the Ethiopian government since 2010 and in line with
the countrysve-year growth and transformation plan launched in the same year
(Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia [FDRE], 2010; Matthews, Nicol, & Seide,
2013), the technical details of this newdam and its possible hydrological and environ-
ment impacts were still largely unknown, but questions surrounding the short- and
long-term political impacts were already being posed. Would this new project the rst
large-scale dam in the Ethiopian portion of the Blue Nile return riparian countries of
the Eastern Nile to patterns of hydropolitical conict and dispute that had been the
norm before the 1990s? Would this mean the end of multilateral cooperation between
the Nile countries and, more specically, the institutions of the NBI?
At rst there were concerns that Ethiopia and downstream countries could enter into
serious dispute, taking into account the size of the dam and the fact that it would be
located in the strategic Blue Nile Basin. Despite the moderate tone of Zenawi in the
2011 politically crafted speech alluding to the win-win benets of the dam project for all
three countries and inviting the two neighbours to join and co-nance the GERD
project (Zenawi, 2013), it soon became clear that Ethiopia would implement the project
with or without downstream nancial or political support. Yet, as soon as May 2011,
the three neighbours decided to initiate a trilateral process to deal with the GERD
project establishing a technical dialogue that would later evolve into a negotiation and
political process. The rst part of this section looks at the original and unique dimen-
sions of the new trilateral approach in terms of cooperation norms and processes. It is
however important to mention that this new trilateral process does not lie under the
auspices of the NBI or ENTRO and remains formally disconnected. The last section will
discuss the impacts that the GERD could have on institutions and the wider process of
Trilateral cooperation: from technical talks to political negotiations
A supercial analysis of the regional and international media discourse on GERD
during 2011 would suggest that the Eastern Nile Basin was experiencing a new hydro-
political conict. The fact is, however, that behind the scenes the three riparian
countries had also begun a process of trilateral collaboration, with new rules of the
game. The dialogue began soon after announcement of the GERD and was followed by
a visit in May 2011 of the interim Egyptian prime minister, Essam Sharaf, to Addis
Ababa for talks with Ethiopian prime minister Zenawi. This culminated in a joint
statement that the Eastern Nile neighbours were willing to work in partnership and
establish a trilateral committee to analyze the impacts of the dam (Al-Ahram Weekly,
2011; Ahram Online, 2011). At the end of May 2011, Ethiopia and its two neighbours
agreed to initiate trilateral talks on technical issues regarding the dam, and in October
the countries agreed to set up a trilateral technical committee to assess the possible
impacts of the dam, exchange technical expertise, foster cooperation and ultimately
boost regional development (Sudan Tribune, 2011).
Soon after, the three ministries of water resources agreed on the terms of reference
and rules of procedures for the establishment of an international panel of experts
(IPoE), and within two months, the governments each nominated two national experts
and selected four international experts. The IPoE held its rst ocial meeting
in January 2012. As a point of departure, this was already a positive achievement: the
countries were not just willing but also able to agree on a mechanism to conduct a joint
assessment of the impacts (both negative and positive) of the new structure. Between
May 2012 and May 2013, the IPoE would hold six regular meetings and four visits to
the dam site; the nal report was released on 31 May 2013. The report has covered
several technical issues, including downstreamersconcerns over the dam safety, and
recommended two additional studies: assessment of transboundary environmental and
socio-economic impacts; and a new hydrological model study (International Panel of
Experts [IPoE], 2013; also see MIT, 2014; Wheeler et al. and Zhang et al., 2016, this
The reactions of Sudan and Egypt to the release of the IPoE report were never-
theless divergent. In Sudan, it was followed by numerous ocial declarations of
support by the Sudanese government, downplaying negative impacts and praising the
benets of the GERD for Sudan, namely its potential to regulate ows and contribute
to expanding irrigated agriculture along the Sudanese Blue Nile (Sudan Tribune,
2013a,2013b). In Egypt, where a new government, led by President Morsi was
already in place and held dierent views on the GERD from the post-2011 interim
governments, reaction to the IPoE was marked by criticism. As in the case of the
JMP study, analyzed earlier, Egypt also disputed the technical validity of the joint
study (though Egyptian experts were part of the team) and decided to conduct its
own alternative studies, which came to dierent conclusions from the joint study,
highlighting the potential negative hydrological impacts of the Ethiopian dam (MFA
Egypt, 2014).
In brief, technical talks and joint mechanisms were apparently progressing when the
GERD process reverted to issues of securitization and older discourses on water wars
emerged (BBC News, 2013a,2013b). The previously elected government in Cairo, led
by President Morsi, was not keen on accepting the GERD as a fait accompli, and new
political and even military threats were made against Ethiopia and the dam, rapidly
souring bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries. This was the moment
that Sudan, the midstream riparian that strongly believed in the benets the GERD
could bring, started taking on a role as mediator between the two neighbours and
oered its good ocesto bring the parties together again to agree on how to resume
the trilateral talks and take up the IPoE recommendations (Al-Ahram Weekly, 2014;
Sudan Tribune, 2014).
