Friday, September 4, 2020

The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement Negotiations and the Adoption of a ‘Water Security’ Paradigm: Flight into Obscurity or a Logical Cul-de-sac?

Dereje Zeleke Mekonnen[*]

EJIL (2010), Vol. 21 No. 2, 421–440



The restive Nile basin which has long been identified as a flashpoint prone to conflict embarked on a new path of cooperation with the launching of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Anchored in a Shared Vision ‘to achieve sustainable socio-economic development through the equitable utilization of, and benefits from, the common Nile Basin water resources’, the NBI has provided a convenient forum for the negotiation of a Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) to set up a permanent, inclusive legal and institutional framework. Negotiation of the CFA has, however, faced a serious impasse as a result of the introduction of the concept of ‘water security’. The introduction of this non-legal, indeterminate, and potentially disruptive concept is, indeed, a regrettable detour to a virtual blind-alley. The justifications for this fateful decision are totally unfounded and specious. The decision rather makes sense as an unwarranted move pushing into further obscurity the already intractable Nile waters question, at best, and a logical cul-de-sac in the decade-long negotiations which have arguably fallen prey to the hegemonic compliance-producing mechanism of ‘securitization’ sneaked in under the veil of ‘water security’, at worst. Resolution of the Nile waters question should thus first be extricated from the morass of ‘water security’ and then be sought nowhere but within the framework of international water law.


[*] PhD (University of Vienna), Assistant Professor, Institute of Federalism and Legal Studies, E.C.S.C., Email:

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