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Last update: August 3, 2015

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

Law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses

See also: Summary | Texts and Instruments

Mandate

Studies undertaken by the Secretariat and Reports of the Secretary-General

  • 23rd session of the International Law Commission (1971)
    • Note by the Secretariat
  • 25th session of the International Law Commission (1973)
    • Supplementary report on the legal problems relating to the non-navigational uses of international watercourses requested by the General Assembly in resolution 2669 (XXV) — Advance report submitted by the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 2926 (XXVII)
  • 26th session of the International Law Commission (1974)
    • Legal Problems relating to the utilization and use of international rivers — Report by the Secretary-General
  • Legislative texts and treaty provisions concerning the utilization of international rivers for other purposes than navigation (U.N. Legislative series, vol.12)
  • ST/LEG/SER.B/12 (United Nations Publication, Sales No. 63.V.4)
  • Legal problems relating to the non-navigational uses of international watercourses: supplementary report by the Secretary-General

Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee

  • 26th session of the International Law Commission (1974)
    • Report of the Sub-Committee on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses

Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • Consideration of the replies that had been submitted by Governments to the questionnaire.
    • First report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Richard D. Kearney (28th session of the ILC (1976))
  • Introductory chapter dealing with the nature of the topic, Chapter II — treatment of the topic by the Commission and the scope of its work, Chapter III — utility of "user agreements" and Chapter IV on regulation of data collection and exchange.
    • First Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen Schwebel (31st session of the ILC (1979))
  • Six draft articles were proposed dealing with: "scope" (article 1), "system States" (article 2), "system agreements" (article 4), "parties to the negotiation and conclusion of system agreements" (article 5), "collection and exchange of information" (article 6) and "a shared natural resource" (article 7). It also contained a draft article 3 on "meaning of terms".
    • Second report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen Schwebel (32nd session of the ILC (1980))
  • Discussion on the status of the work of the topic, together with a set of proposed draft general principles, including: "equitable participation", the ascertainment of equitable use, and responsibility for appreciable harm etc. Several further questions, such as river regulation, hydraulic installations and water security, interaction with navigational uses, administrative arrangements, and the avoidance and settlement of disputes, were considered by the Special Rapporteur.
    • Third report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen Schwebel (34th session of the ILC (1982))
  • A brief outline of the work together with a tentative draft Convention on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.
    • First report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Jens Evensen (35th session of the ILC (1983))
  • Revised tentative draft of a convention on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses. The draft consisted of 41 draft articles contained in six chapters as follows: introductory articles (chap. I); general principles, rights and duties of watercourse States (chap. II); co-operation and management in regard to international watercourses (chap. III); environmental protection, pollution, health hazards, natural hazards, safety and national and regional sites (chap. IV); peaceful settlement of disputes (chap. V); final provisions (chap. VI).
    • Second Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Jens Evensen (36th session of the ILC (1984))
  • Preliminary report which reviewed Commission's work thus far and indicated his preliminary views as to general lines along which Commission's work could proceed: draft articles 1 to 9 should be taken up by Drafting Committee at the 38th session, and the general organizational structure for further draft articles proposed by the previous Special Rapporteur should be followed.
    • Preliminary Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (37th session of the ILC (1985))
  • Status of the Commission's work on the topic; views on draft articles 1 to 9 as submitted by the previous Special Rapporteur; and set of five draft articles concerning procedural rules applicable in cases involving proposed new uses of watercourses.
    • Second Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (38th session of the ILC (1986))
  • Reviewed status of the work (chap. I); set forth general considerations on procedural rules relating to the utilization of international watercourses (chap.  II); submitted six draft articles (arts. 10–15) concerning general principles of cooperation and notification (chap. III); and addressed the question of exchange of data and information (chap. IV).
    • Third Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (39th session of the ILC (1987))
  • Report divided into three chapters: "Status of work on the topic and plan for future work" (chap. I); "Exchange of data and information" (chap. II) submitting draft article 15; and "Environmental protection, pollution and related matters" (chap. III) submitting draft articles 16, 17, and 18.
    • Fourth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (40th session of the ILC (1988))
  • Chapter I of the report dealt with parts VI of the draft and contained draft article 22 (Water-related hazards, harmful conditions and other adverse effects) and article 23 (Water-related dangers and emergency situations); chapter II and III dealt with the relationship between non-navigational and navigational uses and with the regulation of international watercourses and contained two draft articles (arts. 24 and 25) on those sub-topics for part VII and VIII of the draft, respectively.
    • Fifth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (41st session of the ILC (1989))
  • Draft article 26 (Joint institutional management), article 27 (Protection of water resources and installations), article 28 (Status of international watercourses and water installations in time of armed conflict) and annex I "Implementation of the articles".
    • Sixth Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (42nd session of the ILC (1990))
  • Chapters on the structure of part I of the draft articles and on the use of terms; proposal for article [1][2] on the use of terms.
    • Seventh Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey (43rd session of the ILC (1991))
  • Analysed the written comments and observations received from Governments and made some changes in the articles adopted on first reading; raised two issues of a general character: whether the eventual form of the articles should be a convention or model rules; and the question of dispute settlement procedure. Examined arts. 1 to 10 of Parts I and II of the topic: scope of the present articles (art.1), use of terms (art.2), watercourse agreements (art.3), parties to watercourse agreements (art.4), equitable and reasonable utilization and participation (art.5), factors relevant to equitable and reasonable utilization (art.6), obligation not to cause appreciable harm (art.7), general obligation to cooperate (art.8), regular exchange of data and information (art.9), relationship between uses (art.10).
    • First Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Robert Rosenstock (45th session of the ILC (1993))
  • Contained, in addition to a few amendments to the draft articles adopted on a second reading by the Drafting Committee at the previous session, new texts proposed by the Special Rapporteur for the draft articles not yet considered by the Drafting Committee, namely draft articles 7 and 11 to 32, as well as a new draft article on the settlement of disputes.
    • Second Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Robert Rosenstock (46th session of the ILC (1994))