Trilateral meetings at the end of 2013 and again in January 2014 were postponed or
failed to reach any conclusion. Productive meetings only resumed when a new govern-
ment was elected in Cairo (in May 2014) and the newly instated President Al-Sissi
agreed that it was time to reactivate tripartite meetings regarding the GERD, displaying
an openness to joint approaches. However, this time diplomats would be fully involved,
and the trilateral meetings would be not only technical but also a political and legal
becoming, in eect, a six-partymeeting involving the ministries (and ministers) of water
resources as well as foreign aairs of the three countries. In August 2014, the three
countries resumed the trilateral meetings and would subsequently meet on six occasions,
until the end of December 2015 (see Salman, 2016, this issue, for more details).
The main conclusion to take from this trajectory of change is that despite a level of
openness from Egypt to take part in technical talks soon after the GERD was
announced in 2011 (establishing a joint team to study the impacts of the dam), not
long after, technical cooperation was once again overridden by political considerations,
causing securitization to again trump cooperation and leading to a very complex
technical-cum-political process. Nevertheless, the trilateral process did lead to an
agreement being signed by the three riparian states, as discussed next.
An agreed trilateral framework and new cooperation norms
The trajectory to trilateral interaction between 2011 and 2014 reveals the co-existence of
cooperation and conict, which is actually very often the case in transboundary water
interaction in many river basins (Zeitoun & Mirumachi, 2008). There is on the one
hand a form of all-three-inclusive technical and now political cooperation, but on the
other lingering diplomatic conicts, in particular between Ethiopia and Egypt. As in the
past, the countries were operating without a common legal agreement in place. The
trilateral cooperation initiated in May 2011 can be considered as an ad hoc type of
cooperation and specic to the GERD project. This takes us back to the importance of
legal agreements in the transboundary hydropolitical interaction between Nile ripar-
ians. The ocial Ethiopian position is that the CFA remains the legal framework of
reference and the one that institutionalizes all guiding legal principles on water
resources management and development in the Nile Basin (Ethiopian Herald, 2015b).
However, this is not the case for Egypt and Sudan, both of which have not signed the
agreement and still have strong reservations regarding the text. Egypt maintains a
strong stance against the CFA and is still calling on upstream neighbours to renegotiate
the text (Ahram Online, 2015). Generally speaking, Egypt remains in favour of agree-
ments that oer guarantees that developments upstream will not aect what it calls
national water security. These two very dierent stances, however, did not prevent
high-level ocials of Ethiopia and Egypt (as well as Sudan) from signing a new
instrument, which indicates, perhaps, that in the nal analysis the dierent positions
are not totally irreconcilable.
Several rounds of high-level bilateral and trilateral talks at the beginning of 2015
culminated in a preliminary draft of an agreement for the GERD, and in early March
the ministers of water resources and foreign aairs of the three countries jointly
announced that a historical deal was being nalized which represented the beginning
of a new era of cooperation. On 23 March 2015, the Declaration of Principles for the
GERD was signed in Khartoum by the three heads of state. The declaration was
considered a historical deal, bringing together for the rst time the three Eastern Nile
countries around guiding principles on cooperative relations. Among its 10 principles,
several are commonly accepted principles of international water law, such as no
signicant harmand equitable and reasonable utilization; but they also include
principles more related to technical issues such as dam security, dam lling, operations
policy and exchange of information (Agreement, 2015). To rearm these principles,
overcome challenges and give political and technical drive to the declaration, Sudans
water and foreign aairs ministers organized new rounds of trilateral meetings in
Khartoum in late 2015, and on 28 December the Khartoum Accord was formally signed
by all (Sudan Tribune, 2015; see also Salman, 2016, this issue). In hydropolitical terms
the outcome is that these legal instruments cement a new hydropolitical reality in the
Eastern Nile, one that includes the GERD as a fact on the ground recognized by all
three Eastern Nile riparians. This is a very signicant tipping pointfor cooperation in
the Eastern Nile Basin, and one that is establishing a very dierent set of norms and
processes than had hitherto existed under the NBI and ENTRO institutions. Technical
cooperation in this manner is more specic and project-oriented than the studies
conducted under ENTRO, for example. Cooperation on GERD is country-
driven and has almost no involvement from external partners, counting on technical
and nancial support from the countries themselves (and not development partners).
Egypt has in eect returned to trilateral collaboration and talks with the neighbours and
has shown openness to concrete discussion of upstream hydraulic projects. Moreover,
the three countries have successfully reached an agreement at the heads-of-state level.
