Glossary of Terms

Full glossary of terms, abbreviations and acronyms

Acceptance/Approval | Same legal effect as ratification and consequently expresses the consent of a state to be bound by a treaty. It is used instead of ratification when constitutional law (national level) does not require the treaty to be ratified by certain branches of government (Art. 2(1)(b), 14(2) and 16 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties).552

Accession | The method whereby a state, which has not signed the treaty, subsequently expresses its consent to become a party. Generally, accessions occur once a treaty is closed for signature or after its entry into force (Arts. 2(1)(b), 15 and 16 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties).553

Appropriate Measures | See ‘Due Diligence’ below.

Contracting state | A state that has consented to be bound by a treaty that has not entered into force.

Convention | The creation of a written agreement whereby the states participating bind themselves legally to act in a particular way or to set up particular relations between themselves. The term is used interchangeably with Treaty. Treaties are also known by a variety of differing names, ranging from International Agreements, Pacts, General Acts, and Charters, through to Statutes, Declarations and Covenants.

Customary International Law | Rules derived from the general practice among states and accompanied by a belief that such practice is legal binding (opinio juris).

Due Diligence | A standard of care that a state of similar standing in, for example, financial, legal, technical and administrative terms would adopt in similar circumstances.

Ecosystem | An ecological unit consisting of living and nonliving components that are interdependent and function as a community.554

Equitable and Reasonable Utilisation | Equitable and reasonable is often considered as synonymous with fair  and sustainable, respectively. All relevant factors and circumstances must therefore be considered to determine a solution that maximises benefits while minimising detriment. Equity has a long tradition in legal systems where prescriptive and rigid rules applied to complex situations would lead to unfair results. See Article 5 of the UN Watercourses Convention.

General International Law | Applicable to relations between all states and subjects of international law, it usually derives its authority from customary international law and multilateral agreements.

Good Faith | Conduct with honest intent, fairness and sincerity, and with no intention of deceit.555

Jurisdiction | The right in international law for a state to exercise authority over its national and persons and things in its territory.

Justiciable | Legal disputes are able to be resolved by ‘legal’ means as opposed to ‘non-justiciable’ disputes, which are resolved by non-judicial methods.

Lex Lata | An existing rule of international law.

Opinio Juris | General belief by states that a state practice is legally binding.

Optimal Utilisation | The best possible or desirable use under certain restrictions, for example, satisfying the interests of two or more states.

Party | A state or regional economic integration organisation that has consented to be bound by the Convention once in force.

Precautionary Approach | Where scientific understanding of a particular harm to the public or environment is not fully known, the burden of proof falls upon those seeking to take the action to prove that the harm will not be significant.

Ratification | Following signature, the expression of a state’s consent to be bound by a treaty. Often the term ratification is used interchangeably with ‘accession’, ‘approval’ and ‘acceptance’ but there are procedural differences between the terms; as noted above.

Significant Harm | Something that is more than detectable but not necessarily to a level of serious or substantial. To be significant the harm must lead to a ‘real detriment’ to, for example, human health, industry, property, environment or agriculture.556

Significant Adverse Effect | A lower threshold than significant harm. There may therefore be both a detectible and causal link between activities and impact, but such impacts may not necessarily amount to significant harm.

State Responsibility | Responsibility of a state in international law for its wrongful acts.

Sustainable Utilisation | Comprises two key elements in the context of natural resources, rational use and the protection of the ecosystem; which in the context of renewable resources means protecting the long-term viability of the resources for present and future generations.

Third State | A state which is not party to a treaty. A treaty does not create either obligations or rights for a third state without its consent (Article 34 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (see Part I)).

Vital human needs | Sufficient water to sustain human life.

552 A Aust, Modern Treaty Law and Practice (2nd edn, Cambridge University Press 2007) at 109-110.

553 Ibid at 110-111.

554 ILC Draft Articles on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, in (1994) Yearbook of the International Law Commission (Vol. II, part II) at 118.

555 See `good faith’ in J Law, E A Martin (eds.) A Dictionary of Law (Oxford University Press Oxford 2009).

556 2001 Draft Articles on Prevention of Transboundary Harm from Hazardous Activities, in Report of the International Law Commission on the Work of its Fifty-third Session, UN GAOR, Supp (No. 10), UN Doc. A/56/10.

ECOWAS | Economic Community of West African StatesGWP | Global Water PartnershipICJ | International Court of JusticeILA | International Law AssociationILC | International Law CommissionMERCOSUR | Common Market of the South

NBI | Nile Basin Initiative

SADC | Southern African Development Community

UN | United Nations

UNDP | United Nations Development Programme

UNECE | United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

UNEP | United Nations Environment Programme

UNESCO | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

UNFCCC | United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

UNGA | United Nations General Assembly

UNSGAB | United Nations Secretary‐General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation

UNWC | 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non‐Navigational Uses of International Watercourse


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