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Last update: November 6, 2017

Analytical Guide to the Work of the International Law Commission

Shared natural resources (Law of transboundary aquifers)

See also: Oil and Gas | Summary | Texts and Instruments

Mandate

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

None

Reports of the Working Group or Sub-Committee

  • 57th session of the International Law Commission (2005)
    • Report of the Working Group on Shared Natural Resources (Groundwaters)
  • 58th session of the International Law Commission (2006)
    • Report of the Working Group on Shared Natural Resources (Groundwaters)
  • 59th session of the International Law Commission (2007)
    • Report of the Working Group on Shared Natural Resources

Reports of the Special Rapporteur

  • Preliminary report laying out the background to the topic with a view to seeking guidance from the Commission on the course of the future study, and to provide a tentative timetable for the endeavour.
    • First report of the Special Rapporteur, Chusei Yamada (55th session of the ILC (2003))
  • Detailing the general framework for the topic and covering the scope of a possible convention, use of terms (definitions), principles governing uses of aquifer systems, the obligation not to cause harm, the general obligation to cooperate, regular exchange of data and information and different kinds of uses, together with several aquifer models and selected case studies.
    • Second report of the Special Rapporteur, Chusei Yamada (56th session of the ILC (2004))
  • Containing a complete set of 25 draft articles of a draft convention on the law of transboundary aquifers, together with an addendum setting out provisions of legal instruments relevant to some of the draft articles proposed by the Special Rapporteur.
    • Third report of the Special Rapporteur, Chusei Yamada (57th session of the ILC (2005))
  • Initial consideration of oil and natural gas, together with a discussion of the relationship between the work on groundwaters and that on oil and gas.
    • Fourth report of the Special Rapporteur, Chusei Yamada (59th session of the ILC (2007))
  • Relationship between the work on transboundary aquifers and that on oil and natural gas, final form of the draft articles and revised draft articles for the second reading
    • Fifth report of the Special Rapporteur, Chusei Yamada (60th session of the ILC (2008))

Reports of the Drafting Committee

  • 58th session of the International Law Commission (2006)
    • Titles and texts of the draft articles adopted by the Drafting Committee on first reading
    • Statement of the Chairman of the Drafting Committee
  • 60th session of the International Law Commission (2008)
    • Title and texts of the preamble and draft articles 1 to 19 on the law of transboundary aquifers, adopted by the Drafting Committee on second reading
    • Statement of the Chairman of the Drafting Committee

Comments by Governments

  • 57th session of the International Law Commission (2005)
    • Comments and observations received from Governments and relevant intergovernmental organizations
  • 60th session of the International Law Commission (2008)
    • Comments and observations by Governments on the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers
  • 61st session of the International Law Commission (2009)
    • Comments and observations received from Governments on oil and gas

Other

  • 60th session of the International Law Commission (2008)
    • Note on a preamble, by the Special Rapporteur
  • 61st session of the International Law Commission (2009)
    • Paper on oil and gas prepared by Mr. Chusei Yamada, Special Rapporteur on shared natural resources
  • 62nd session of the International Law Commission (2010)
    • Paper on the feasibility of future work on oil and gas — paper prepared by Shinya Murase