The ultimate outcome is a new large-scale dam on the Blue Nile that started life as an
idea at a multilateral level under the JMP-ENTRO project, before re-emerging as a
national-level Ethiopian project, which was later enshrined in a trilateral legal-political
agreement with Egypt and Sudan.
In conclusion, the authors of this article consider that the in-depth analysis of the
process regarding the GERD (between 2011 and the end of 2015) provides evidence
that dierent cooperation norms have been adopted and have subsequently brought
about key changes in transboundary interaction across the Eastern Nile countries.
Ultimately it has contributed to reactivating the trilateral relations between Egypt,
Ethiopia and Sudan that had been in a stalemate since Egypt and Sudan froze
participation in the NBI in mid-2010. The next section discusses how the GERD
process might contribute to unlocking other challenges in basin-wide cooperation in
the Eastern Nile Basin.
GERD: a shaper of future cooperation developments
This nal, more forward-looking section explores how near completion of the GERD
and emerging relationships between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan are likely to shape the
future of transboundary cooperation in the basin. This includes increasing understand-
ing of the tangible economic benets that multilateral cooperation can oer to regional
and national economies and by raising awareness amongst all riparians of the need for
comprehensive and inclusive agreement and institution(s) that can guide future basin-
level developments.
As an established part of the landscape in Ethiopias Blue Nile, the sheer physical
scale and the policy impact of the GERD are unparalleled since the construction of the
High Aswan Dam in Egypt over 50 years ago. Although it will take many years for the
dams full implications to be felt and understood across the three Eastern Nile coun-
tries as did the High Aswan Damsit is nonetheless useful to sketch out potential
scenarios for cooperation. First, economically speaking, the dam will have a major
impact on the availability of energy in the Eastern Nile. It will substantially increase
available hydropower in the three Eastern Nile countries, with immediate benets for
Sudan and, potentially, longer-term benets for Egypt if it connects to regional power
grids, including those planned under the Eastern Africa Power Pool. It is possible,
therefore, that the GERD and other future hydropower dams upstream on the Blue Nile
could provide substantial incentives for future economic cooperation and trade between
Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. In the longer term, too, the unlocking of economic devel-
opment potential in Ethiopia and Sudan through energy production and use could
support wider structural changes in both economies, providing new trade and invest-
ment opportunities for Egypt. In common with other upstream countries, Ethiopia is
struggling to transition from a largely agrarian and commodity-dominated economy
with limited employment generation to a more diversied, urbanized and industrialized
economy that can oer employment for its rapidly growing, economically active
population. Foreign direct investment from neighbouring countries, including Egypt,
could contribute to this goal and provide a basis for the deepening of regional economic
and political integration, eventually benetting all regional economies. Energy produc-
tion (and sale) from the GERD could help trigger this.
Besides, the construction and operation of the GERD itself is likely to demonstrate a
set of wider potential economic benets that other similar projects could also generate.
This would further strengthen the case for more pooling of power resources, co-
development of hydropower dams and co-management of other basin resources
(including land for irrigation and wider ecosystems). The emphasis on coordination
and cooperation to generate and trade in economic (and natural capital) goods is an
essential underpinning to future basin-wide cooperation processes. In brief, the GERD
and its anticipated outcomes in terms of energy, economic development and regional
trade will help demonstrate in the most tangible ways that joint developments bring
shared benets in a way that earlier fast-trackprojects under the NBI managed to
only partially deliver, due to their smaller scale and slower implementation.
Second, at a political level the diplomatic process triggered by the GERD is likely to
have a number of long-term consequences for cooperation. Under the tripartite agree-
ment signed in March 2015, Egypt has, in eect, decided to enter into a formal legal-
political arrangement with its upstream neighbours. This, de facto, lies outside the
bounds of the 1959 agreement with Sudan and therefore suggests a willingness to
negotiate future decisions in legally binding agreements that go beyond existing treaties.
For upstream states, this could signal a new Egyptian accommodation with future
infrastructure developments, enshrining the realpolitik of recent years in new rules of
the game Egypt seemingly recognizing the inevitability of upstream developments and
around which it has started negotiating separate agreements. The GERD process has,
therefore, contributed to extending the discussion about tangible and future hydraulic
developments in the Basin. At the same time, the GERD has contributed to countries
sharing more publicly their water and economic needs and national plans (including
new directions from Sudan on future water and development priorities). Overall, this is
contributing to a more realistic debate on the shape and direction of future co-
development of the Nile waters.
In an institutional sense, the GERD has also helped champion dialogue over dispute.
It has shown that countries that have hitherto held largely antagonistic positions on
upstream development can, through dialogue, achieve compromise and agreement.