Reports of the Drafting Committee

  • 32nd session of the International Law Commission (1980)
    • Texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: Articles 1–5, X and explanatory note
  • 39th session of the International Law Commission (1987)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: titles of parts I and II of the draft; articles 1 to 7
  • 40th session of the International Law Commission (1988)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: titles of the parts II and III of the draft; articles 8 to 21
  • 42nd session of the International Law Commission (1990)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: articles 22 to 27
  • 43rd session of the International Law Commission (1991)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee: Parts I, II, and VI of the draft articles; articles 2, 10 and 26 to 33
  • 45th session of the International Law Commission (1993)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee on second reading: arts.1–6 and 8–10
  • 46th session of the International Law Commission (1994)
    • Titles and texts adopted by the Drafting Committee on second reading: arts.1–33

Comments by Governments

  • 28th session of the International Law Commission (1976)
    • Replies of Governments to the Commission's questionnaire
  • 30th session of the International Law Commission (1978)
    • Replies of Governments to the Commission's questionnaire
  • 31st session of the International Law Commission (1979)
    • Replies of Governments to the Commission's questionnaire
  • 32nd session of the International Law Commission (1980)
    • Replies of Governments to the Commission's questionnaire
  • 34th session of the International Law Commission (1982)
    • Replies of Governments to the Commission's questionnaire
  • 45th session of the International Law Commission (1993)
    • Comments and observations received from Governments on the draft articles

Other

  • 35th session of the International Law Commission (1983)
    • Note presented by Mr. Constantin Stavropoulos
  • 46th session of the International Law Commission (1994)
    • Draft articles and commentaries thereto adopted by the Drafting Committee

