Article 33

33.1.2 Background to Article 33

The drafting of Article 33 gave rise to significant controversy over whether or not it was appropriate for a framework convention to contain dispute settlement provisions and whether, and to what extent, the dispute settlement mechanisms should be compulsory.480 Article 33 in its final form reflected a compromise, including a range of diplomatic and legal dispute settlement provisions based on the rationale of Article 1(1), Article 2(3) and Article 33 of the UN Charter, that states are under a general obligation to settle disputes peacefully and in good faith but are free to choose the methods for dispute settlement.

Since the UN Watercourses Convention was first negotiated, the subject matter of international water disputes and the kinds of disputants have changed and increasingly reflect conflicts between several competing water users in two or more states – and now involve numerous actors besides national governments.481 However, Article 33 of the UN Convention (not to be confused with Article 33 of the UN Charter) contains a broad range of mechanisms which should provide the flexibility required to meet these changing characteristics of water disputes.

Article 33 of the UN Watercourses Convention is also residual in nature, which means it applies where the watercourse states concerned do not have an applicable agreement for the settlement of such disputes (Article 33 (1)).482


480 While one group of states supported compulsory and binding means of dispute settlement as part of the Convention (Finland, Hungary, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria See U.N. Doc. A/51/275 at 67; UN Doc A/C.6/51/SR.20 at 11; and UN Doc. A/51/275/Add.3, at 12), others considered this approach to be too rigid and unsuitable for a framework document (Ethiopia: (U.N. Doc. A/C.6/51/SR.20) China, India, Israel and Rwanda objected) and argued that such matters should be left to the discretion of the states concerned (Turkey: UN Doc. A/51/275, at 68) and finally the U.S. and Venezuela thought the provision should be left as proposed. See Wouters ‘Universal and Regional Approaches to Resolving International Water Disputes: What Lessons Learned from State Practice?’ at 121.

481 Brown Weiss, ‘The Evolution of International Water Law’ at 270.

482 1994 Draft Articles at 134.

Purposes and Principles of the UN Charter related to dispute settlement

One of the purposes of the United Nations, set out in Article 1(1) of the Charter, is ‘to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace’.

Article 2(3) of the Charter provides that in pursuit of such purposes states ‘shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered’.

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