This is an extremely important departure from hitherto prevailing situations in which
countries were reluctant to commit to negotiated agreements. In the longer term this
might contribute to strengthening the NBIsraison dêtre, illustrating a tilt towards
cooperation rather than conict in spite of dicult and convoluted past hydropolitical
relations. The NBI can, therefore, legitimately claim to be the most signicant and
durable truly basin-wide institution in which to enshrine this cooperation. For example,
Sudans response to GERD has strengthened rather than weakened the NBI, not least
because it has illustrated the modern relevance of the NBI over the more historically
bound institution of the half-century-old 1959 Nile Waters Agreement with Egypt. This
institutionalization of a new basin politicssuggests that the NBI and ENSAP will
remain the logical environment for future projects on the Blue Nile and other sub-
basins. Much of the challenge to the NBIs cooperation until 2010 was the somewhat
naive view that all countries had similar motivations for engagement. The upstream
challenge over the CFA in particular the pace of change envisaged under NBI
investment programmes and the subsequent GERD process challenged these assump-
tions and agendas. The GERD process generated a new, more forthright debate in the
Eastern Nile, and across the Nile basin more generally. Above all, it shows that
negotiation, compromise and knowledge exchange are possible even in the most
complex political situations within a shared river basin.
There are also other important learning points from the GERD experience. It proves
that countries can cooperate simultaneously under dierent platforms. This includes
promoting dialogue on a specic project under one platform (as in the GERD case)
whilst simultaneously developing projects under other multilateral arrangements (as
Ethiopia and Sudan continue to do under ENTRO and the NBI, but also under other
institutions, including the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) and Intergovernmental
Authority on Development (IGAD). The GERD process also reminds the wider global
community that tripartite negotiations surrounding the dam represent substantial
transaction costs in the absence of other prior agreements between countries. In future,
the proliferation of such bilateral or trilateral negotiations and agreements involving
each planned project would represent huge (and avoidable) transaction costs, which
truly multilateral arrangements could help avoid. Building into NBI processes forward
planning, assessment and evaluation of future projects not only supports more coherent
policy and planning on Nile development but also paves the way for political agreement
across a range of other projects and avoids the necessity of piecemeal negotiations over
discrete activities.
Regarding Egypt, the greatest consumer of and most dependent on Nile waters, there
is every sign that upstream developments will now take place regardless of expressed
opposition downstream. The GERD is symbolic of a relative power shift within the
basin towards upstream states, where greater demands for energy resources and the
achievement of food security drives decision-making processes. At the same time,
upstream states have acquired new means of nancing and the capacity to build
large-scale infrastructure. This reduces the hitherto political leverage capacity of down-
stream states over conventional nancing institutions. Achieving an accommodation
with these new realities is now a key challenge for Egypt. This includes avoiding a
patchwork of individual agreements under each future project upstream which could
otherwise generate high transaction costs for all concerned and require substantial time
and eort to achieve.
For wider Nile cooperation, the near completion of GERD provides a strategic
opportunity. On many levels including economic, political and diplomatic there
is a more pressing need now for a transboundary water regime informed by a basin-
wide approach and enshrined in a transboundary agreement housed within a perma-
nent river basin organization. After 15 years of experience, the NBI has strong founda-
tions on which to build such an approach, including its own strategic assessments and
the identied opportunities for joint investments between all countries. Though not
without controversy, the GERD process has, perhaps inadvertently, shone a light back
onto the NBI and the need to continue to unlock the potential for truly basin-wide
1. The authors of this article have been involved in multiple research and consultancy
activities in the Nile Basin for more than 15 years. This includes regular visits to and
engagement with stakeholders in all key Nile countries. The references list includes a
number of associated outputs.
Acknowledgement and disclaimer
The authors would like to thank to Wubalem Fekade and two anonymous reviewers for the
constructive comments on the earlier drafts of this article. The views expressed in this article are
those of the authors and do not necessarily reect the ocial policy or position of the respective
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... Meanwhile, the global food crisis of 2008 and South Sudan's independence from Sudan in 2011 convinced Sudan to refocus on the agricultural sector, for which it received foreign investments between 2008 and 2012. To proceed with an ambitious agricultural improvement plan, Sudan started raising the height of the Roseires Dam in 2010, and the country rejoined the NBI in 2012 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016;Nicol & Cascão, 2011). Given the new situation in the basin, as well as the substantial foreign investments and improved political stability in Ethiopia, this country announced the construction of GERD, with a total storage capacity of 74 km 3 , which could pose a potential water threat to Egypt and possibly to Sudan (Cascão & Nicol, 2016). ...
... To proceed with an ambitious agricultural improvement plan, Sudan started raising the height of the Roseires Dam in 2010, and the country rejoined the NBI in 2012 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016;Nicol & Cascão, 2011). Given the new situation in the basin, as well as the substantial foreign investments and improved political stability in Ethiopia, this country announced the construction of GERD, with a total storage capacity of 74 km 3 , which could pose a potential water threat to Egypt and possibly to Sudan (Cascão & Nicol, 2016). Although the JMP did not continue because financial support was reduced, the negotiations were ongoing among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia, as Egypt considers GERD an existential water threat. ...
