The Nile Waters Agreements: Imposition and Impacts of a Transboundary Legal System

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Across the Nile River Basin in East Africa, water supplies have become increasingly scarce and political stability has historically depended on equitable access to natural resources. In this context, the international goals of sustainable development and poverty reduction are dependent upon the formation of a reliable framework for governance of the region’s most important natural resource–the water supply of the Nile River. However, the dominant legal structure for allocations of the Nile’s water is still primarily shaped by the colonially-imposed and outdated Nile Waters Agreements signed in 1929 and 1959. As Nile basin states question the validity of this regime and respond to urgent national water and development needs, an analysis of these agreements and their alternatives is necessary in order to maintain stability across the region. This Note examines the historical and legal backgrounds of modern Nile River governance and proposes the formation of a new, “ground-up” approach to a comprehensive legal framework regulating the basin states’ use of the Nile.