Project Case Study
Supporting Kyrgyzstan in its international watercourse negotiations
Developing sound international watercourse negotiations based on international law
At over four million square kilometres, Central Asia (the post-Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) covers an area larger than India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh combined. It is populated by approximately 60 million people.
Serious problems of water shortage and water allocation, however, are endemic to the region, especially in light of the current multi-year drought. A rising population, the reliance in certain states on hydro-power, and an overdependence on irrigation for growing cotton and other crops, have all resulted in a growing demand for water.
Climate change, causing glacier melt and reduced snowfall in mountainous areas, poses a real long-term threat to the security of water supply in an already arid region, and any increase in domestic or industrial pollution would reduce the availability of potable water.
During the Soviet era, Moscow was responsible for the application of international law in Central Asia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union’s central control, negotiations over the use of scarce trans-boundary water resources between Central Asian states, and between Central Asian states and their neighbours outside the economic region (particularly between upstream and downstream states), were hampered by a lack of experience in public international and international watercourse law.
Our team provided technical support to strengthen the capability of the Kyrgyz Government to negotiate with other Central Asian governments about international watercourse law.
We trained senior officials in the fundamentals of international law most relevant to Kyrgyzstan’s dealings with other states, including the sources of international law, the law of treaties, the responsibility of states for non-compliance with international law, and the settlement of international legal disputes. We then assisted them in developing negotiating positions based on international law.
The overall objective of the intervention was to resolve disputes over the use of scarce water resources in the region, ensuring that the local population had sufficient access to clean, potable water.