... It was proposed as a hypothesis that low FDI motivated Ethiopia to embrace the NBI in the 1990s (Zeitoun et al., 2011). However, with increasing FDI after 2011 (Figure 4.4), Ethiopia's willingness to cooperate with Sudan and Egypt declined (Cascão & Nicol, 2016). Figure 4.4 also reveals Egypt's changing FDI, which is connected to cooperative events in the basin in 2007 and 2015. ...
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For decades, the interaction between water and people has attracted hydrologists’ attention. However, the coevolution of social and natural processes, which occurs across a range of time scales, has not yet been adequately characterized. This research gap has motivated more research in recent years under the umbrella of “socio-hydrology”. The purpose of socio-hydrology is to posit the endogeneity of humans in a hydrological system and then to investigate feedback mechanisms between hydrological and human systems that might lead to emergent phenomena. The current state-of-the-art in socio-hydrology faces several challenges that include (1) a tenuous connection of socio-hydrology to broader research on social, economic, and policy aspects of water resources, (2) the (in)capability of socio-hydrological models to capture human behavior by generic feedback mechanisms that can be extrapolated to other places, and (3) unsatisfying calibration or validation processes in modeling. To address the first gap, a socio-hydrology study needs to connect proper social theories on water-related human decision making with a water resource model based on a given context and scale. Addressing the second gap calls for socio-hydrology research with case studies in different and contrasting regions and at different scales. In fact, such study can shed light on the similarities and differences in socio-hydrological systems in different contexts and scales as initial steps for future research. The third research gap calls for a socio-hydrology study that improves calibration and validation processes. Thus, to address all these gaps in one thesis, two case studies with completely different environments are chosen to investigate various phenomena at different scales. The research presented here contributes to socio-hydrological understanding at two spatial scales. To account for the heterogeneity of human decision making and its interactions with the hydrologic system, an agent-based modeling (ABM) approach is used in this research. The first objective is to explore human adaptation to drought as well as the subsequent expected or unexpected effects on the agricultural sector and to develop a socio-hydrological model to predict agricultural water demand. To do so, an agent-based agricultural water demand model (ABAD) is developed. This model is applied to the Bow River Basin in Alberta, Canada, as a study region, which has recently experienced drought periods. The second objective is to explore conflict-and-cooperation processes in transboundary rivers as socio-hydrological phenomena at a large scale. The Eastern Nile Basin Socio-hydrological (ENSH) model is developed and applied to the Eastern Nile Basin (ENB) in Africa in which conflict-and-cooperation dynamics can be seen among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The ENSH model aims to quantify and simulate these countries’ willingness to cooperate in the ENB. ABAD demonstrates (1) how farmers’ attitudes toward profits, risk aversion, environmental protection, social interaction, and irrigation expansion explain the dynamics of the water demand and (2) how the conservation program may paradoxically lead to the rebound phenomenon whereby the water demand may increase after decreasing through modernized irrigation systems. Through the ABAD model analysis, economic factors are found to dominantly control possible rebounds. Based on the insights gained via the model analysis, it is discussed that several strategies, including community participation and water restrictions, can be adopted to avoid the rebound phenomenon in irrigation systems. Fostering farmers’ awareness about the average water use in their community could be a means to avoid the rebound phenomenon through community participation. Also, another strategy to avoid the rebound phenomenon could be to reassign water allocations to reduce farmers’ water rights. The ENSH model showed that (1) socio-political factors (i.e., relative political stability and foreign direct investment) can explain two historical trends (i.e., (a) fluctuations in Ethiopia’s willingness to cooperate between 1983 and 2009 and (b) a decreasing Ethiopia’s willingness to cooperate between 2009 and 2016); (2) the 2008 food crisis (i.e., Sudan’s food gap) may account for Sudan recovering its willingness to cooperate; and (3) Egypt’s political (in)stability plays a role in its willingness to cooperate. The outcomes of this research can provide valuable insights to support policymakers for the long-term sustainability of water planning. This research investigates two main socio-hydrological phenomena at different spatial scales: the agricultural rebound phenomenon at a small geographical scale and the conflict and cooperation phenomena at a large geographical scale. The emergence of these phenomena can be a complex resultant of interaction and feedback mechanisms between the social system at the individual, institutional, and society levels and the hydrological system. Through developing quantitative socio-hydrological models, this research investigates the feedback mechanisms that may lead to the rebound phenomenon at a small scale and the conflict and cooperation phenomenon at a large scale. Finally, the research shows how these socio-hydrological models can be used for sustainable water management to avoid negative long-term consequences.
