Article 33

33.1.6 Conciliation

Conciliation involves an impartial third party who can be a sole conciliator but normally involves a formal, institutionalised and impartial commission which investigates the dispute and proposes ways to resolve it by combining elements of inquiry and mediation.502 The conciliator or commission seeks to objectively establish the facts and applicable law but may also investigate the problem broadly.503 It may also submit proposals for resolving the dispute which the parties can choose whether or not to accept. Parties respond to the conciliation commission’s proposals within a prescribed time limit. If they agree to the proposals, the commission drafts a procès-verbal, which sets forth the terms of the agreement which are non-binding.504 It is argued that the fact-finding procedure under Article 33 of the UN Watercourses Convention closely resembles a conciliation procedure, since the fact-finding commission’s task includes providing a ‘recommendation as it deems appropriate for an equitable solution of the dispute.’505

In 2002 the Permanent Court of Arbitration adopted the Optional Rules for Conciliation of Disputes Relating to the Environment and/or Natural Resources which provide a comprehensive set of environmentally tailored dispute resolution procedural rules which can be used to complement conciliation under Article 33.506


502 United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Handbook on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes between States at 45.

503 Vinogradov, Wouters and Jones, Transforming Potential Conflict into Cooperation Potential: The Role of International Water Law at 30.

504 Brown Weiss, ‘The Evolution of International Water Law’ at 286.

505 Wouters, ‘The International Law of Watercourses: New Dimensions’ at 377.

506 PCA 2002 Optional Rules for Conciliation of Disputes Relating to the Environment and/or Natural Resources, available at

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