Legal Basis:

i) Historical Treaties and Agreements

A series of colonial-era agreements affect use of the Nile River. Two commonly cited agreements in terms of water allocation and the purported rights of riparians include a 1929 Exchange of Notes between His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Egyptian Government in Regard to the Use of the Waters of the River Nile for Irrigation Purposes, and the 1959 Agreement between the Republic of Sudan and the United Arab Republic (of Egypt) for the Full Utilization of the Nile Waters.

Following Sudan’s independence from British and Egyptian rule in 1956, Sudan urged renegotiation of the terms of the 1929 Agreement. The 1959 Agreement governs the control of certain projects concerning the Nile, as well as water allocation between Sudan and Egypt. The allocation of BCM (billion cubic meters – a measurement unit for water allocation) was changed to 55.5 annually for Egypt and 18.5 annually for Sudan. Other riparian countries were still not allocated BCM. The 1959 Agreement also commits Egypt and Sudan to adopt a “united view” on the claims of upstream riparian states. The current status of these agreements is disputed among the Nile riparian states.

ii) Nile Basin Initiative

The main focus of current efforts centers around the Nile Basin Initiative (“NBI”), although other informal cooperation among riparian countries of the Nile River Basin existed earlier. The NBI was launched in February 1999 by the water ministers of the countries that share the river—Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Eritrea (which participates as an “observer”). The NBI “seeks to develop the river in a cooperative manner, share substantial socioeconomic benefits, and promote regional peace and security” and to “provide[] an institutional mechanism, a shared vision, and a set of agreed policy guidelines to provide a basinwide framework for cooperative action.”

In November 2008, the NBI Member States signed the non-binding Khartoum Declaration, which declared the support of the NBI Member States for the “clear environment functions of the future permanent Nile River Basin Organization that include,” among other things: harmonization of environment management policies; data and information exchange; environmental impact assessment; policy, institutional, and legal analysis; and a coordinating role in climate change issues. A goal of the NBI has been to establish a “cooperative framework agreement” (“CFA”) to replace earlier bilateral treaties and to “formalize the transformation of the Nile Basin Initiative into a permanent Nile River Basin Commission.” In April 2010, seven of the Nile Basin states agreed to open the CFA for signature. Egypt and Sudan rejected this proposition, suggesting instead that all of the riparian countries issue a “presidential declaration to launch the River Nile Basin Commission as negotiations [on the CFA] continue.” Despite these disagreements, the Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework was officially opened for signature on 14 May 2010. Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda signed the CFA immediately; it will remain open for signature by other states until 13 May 2011.
Member States:

The NBI Member States are: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Eritrea, the tenth riparian country of the Nile River Basin, currently participates as an observer, but has expressed an interest in joining the NBI.Geographical Scope:

The Nile River Basin encompasses ten countries, extending from its origination at Lake Victoria to where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The basin area covers about 3.3 million square kilometers. The countries it passes through are Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Kenya.Legal Personality:

In August 2002, the Council of Ministers of Water Affairs of the Nile Basin Countries (“Nile-COM”) agreed, in Agreed Minute No. 7, to “invest the NBI, on a transitional basis, with legal personality to perform all of the functions entrusted to it, including the power to sue and be sued, and to acquire or dispose of movable and immovable property.” The Agreed Minute determined that NBI “shall enjoy in the territory of each Nile Basin State the legal personality referred to above and such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfill[ment] of its functions.” The Executive Director of the Nile Basin Secretariat (“Nile-SEC”) and the staff and officials of the NBI “shall enjoy in the territory of each Nile Basin State such privileges and immunities as are necessary for the fulfillment of their functions.”

NBI signed a headquarters agreement with Uganda in 2002, and the Nile-SEC is located in Entebbe, Uganda. In October, 2002, the Uganda legislature passed the Nile Basin Initiative Act to “confer legal status in Uganda on the Nile Basin Initiative, and otherwise give the force of law in Uganda to the signed Agreed Minute No. 7 … and to provide for other connected or incidental matters.”

In Uganda, the NBI has the capacity of “a body corporate with perpetual succession, and with power to acquire, hold, manage and dispose of movable and immovable corporate property, and to sue and be sued in its own name.” The NBI also has the capacity in Uganda to “perform any of the functions conferred upon it by and under the Agreed Minute No. 7, and to do all things, including borrowing, that are, in the opinion of the Nile Basin States or the appropriate organ of the NBI, necessary or desirable for the performance of those functions.” Additionally, NBI staff and officials are granted, in Uganda, “such privileges and immunities as are necessary for their functions,” in accordance with the provisions of Uganda’s Diplomatic Privileges Act of 1965.