... To proceed with an ambitious agricultural improvement plan, Sudan started raising the height of the Roseires Dam in 2010, and the country rejoined the NBI in 2012 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016;Nicol & Cascão, 2011). Ethiopia, given its improved political stability, the changed situation in the basin and the substantial foreign direct investments, announced the construction of GERD, with a total storage capacity of 74 km 3 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016 125 so, although the JMP did not continue because of reduced financial support, negotiations among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia were ongoing (Cascão & Nicol, 2016), resulting in signing a declaration on GERD in 2015 (Agreement on Declaration of Principles between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, 2015). ...
... To proceed with an ambitious agricultural improvement plan, Sudan started raising the height of the Roseires Dam in 2010, and the country rejoined the NBI in 2012 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016;Nicol & Cascão, 2011). Ethiopia, given its improved political stability, the changed situation in the basin and the substantial foreign direct investments, announced the construction of GERD, with a total storage capacity of 74 km 3 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016 125 so, although the JMP did not continue because of reduced financial support, negotiations among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia were ongoing (Cascão & Nicol, 2016), resulting in signing a declaration on GERD in 2015 (Agreement on Declaration of Principles between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, 2015). According to this declaration, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt would agree on a guideline of the GERD filling and operation phases, with the dam owner reserving the right to adjust the rules from time to time, informing downstream countries of the situation leading to 130 this adjustment. ...
... To proceed with an ambitious agricultural improvement plan, Sudan started raising the height of the Roseires Dam in 2010, and the country rejoined the NBI in 2012 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016;Nicol & Cascão, 2011). Ethiopia, given its improved political stability, the changed situation in the basin and the substantial foreign direct investments, announced the construction of GERD, with a total storage capacity of 74 km 3 (Cascão & Nicol, 2016 125 so, although the JMP did not continue because of reduced financial support, negotiations among Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia were ongoing (Cascão & Nicol, 2016), resulting in signing a declaration on GERD in 2015 (Agreement on Declaration of Principles between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan, 2015). According to this declaration, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt would agree on a guideline of the GERD filling and operation phases, with the dam owner reserving the right to adjust the rules from time to time, informing downstream countries of the situation leading to 130 this adjustment. ...
While conflict-and-cooperation phenomena in transboundary basins have been widely studied, much less work has been devoted to representing the process interactions in a quantitative way. This paper identifies the main factors in the riparian countries’ willingness to cooperate in the Eastern Nile River Basin, involving Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, from 1983 to 2016. We propose a quantitative model of the willingness to cooperate at the national and river basin scales. Our results suggest that relative political stability and foreign direct investment can explain Ethiopia’s decreasing willingness to cooperate between 2009 and 2016. Further, we show that the 2008 food crisis may account for Sudan recovering its willingness to cooperate with Ethiopia. Long-term lack of trust among the riparian countries may have reduced basin-wide cooperation. While the proposed model has some limitations regarding model assumptions and parameters, it does provide a quantitative representation of the evolution of cooperation pathways among the riparian countries, which can be used to explore the effects of changes in future dam operation and other management decisions on the emergence of conflict and cooperation in the basin.
... Another evidence that supports the hypothesis of division among the riparians is the theory of counter-hegemony. In the RNB a unilateral construction of hydropower infrastructure signaled a strategic opportunity for the co-riparians to proceed to an establishment of a new water regime in the basin (Cascão & Nicol, 2016). Such an action was connected in the literature as a tactic of counter-hegemony. ...
... The success of it would be, however, based on a renegotiation of the 1959 Agreement to create win-win solutions for downstream and upstream countries (Block et al., 2007). Cascão and Nicol (2016) observe that the GERD is the "outcome of failed expectations" because of the constant failure of the institutional and legal level to reach consensus regarding water allocation issues. ...
... As already mentioned, it was the political and economic changes at the national level in Ethiopia which increased the internal energy demand. This fact is one of the key factors which contributed to the construction of the GERD and this creation of a "sense of urgency" regarding water development (Cascão & Nicol, 2016). This unilateral process of construction was the result of the lack of regional collaboration which in turn resulted from the slow process of the NBI and the political disagreements. ...
This study analyses the role of water in the geopolitics of the Middle East and North Africa focusing on the river Nile basin. The main objective of the dissertation is the analysis of the dividing forces in the transboundary water interaction in the Nile basin and how can these unify the basin-states. This involves firstly an exploration of the regional and international features of the basin which contributed to the narrative of water wars. Secondly, an application of the hydro-hegemony theory to identify how power and strategies established and maintained a hegemonic social order. Thirdly, an exploration of the cultural concepts and their unifying character and lastly the validity and efficiency of the historical development of the legal agreements and institutions. A subordinate objective of this study is the examination of the relationship between the geopolitical position in a transboundary river basin and the power of a state. This is analyzed by a brief exploration of the Jordan and Tigris-Euphrates basins emphasizing on their comparison with the Nile River.
