UN Oral Intervention: Addressing the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute

The following has been prepared by Next Century Foundation Research Officer Udit Mahalingam for submission by the Next Century Foundation as a statement to the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council:

The Next Century Foundation is troubled by the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam dispute between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. A dispute that also impacts both the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan.  

On July 21st 2020, after a season of unusually heavy rain, Ethiopian Premier Abiy Ahmed announced the completion of the Renaissance Dam’s first filling stage.

We are concerned that, in choosing to fill the dam unilaterally, Ethiopia violated the 2015 Agreement on the Declaration of the Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the fundamental tripartite “spirit of co-operation” contained within the agreement.  

The Next Century Foundation urges Ethiopia, and indeed all other parties to the Declaration of Principles, to respect their associated legal obligations in the implementation and operation of the Renaissance Dam. 

We are aware that Egypt would like the filling process to be conducted over a twenty-year period – a timeframe at odds with Ethiopia’s proposed seven years. 

The Next Century Foundation instead suggests that filling be conducted over fourteen years – a fair compromise in view of Egypt and Ethiopia’s mutual water-sharing interests.  

Nevertheless, we recognise Ethiopia’s sovereign right to construct the dam, and thereby address its own developmental needs. We note Ethiopia’s exclusion from historic Nile water-sharing treaties, such as the 1929 and 1959 Nile Waters Agreements. 

The Next Century Foundation urges the countries affected by the Renaissance Dam dispute to introduce a comprehensive water-sharing agreement within the Nile Basin. 

We note that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have failed to ratify the UN Water Convention and fully incorporate its provisions into existing national laws concerning the use of water. The Next Century Foundation thus implores all Nile Basin states to ratify the UN Water Convention, and thereby facilitate progress towards a comprehensive water-sharing agreement.