According to NBI, its primary objectives are to develop the Nile Basin water resources in a sustainable and equitable way to ensure prosperity, security, and peace for all its peoples; to ensure efficient water management and optimal use of the resources; to ensure cooperation and joint action between the riparian countries; to seek win-win gains; to target poverty eradication and promote economic integration; and to ensure that the program results in a move from planning to action. The Strategic Action Program is intended to achieve these objectives by translating “this shared vision into concrete activities through a two-fold, complementary approach,” namely the Shared Vision Program (“SVP”) and investment in sub-basin activities such as the Eastern Nile (“ENSAP”) and Nile Equatorial Lakes (“NELSAP”) programs. There are a variety of currently implemented projects under these umbrella programs.

According to the World Bank, the SVP is a basin-wide program that “focuses on building institutions, sharing data and information, providing training and creating avenues for dialogue and region-wide networks needed for joint problem-solving, collaborative development, and developing multi-sector and multi-country programs of investment to develop water resources in a sustainable way.” The Nile-SEC coordinates the SVP projects, which are hosted in several NBI Member States. There have been eight SVP projects:

  • Applied Training Project: The project focused on strengthening individual capacity, as well as the institutional capacity of the Nile Basin States, in regards to the integrated management of water resources. For example, the project provided short courses for practitioners with the goal of enhancing their knowledge and skills and hosted a forum (the Nile Net) aimed at fostering cooperating and the exchange of knowledge among professionals across the Nile River Basin.
  • Confidence-Building and Stakeholder Involvement Project: The project aimed to encourage participation in the NBI by a wide variety of stakeholders, to promote examples that showcased the benefits of regional cooperation, and to provide regional activities intended to foster cross-border cooperation. The four main components of the project were: regional, sub-regional and national implementation; public information; stakeholder involvement; and confidence building.
  • Regional Power Trade Project: The project’s objectives are, inter alia, to facilitate the development of regional power markets, with a focus on technical assistance and the development of infrastructure, and to help alleviate poverty in the region by facilitating access, in an environmentally sustainable way, to more reliable and low cost power in the Nile Basin.
  • Socioeconomic and Benefits Sharing Project: The project concentrated on developing a network across the Nile River Basin consisting of economic planning and research institutions, public and private sector technical experts, sociologists, academics, civic groups, and non-governmental organizations, with the aim of investigating alternative development plans and benefit-sharing ideas.
  • Transboundary Environmental Action Project: The largest project, it focused on, inter alia: strengthening regional cooperation in regards to environmental and water management; increasing basin-wide community action and networks; fostering appreciation of river hydrology; increasing the available information concerning land and water resources that are available to professionals and non-governmental organizations in the Nile Basin States; strengthening capacity in order to combat transboundary water quality threats; and promoting awareness of transboundary water quality threats and the linkages between other policies and the environment. The project had five components, including institutional strengthening, community-level conservation, environmental education, water quality monitoring, and wetlands and biodiversity.
  • Efficient Water Use for Agriculture Project: The project’s objective was to develop a forum for stakeholders, at the regional, national and community levels, concerning the efficient use of water for agricultural production in the Nile Basin, with the aim of fostering regional dialogue, disseminating best practices and strengthening national capacity through the development of irrigation policy.
  • Water Resources Management Project: The project aims to support the development, management and protection of the Nile Basin water resources, as well as to promote the socioeconomic development in the Nile Basin. The project is focused on improving national water policies through the use of good practices and integrated water resources management, enacting cross-border projects, and developing a Nile Basin Decision Support System to exchange information, support dialogue and identify investment projects.
  • Shared Vision Coordination Project: This project, which was established at the Nile-SEC, was responsible for overseeing the implementation of the other seven projects. The project was also charged with developing procedures concerning quality control and fiduciary duties, performing monitoring and evaluation of the projects, and promoting information sharing among both the NBI and the public. Overall objectives of the project include enhancing NBI’s capacity to conduct basin-wide programs and providing effective oversight and coordination.

All of the SVP projects, except the Regional Power Trade Project and the Water Resources Management Project, were completed by December 2009.

The ENSAP and NELSAP programs support NBI cooperative investment projects. ENSAP includes Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan, while NELSAP includes Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as Egypt and Sudan.