... The scoping study team concluded that the best investment opportunities for a joint multipurpose project were in the Blue Nile Basin in Ethiopia. Egyptian policymakers and technical experts contested this conclusion and argued that there were promising options for a joint multipurpose project in the Baro-Akobo-Sobat Basin 23 . This disagreement on the scoping study's main conclusion led to a loss of political momentum and eventually failure to achieve the JMP goals 23 . ...
... Egyptian policymakers and technical experts contested this conclusion and argued that there were promising options for a joint multipurpose project in the Baro-Akobo-Sobat Basin 23 . This disagreement on the scoping study's main conclusion led to a loss of political momentum and eventually failure to achieve the JMP goals 23 . In 2011, Ethiopia unilaterally started the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). ...
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The landscape of water infrastructure in the Nile Basin is changing with the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Although this dam could improve electricity supply in Ethiopia and its neighbors, there is a lack of consensus between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt on the dam operation. We introduce a new modeling framework that simulates the Nile River System and Egypt’s macroeconomy, with dynamic feedbacks between the river system and the macroeconomy. Because the two systems “coevolve” throughout multi-year simulations, we term this a “coevolutionary” modeling framework. The framework is used to demonstrate that a coordinated operating strategy could allow the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to help meet water demands in Egypt during periods of water scarcity and increase hydropower generation and storage in Ethiopia during high flows. Here we show the hydrological and macroeconomic performance of this coordinated strategy compared to a strategy that resembles a recent draft proposal for the operation of the dam discussed in Washington DC.
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Increasing hydrological variability, accelerating population growth and urbanisation, and the resurgence of water resources development projects have all indicated increasing tension among the riparian countries of transboundary rivers. While a wide range of disciplines develop their understandings of conflict and cooperation in transboundary river basins, few process-based interdisciplinary approaches are available for investigating the mechanism of conflict and cooperation. This article aims to develop a meta-theoretical socio-hydrological framework that brings the slow and less visible societal processes into existing hydrological–economic models and enables observations of the change in the cooperation process and the societal processes underlying this change, thereby contributing to revealing the mechanism that drives conflict and cooperation. This framework can act as a “middle ground”, providing a system of constituent disciplinary theories and models for developing formal models according to a specific problem or system under investigation. Its potential applicability is demonstrated in the Nile, Lancang–Mekong, and Columbia rivers.
This chapter examines the architecture of transboundary water governance and its dominant approaches to tackling the global degradation of freshwater resources, such as rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers. The chapter presents two case studies to exemplify the dominant logic of freshwater governance. The first case study examines the international governance logic in the South American Rio de la Plata River Basin, one of the most biodiverse and agriculturally intensive river basins worldwide. The second case study examines water conflicts in the Nile River Basin, the world’s longest river. A third case study presents a radical alternative to the traditional freshwater governance approaches and sheds light on the pioneering decisions made in New Zealand, India and Colombia in 2017 to grant legal personhood to several rivers.
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Increasing hydrologic variability, accelerating population growth, and resurgence of water resources development projects have all indicated increasing tensions among the riparian countries of transboundary rivers. This article aims to review the existing knowledge on conflict and cooperation in transboundary rivers from a multidisciplinary perspective and propose a socio-hydrological framework that integrates the slow and less visible societal processes with existing hydrological-economic models, revealing the hidden feedbacks between changes in societal processes and hydrological changes. This framework contributes to understanding the mechanism that drives conflict and cooperation in transboundary river management.
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An important transition is underway across the world: we are relying less and less on fossil fuels to power our homes, offices, and industries, and more and more on inexhaustible sources like solar and wind power. But the sun does not always shine and the winds do not always blow. For this reason, we need to design our future electricity systems in a smart way, so that solar and wind power do not cause problems to security of supply. In Africa, where security of supply would require massively expanding currently inadequate power grids in the first place (or having a power grid at all, in some cases), this might seem to be a much larger challenge than elsewhere. However, as argued in this thesis, this also presents an opportunity for the African continent. An opportunity to contribute to sustainable development by reducing dependence on large hydropower. An opportunity to leapfrog the fossil fuel-based electricity grids of the "Global North". And an opportunity to become a global frontrunner and role model for large-scale renewable electricity generation.
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In the debate on Africa’s structural transformation, the demographic and spatial dimensions have been overlooked. This chapter analyses the challenges and opportunities brought about by the rapid growth of urban and rural populations, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that development strategies must focus not just on economic sectors, but also on people and places. Regional development can promote spatial inclusion and unlock the potential of African economies.