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-third session, 26 April to 30 June 1971
    • Decided to include the topic in the Commission's general programme of work without prejudging the priority to be given to its study.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1128th meeting (2 July 1971)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-fourth session, 2 May to 7 July 1972
    • Concluded that the topic was of both substantial urgency and complexity, and requested the Secretariat to continue compiling material relating to the topic with specific reference to the problems of international watercourses.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-fifth session, 7 May to 13 July 1973
    • Formal decision on the commencement of work on the topic should be taken after members have had an opportunity to review the Secretary-General's supplementary report expected before the 26th session.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1233rd, 1234th, 1235th, 1236th, and 1237th meetings (25 to 29 June 1973)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-sixth session, 6 May to 26 July 1974
    • The Commission set up a sub-committee to consider the question pursuant to resolution 3071 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973. It adopted the report of the Sub-Committee, and appointed Mr. Richard D. Kearney as Special Rapporteur for the topic.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1297th meeting (22 July 1974)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-seventh session, 5 May to 25 July 1975
    • Pending the receipt of answers form Governments of Member States to a questionnaire circulated by the Secretary-General, the Commission did not consider the topic during the session.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-eighth session, 3 May to 23 July 1976
    • Decided that attention should be devoted to beginning the formulation of general principles applicable to legal aspects of the uses of the international watercourses. Decided that the question of determining the range of the term "international watercourses" need not be pursued at the outset of the work.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1406th, 1407th, 1408th and 1409th meetings (14 to 19 July 1976)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its twenty-ninth session, 9 May to 29 July 1977
    • Appointed Mr. Stephen M. Schwebel as Special Rapporteur for the topic.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirtieth session, 8 May to 28 July 1978
    • The Commission took note of the presentation made by the Special Rapporteur.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1526th meeting (26 July 1978)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-first session, 14 May to 3 August 1979
    • The Commission considered and engaged in a general debate on the issues raised in the Special Rapporteur's report and on questions relating to the topic as a whole.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1554th, 1555th and 1556th meetings (18 to 20 June 1979), 1577th meeting (26 July 1979) and 1578th meeting (27 July 1979)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-second session, 5 May to 25 July 1980
    • The Commission provisionally adopted draft articles 1–5 and article X, with commentaries. It also decided to use the provisional working hypothesis recommended by the Drafting Committee as to the meaning of the term "international watercourse system".
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1607th, 1608th, 1609th, 1610th, 1611th and 1612th meetings (9 to 16 June 1980) and 1636th meeting (17 July 1980)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-fourth session, 3 May to 23 July 1982
    • The Commission appointed Mr. Jens Evensen as Special Rapporteur for the topic.
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-sixth session, 7 May to 27 July 1984
    • The Commission, after considering the Special Rapporteur's second report (its discussion was focused on draft articles 1 to 9 and questions related thereto), decided to refer draft articles 1 to 9 contained in the second report to the Drafting Committee. Owing to lack of time, the Committee was unable to consider those articles at the session.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1831st and 1832nd meetings (30 May and 1 June 1984), 1853rd, 1854th, 1855th, 1856th and 1857th meetings (3 to 9 July 1984), 1859th and 1860th meetings (11 and 12 July 1984)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-seventh session, 6 May to 26 July 1985
    • Appointed Mr. Stephen C. McCaffrey Special Rapporteur upon the resignation of Mr. Jens Evenson. Considered the preliminary report of the new Special Rapporteur.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1910th meeting (25 June 1985), and 1928th meeting (17 July 1985)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-eighth session, 5 May to 11 July 1986
    • Considered the second report of the Special Rapporteur.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 1976th, 1977th, 1978th, 1979th and 1980th meetings (26 June to 2 July 1986)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its thirty-ninth session, 4 May to 27 July 1987
    • The Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur. It referred draft articles 10 to 15 to the Drafting Committee. The Commission approved the method followed by the Drafting Committee with regard to article 1 and the question of the use of the term "system", and provisionally adopted articles 2 to 7 with commentaries.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2001st, 2002nd, 2003rd, 2004th, 2005th, 2006th, 2007th, 2008th, 2009th, 2010th, 2011th, 2012th, 2013th and 2014th meetings (21 May to 12 June 1987), 2028th, 2029th and 2030th meetings (7 to 9 July 1987), and 2033rd meeting (13 July 1987)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fortieth session, 9 May to 29 July 1988
    • The Commission had before it the fourth report submitted by the Special Rapporteur. It decided to refer draft articles 16 and 17 to the Drafting Committee. But the Committee was unable to consider these articles due to lack of time. However, the Committee did adopt a report on the draft articles previously referred to it, resulting in the Commission provisionally adopting articles 8 to 21, with commentaries.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2050th, 2051st and 2052nd meetings (24 to 27 May 1988), 2062nd, 2063rd, 2064th, 2065th, 2066th, 2067th, 2068th, 2069th, 2070th, 2071st, 2072nd and 2073rd meetings (15 June to 5 July 1988), and 2076th meeting (8 July 1988)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-first session, 2 May to 21 July 1989
    • The Commission had before it the fifth report submitted by the Special Rapporteur. It referred draft articles 22 and 23 to the Drafting Committee.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2123rd, 2124th, 2125th and 2126th meetings (22 to 28 June 1989), and 2133rd meeting (7 July 1989))
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-second session, 1 May to 20 July 1990
    • Referred draft articles 24 to 28, and 3 to 4 of annex I to the Drafting Committee. Provisionally adopted draft articles 22 to 27, with commentaries.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2162nd, 2163th, 2164th, 2165th, 2166th and 2167th meetings (23 May to 1 June 1990), 2187th and 2188th meetings (5 and 6 July 1990)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-third session, 29 April to 19 July 1991
    • Referred articles [1][2] to the Drafting Committee. Adopted on first reading draft articles 2, 10, 26 to 33, with commentaries. It decided to transmit the complete set of draft articles through the Secretary-General to Governments of Member States for comments and observations.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2213th, 2214th, 2215th, 2216th, 2217th and 2218th meetings (23 May to 4 June 1991), 2228th, 2229th, 2230th and 2231st meetings (21 to 27 June 1991) and 2237th meeting (9 July 1991)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-fourth session, 4 May to 24 July 1992
    • The Commission appointed Mr. Robert Rosenstock as Special Rapporteur for the topic.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2292nd meeting (22 July 1992)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its forty-fifth session, 3 May to 23 July 1993
    • The Commission considered the Special Rapporteur's first report and referred the 10 articles contained therein to the Drafting Committee for consideration in the light of discussion. The Commission took note of the report of the Drafting Committee containing the titles and texts of arts. 1 to 6 and 8 to 10, adopted on second reading by the Drafting Committee. The Commission decided to defer action on it until its next session pending the submission of commentaries.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2309th meeting (18 June 1993), 2311th, 2312th, 2313th and 2314th meetings (24 to 30 June 1993), 2316th meeting (6 July 1993) and 2322nd meeting (19 July 1993)

