Article 19

19.1 Commentary


Article 19 of the UN Watercourses Convention addresses planned measures which are of the ‘utmost urgency in order to protect public health, public safety or other equally important interests’. Those measures should not be confused with ‘emergency situations’, which are dealt with under Article 28. Article 19 concerns highly exceptional cases in which interests of overriding importance require the immediate implementation of planned measures – without the need to wait for the expiry of the periods established for the reply to notification and for consultations and negotiations.305 The language of the Article is supposed to guard against potential abuse of the narrow exception it lays down.

Paragraph 1 refers to the kinds of interests that must be involved in order for a state to be entitled to proceed to implementation under Article 19. The interests in question are those of the highest order of importance, such as protecting the population from the danger of flooding or issues of vital national security. Paragraph 1 also contains a waiver of the waiting periods provided for under Article 14 and Article 17(3). The right of the state to proceed to implementation is, however, subject to its obligations under paragraphs 2 and 3.

Paragraph 2 requires a state which proceeds with the measures to immediately provide the ‘other watercourse states referred to in Article 12’ with a formal communication of the urgency of such measures, together with all relevant data and information. Again, these requirements are intended to adhere to the principle of ‘good faith’ when a state proceeds to implementation, as well as ensuring that the other states are informed as fully as possible at the particular point in time of the potential impacts of the measures. The ‘other watercourse states’ are those upon which the measures ‘may have a significant adverse effect’ under Article 12.

The last paragraph of Article 19 requires that the state which proceeds to immediate implementation enters ‘promptly’ into consultations and negotiations with the other state(s) concerned, if and when requested to do so by those states.306 Again, the process of consultations and negotiations has to be carried out in the fashion indicated in Article 17(1) and (2) – i.e. on the basis of ‘good faith’ and with the goal to achieve ‘an equitable resolution of the situation’.

305 1994 Draft Articles at 118, Article 19, para 1.

306 1994 Draft Articles at 118, Article 19, para 3.

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