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This paper serves international water conflict resolution efforts by examining the ways that states contest hegemonic transboundary water arrangements. The conceptual framework of dynamic transboundary water interaction that it presents integrates theories about change and counter-hegemony to ascertain coercive, leverage, and liberating mechanisms through which contest and transformation of an arrangement occur. While the mechanisms can be active through sociopolitical processes either of compliance or of contest of the arrangement, most transboundary water interaction is found to contain elements of both. The role of power asymmetry is interpreted through classification of intervention strategies that seek to either influence or challenge the arrangements. Coexisting contest and compliance serve to explain in part the stasis on the Jordan and Ganges rivers (where the non-hegemons have in effect consented to the arrangement), as well as the changes on the Tigris and Mekong rivers, and even more rapid changes on the Amu Darya and Nile rivers (where the non-hegemons have confronted power asymmetry through influence and challenge). The framework also stresses how transboundary water events that may appear isolated are more accurately read within the many sociopolitical processes and arrangements they are shaped by. By clarifying the typically murky dynamics of interstate relations over transboundary waters, furthermore, the framework exposes a new suite of entry points for hydro-diplomatic initiatives.
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A modelling study is performed to evaluate interannual and decadal-scale streamflow variability into the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) reservoir and comparison of various filling strategies for hydropower and downstream releases to Sudan and Egypt from this dam. To capture these aspects, simulations of probabilistic streamflow via wavelet analysis are produced to define the propensity towards wetter or drier conditions for absolute, threshold and percentage-based filling strategies. Absolute filling strategies have lower uncertainty than percentage-based strategies, benefiting upstream planning; however, downstream releases may be near zero on occasion. Consensus among the riparian countries prior to initiation of filling is strongly encouraged.
The escalation of tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt over the construction of the Grand Renaissance is at least partly based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the risks this dam poses to Egypt. There is a two-part, win–win deal that can defuse tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia. First, Ethiopia needs to agree with Egypt and Sudan on rules for filling the Grand Renaissance Dam (GRD) reservoir and on operating rules during periods of drought. Second, Egypt needs to acknowledge that Ethiopia has a right to develop its water resources infrastructure for the benefit of its people based on the principle of equitable use, and agree not to block the power trade agreements that Ethiopia needs with Sudan to make the GRD financially viable. Sudan has a big stake in Egyptian–Ethiopian reconciliation over the use of the Nile. Although Sudan's agricultural and hydropower interests now align with those of Ethiopia, there does not seem to be a formal agreement between Ethiopia and Sudan for the sale of hydropower from the GRD. Because the economic feasibility of the GRD and other Ethiopian hydropower projects will depend on such agreements, Sudan has leverage with both Ethiopia and Egypt to encourage this win–win deal.
Negotiations over the GERD have not transformed the debate in the Eastern Nile from sharing water to sharing benefits. Nationalistic discourse used by the three governments, the political sensitivity of the Nile issue, cautious Egyptian approach towards Eastern Nile cooperation beyond the project, divisions within policy circles in Egypt on dealing with the project and with the NBI as a framework of cooperation, the failure of Egypt to adapt its water policies to expected changes in the post-GERD era, and the new power asymmetries in the Eastern Nile have affected, and will continue to affect, positions in ongoing negotiations, making it more difficult to reach a benefit-sharing deal.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which Ethiopia started constructing in 2011, presented major challenges to the notion of existing rights and uses of the Nile waters asserted by Egypt and Sudan. Through an incremental approach based on gaining time, Ethiopia succeeded in making the GERD a reality, bolstered four years later, in 2015, by the signature by the three countries of two instruments: the Declaration of Principles and the Khartoum Document. The article traces and follows the developments regarding the GERD since 2011, and the escalation of the dispute thereon with Egypt and Sudan, discusses the two instruments, and analyzes the new legal order emanating therefrom. It concludes with an examination of the opportunities forgone as a result of the riparians’ unilateral development plans, and those to be gained through cooperation.
Many developing countries sharing water resources of international river basins are facing serious problems in meeting their rapidly growing demands for domestic, irrigation, industrial, power, and other uses due to riparian conflicts. They complain that the Bank is not playing a proactive role in promoting cooperative arrangements and fostering resolution of riparian conflicts for efficient utilization of their shared water resources for economic development. This report describes the Bank's successful interventions in three international river basins-the Indus, the Mekong and the Aral Sea-to foster riparian cooperation and agreements. It discusses the key features of the Bank's role and the following strategies: intervening solely to promote development and peace; timing interventions when issues were serious, when riparians were not able to address them on their own, and when they needed and wanted Bank assistance; initiating dialogue with riparian countries at the highest levels to inspire confidence; playing a proactive role in exploring pragmatic solutions acceptable to all parties rather than pursuing ideal solutions which were not workable; using quiet diplomacy in negotiating sensitive issues; making the required long-term staff and budgetary commitment despite uncertainty of final outcome; mobilizing donor countries' support; and analyzing risks and taking appropriate measures to minimize them. The paper concludes that the Bank can succeed in other international river basins also if it follows the same strategies which ensured its success in the Indus, the Mekong, and the Aral Sea basins. It emphasizes the compelling need for addressing the concerns of developing countries sharing water resources of international river basins and recommends a proactive Bank role.