Using the UNWC Online User's Guide

The Online User’s Guide includes a section (found here) outlining the key challenges in managing transboundary waters and current status of international law in the field, as well as analysis of the Convention’s origins, evolution and purpose.In addition, an Article-by-Article explanation of each provision is given in this section, organised in seven major parts, mapping the structure of the Convention itself:

Each provision of the Convention is examined under two headings; Commentary and Application. A detailed explanation of the nature and extent of the legal rights and obligations of each article is provided under the Commentary section. These sections include issues likely to emerge in the interpretation and practical application of the articles, coupled with examples of good state practice where relevant. Each commentary is then followed by a section entitled ‘Application’, which provides hypothetical scenarios intended for users to gain a more extensive understanding of the practical application of each article.

Finally, each article is accompanied by a list of further readings selected for those users who wish to gain deeper knowledge and understanding of specific issues. Where there are ambiguities in the text, the authors have provided guidance on the basis of the principles and objectives of the Convention as found in the Preamble and particularly guided by the fundamental principles that states are to use an international watercourse in a way that is ‘equitable and reasonable’ in relation to other states sharing the watercourse (Article 5) and take all ‘appropriate measures’ to prevent causing ‘significant harm’ to co-riparian states (Article 7).

Frequent reference is made to the preparatory work of the International Law Commission (ILC) under the United Nations General Assembly, particularly the 1994 Draft Articles on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, coupled with interpretation from existing state practice, general principles of international law, judicial decisions, and leading publicists in the field. Naturally, the specific language of the Convention will evolve over time. The authors have chosen an integrated interpretation to the Articles of the UN Convention, guided by the rules of interpretation of Treaties under Articles 31-33 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties2 and the fundamental principles that underlie the UN Convention itself. While the UN Watercourses Convention was adopted in 1997, by the end of 2005 only 14 states had ratified the Convention, 21 short of the number required for its entry into force. A range of reasons have been suggested as to why the Convention has been slow to enter into force,3 including treaty congestion at the time of its adoption, lack of awareness pertaining to the content and relevance of the Convention, an absence of leadership in promoting ratification, and a number of highly vocal – but not necessarily widely representative - opponents to this global instrument.4

2 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (adopted 22 May 1969, entered into force 27 January 1980) (Vienna Convention) 1155 UNTS.

3 The contracting states in 2005 comprised Finland, Hungary, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, South Africa, Sweden, and the Syrian Arab Republic.

4 See A Rieu-Clarke and FR Loures, ‘Still Not in Force: Should State Support the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention? (2009) 18(2) Review of European Community and International Environmental Law 185; SMA Salman, ‘The United
Nations Watercourses Convention Ten Years Later: Why Has its Entry into Force Proven Difficult?’ (2007) 22 Water International 1; S Salman, A Rieu-Clarke and F Loures, ‘Possible Reasons for Slowing Down the Ratification Process’, in F Loures and A Rieu-Clarke, The UN Watercourses Convention in Force – Strengthening International Law for Transboundary Water Management (Earthscan 2012).

Video: Ruby Moynihan Video: Ruby Moynihan Introduction to the UNWC User’s Guide

Download Fact Sheets

Scope of the Convention #1

Ratification Status and Entry into Force


Global Water Facts

global water facts
global water facts

Connect with us

Connect on facebook Subscribe to rss

Supported by

WWF UN Water Law Green Cross IUCN University of Northumbria