General Assembly Action

  • Resolution 2780 (XXVI) of 3 December 1971
    • Recommended that the Commission should decide upon the priority to be given to the topic.
 
  • Resolution 3071 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973
    • Recommended that the Commission should commence its work on the topic by, inter alia, adopting preliminary measures provided for under article 16 of its Statute.
 
  • Resolution 3315 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974
    • Recommended that the International Law Commission should continue the work on the topic, taking into account, inter alia, comments received from Member States on the question referred in the annex to Chapter V of the Commission's report (1974)
 
  • Resolution 31/97 of 15 December 1976
    • Recommended that the Commission should continue its work on the topic. It also urged member States that had not done so to submit their written comments on the subject.
 
  • Resolution 33/139 of 19 December 1978
    • Recommended that the Commission continue its work on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.
 
  • Resolution 34/141 of 17 December 1979
    • Recommended that the Commission continue its work taking into account the replies of Governments to the questionnaire prepared by the Commission and the views expressed on the topic in debates in the General Assembly.
 
  • Resolution 35/163 of 15 December 1980
    • Recommended that the Commission proceed with the preparation of draft articles, taking into account the replies to questionnaires addressed to Governments as well as information furnished by them.
 
  • Resolution 46/54 of 9 December 1991
    • Expressed its appreciation for the Commission's work on the completion of the provisional draft articles, and drew the attention of Governments to the importance of having their views submitted to the Commission.
 
  • Resolution 47/33 of 25 November 1992
    • Urged Governments to present in writing their comments and observations by 1 January 1993.
 
  • Resolution 48/31 of 9 December 1993
    • Welcomed the Commission's decision to endeavour to complete in 1994 the second reading of the draft articles on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.
  • See: Topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/457)

Final Outcome

International Law Commission (46th session, 1994)

  • The Commission decided to recommend the draft articles adopted on second reading to the General Assembly, and recommended the elaboration of a convention by the Assembly or by an international conference of plenipotentiaries on the basis of the draft articles.

General Assembly

  • Resolution 49/51 of 9 December 1994
    • Expressed its appreciation to the Commission for the adoption of final draft articles on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.
  • Resolution 49/52 of 9 December 1994
    • Invited States to submit, not later than 1 July 1996, written comments and observations on the draft articles adopted by the Commission; decided that, at the beginning of the fifty-first session of the Assembly, the Sixth Committee would convene as a working group of the whole, open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies, for three weeks from 7 to 25 October 1996, to elaborate a framework convention on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses on the basis of the draft articles adopted by the Commission in the light of the written comments and observations of States and views expressed in the debate at the forty-ninth session.
  • Resolution 51/206 of 17 December 1996
    • Took note of the report of the Working Group of the Whole (A/C.6/51/L.3), and decided to convene a second session of the Group, for a period of two weeks from 24 March to 4 April 1997, to elaborate a framework convention on the topic and to report to the Assembly.
  • Resolution 51/229 of 21 May 1997