Article 11

11.1 Commentary

Article 11 of the UN Watercourses Convention serves as a bridge to the more general substantive norms, such as those rights and obligations described above in Part II, and the procedural aspects of Part III which deal with the provision of information and the consultation process regarding planned measures. Part III postulates a general obligation of watercourse states to provide their co-riparians with information concerning the possible effects that planned measures might have on the condition of an international watercourse. Furthermore, the article requires watercourse states to consult with each other, and if necessary to negotiate, on the effects of such measures.

The general rule of prior notification has reached the status of a customary international legal obligation; it is applicable regardless of whether a special agreement between the initiating and the potentially affected states exists.257 This explains the use of the word ‘shall’ – being mandatory – rather than following the mere recommendatory approach of the 1966 Helsinki Rules.258 However, it should be noted that, subject to compliance with the procedural and substantive obligations of the Convention, states do not necessarily have a veto right over the development of an international watercourse.259


257 Wouters and others, Sharing Transboundary Waters : An Integrated Assessment of Equitable Entitlement: The Legal Assessment Model at 24.

258 Article XXIX (1) of the 1966 Helsinki Rules: ‘With a view to preventing disputes from arising between basin States as to their legal rights or other interests, it is recommended that each basin State furnish relevant and reasonably available information to the other basin states concerning the waters of a drainage basin within its territory and its use of, and activities with respect to such waters.’

259 S Vinogradov, P Wouters and P Jones, Transforming Potential Conflict into Cooperation Potential: The Role of International Water Law (UNESCO 2003) at 19.

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