ENSAP is led by the Eastern Nile Council of Ministers (“ENCOM”), comprised of the Water Ministers in the three Eastern Nile countries, and an ENSAP Team (“ENSAPT”) formed of three technical country teams. ENSAP’s objective is to achieve joint action on the ground in order to promote poverty alleviation, economic growth and reversal of environmental degradation. ENCOM established the Eastern Nile Technical Regional Office (“ENTRO”) in 2001. ENTRO, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, manages and coordinates ENSAP projects.

According to the NBI, NELSAP’s objectives, as defined by the Nile Equatorial Lakes Council of Ministers, are also to “contribute to the eradication of poverty, promote economic growth, and reverse environmental degradation.” The Nile Equatorial Lakes riparian states identified twelve NELSAP projects and, in 2001, established a Coordination Unit (“NEL-CU”) in Entebbe, Uganda, subsequently relocated to Kigali, Rwanda, to facilitate project preparation and implementation.
Organizational Structure:

The Nile-COM is the highest decision-making body of, and provides policy guidance to, the NBI. The Chairpersonship of the Nile-COM rotates on an annual basis. The Technical Advisory Committee (“Nile-TAC”), established in 1998, renders technical advice and assistance to Nile-COM, and the Nile-SEC, established in 1999, renders administrative services to both Nile-COM and Nile-TAC. Nile-SEC’s core functions are self-financed by the NBI Member States.Relationships:

NBI programs are supported by international donors as participants in the International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile. SeeFunding and Financing.Decision Making:

The Nile-COM is the highest decision-making body of the NBI. SeeOrganizational Structure.Dispute Resolution:

No specific provision.Data Information Sharing, Exchange, and Harmonization:

Numerous SVP projects involved data sharing – such as the projects on Transboundary Environmental Action, Efficient Water Use for Agriculture, and Water Resources Management. SeeFunctions.Notifications:

No specific provision.Funding and Financing:

The costs of Nile-COM, Nile-TAC, and Nile-SEC are financed by the Nile Basin Member States through annual dues. The Nile Basin Member States also provide counterpart funds for all NBI projects and contribute additional funds to the Nile-SEC. The financing of the local costs of SVP project management units is also borne by the host NBI Member State. Nile-COM requested World Bank assistance to coordinate donor involvement, and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (“UNDP”) and the Canadian International Development Agency (“CIDA”), established the International Consortium for Cooperation on the Nile (“ICCON”). ICCON held a Consultative Group meeting in 2001 where development partners committed approximately US $130 million to the NBI.

In 2003, a World Bank managed, multi-donor trust fund was established. The majority of funds supporting NBI programs and projects are administered through this Nile Basin Trust Fund (“NBTF”). The NBTF is overseen by a Committee comprised of contributors to the fund, the NBI, and the World Bank. The NBTF Committee Rules of Procedure outline the operation and responsibilities of the Committee. Formal NBTF Committee meetings are held once a year in one of the Nile Basin Member States.

According to the World Bank, the NBTF transfers funds to the NBI, which then carries out the implementation of project activities since almost all (95%) of the project activities are recipient-executed. The NBTF supports the implementation of the SVP, as well as sub-basin investment programs in the ENSAP and the NELSAP. As progress is made in program implementation and establishing a permanent institutional framework for the NBI, the goal is to transfer the NBTF to a NBI institution.

Donors to the NBTF include: Canada, Denmark, the European Commission, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank. Other bilateral and multilateral NBI development partners include: the African Development Bank, Germany, the Global Environment Facility (“GEF”), Italy, Japan, Switzerland, the UNDP, and the United States.
Benefit Sharing:

SeeFunctions, discussing the SVP Socioeconomic and Benefits Sharing Project, which was an initiative to explore development options for the Nile River Basin and to determine and evaluate benefit-sharing schemes.Compliance and Monitoring:

Responsibility for compliance and monitoring of NBI’s SVP projects rests with the Nile-SEC under the banner of the Shared Vision Coordination Project. Oversight of the NBTF currently rests with the NBTF Committee through the World Bank. SeeFunding and Financing.Participation and the Role of Multiple Stakeholders:

Some affiliate initiatives have been organized with the aim of involving non-governmental organizations and civil society in the work of the NBI, including the Nile Basin Discourse (“NBD”), which is funded by international partners. See alsoFunctions, especially the SVP Confidence-Building and Stakeholder Involvement and Efficient Water Use for Agriculture Projects.
Dissolution and Termination:

No specific provision.Additional Remarks:

N/AWebsites and References:


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