Reports of the International Law Commission

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-fourth session, 29 April to 7 June and 22 July to 16 August 2002
    • Decided to include the topic in its programme of work and appointed Mr. Chusei Yamada as Special Rapporteur.
    • Discussion in Plenary: 2727th meeting (30 May 2002)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-fifth session, 5 May to 6 June and 7 July to 8 August 2003
    • The Commission considered the first report of the Special Rapporteur. It also had an informal briefing by experts on groundwaters from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) on 30 July 2003. Their presence was arranged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
    • Discussion in plenary: 2778th and 2779th meetings (22 and 23 July 2003)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-sixth session, 3 May to 4 June and 5 July to 6 August 2004
    • The Commission had before it the second report of the Special Rapporteur. At its 2797th meeting, the Commission established an open-ended Working Group on Transboundary Groundwaters, chaired by the Special Rapporteur. The Working Group held three meetings. The Commission also had two informal briefings by experts on groundwaters from the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH) on 24 and 25 May 2004. Their presence was arranged by UNESCO. At the request of the Special Rapporteur, the Commission, at its 2828th meeting, on 4 August 2004, agreed that a questionnaire, prepared by the Special Rapporteur, be circulated to Governments and relevant intergovernmental organizations asking for their views and information regarding groundwaters.
    • Discussion in plenary: 2797th, 2798th and 2799th meetings (12, 13 and 14 May 2004)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-seventh session, 2 May to 3 June and 11 July to 5 August 2005
    • At the present session, the Commission had before it the third report of the Special Rapporteur. The Commission also had an informal technical presentation on the Guarani Aquifer System Project on 4 May 2005. The Commission established a Working Group, chaired by Mr. Enrique Candioti. The Working Group held 11 meetings. The Commission took note of the report of the Working Group. It expressed its appreciation that the Working Group had made substantial progress in its work by reviewing and revising eight draft articles. The Commission took note of the proposal of the Working Group that the Commission consider reconvening it at the 2006 session in order that it may complete its work
    • Discussion in plenary: 2831st, 2832nd, 2833rd, 2834th, 2835th, 2836th (2 to 11 May 2005) and 2863rd (3 August 2005) meetings
  • ILC Report, A/60/10, 2005, chap. IV, paras. 30–107
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/560)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-eighth session, 1 May to 9 June and 3 July to 11 August 2006
    • The Commission decided to reconvene the Working Group on Shared Natural Resources, chaired by Mr. Enrique Candioti. The Working Group completed the review and revision of the draft articles submitted by the Special Rapporteur in his Third report. The Commission subsequently considered the report of the Working Group; and decided to refer the 19 draft articles to the Drafting Committee. The Commission considered the report of the Drafting Committee and adopted on first reading draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers consisting of 19 draft articles, with commentaries thereto.
    • The Commission decided, in accordance with articles 16 to 21 of its Statute, to transmit the draft articles, through the Secretary-General, to Governments for comments and observations, with the request that such comments and observations be submitted to the Secretary-General by 1 January 2008.
    • Discussion in plenary: 2868th meeting, held on 2 May 2006, 2878th, 2879th meetings, held on 18 and 19 May 2006, 2885th meeting, held on 9 June 2006, 2903rd, 2905th and 2906th meetings, held on 2, 3 and 4 August 2006.
  • ILC Report, A/61/10, 2006, chap. VI, paras. 68–76
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/577, Add.1 and Add.2)
  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Fifty-ninth session, 7 May to 5 June and 9 July to 10 August 2007
    • The Commission had before it the fourth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/580), which was introduced by the Special Rapporteur at the 2921st meeting, on 18 May 2007. On the same day, the Special Rapporteur gave an informal briefing intended particularly for new members of the Commission on the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers.
    • At its 2920th meeting, on 16 May 2007, the Commission established a Working Group on Shared natural resources, under the chairmanship of Mr. Enrique Candioti, to assist the Special Rapporteur in considering a future work programme, taking into account the views expressed in the Commission. At its 2947th meeting, on 3 August 2007, the Commission took note of the report of the Working Group. The Secretariat was also requested to circulate to Governments the questionnaire seeking information on State practice regarding oil and gas.
    • Discussion in plenary: 2920th and 2921st meetings, held on 16 and 18 May 2007, 2930th, 2931st meetings, held on 4 and 5 June 2007, and 2947th meeting, held on 3 August 2007.
  • ILC Report, A/62/10, 2007, chap. V, paras. 155–183
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/588)

  • Report of the International Law Commission on the work of its Sixtieth session, 5 May to 6 June and 7 July to 8 August 2008
    • The Commission had before it the fifth report of the Special Rapporteur (A/CN.4/591), containing a set of 20 draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers for the consideration of the Commission on second reading. The Commission also had before it the comments and observations received from Governments on the draft articles adopted on first reading (A/CN.4/595 and Add.1). The debate focused primarily on the substantive consideration of the draft articles proposed by the Special Rapporteur, as well as on the form of the draft articles, taking into account draft article 20 on the relation to other conventions and international agreements proposed by the Special Rapporteur, as well as his recommendation that a two-step approach be followed with regard to the draft articles, consisting in the General Assembly (a) taking note of the draft articles, to be annexed to its resolution and recommending that appropriate action by States be taken; and (b) deciding at a later stage on the possibility of concluding a convention on the topic.
    • At its 2970th and 2971st meetings, on 3 and 4 June 2008, the Commission received the report of the Drafting Committee (A/CN.4/L.724), and at the latter meeting adopted a preamble and an entire set of 19 draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers, on second reading. At its 2989th, 2990th and 2991st meetings, on 4 and 5 August 2008, the Commission adopted the commentaries to the draft articles.
    • At its 2991st meeting, on 5 August 2008, the Commission decided, in accordance with article 23 of its statute, to recommend to the General Assembly: (a) To take note of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers in a resolution, and to annex these articles to the resolution; (b) To recommend to States concerned to make appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for the proper management of their transboundary aquifers on the basis of the principles enunciated in these articles; (c) To also consider, at a later stage, and in view of the importance of the topic, the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles.
    • Discussion in plenary: 2956th, 2957th, 2958th and 2959th meetings, held on 6, 7 and 8 May 2008, respectively, 2970th, 2971st meetings, held on 3 and 4 June 2008, and 2989th, 2990th and 2991st meetings, held on 4 and 5 August 2008.
  • ILC Report, A/63/10, 2008, chap. IV, paras. 34–54
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/606 and Add.1)

General Assembly Action

  • Resolution 57/21 of 19 November 2002
    • Took note of the Commission's decision to include the topic in its programme of work.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/529)
  • Resolution 58/77 of 9 December 2003
    • Invited Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission regarding national legislation, bilateral and other agreements and arrangements with regard to the use and management of transboundary groundwaters, in particular those governing quality and quantity of such waters, relevant to the topic currently entitled “Shared natural resources”.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/537)
  • Resolution 59/41 of 2 December 2004
    • Drew the attention of Governments to the importance for the International Law Commission of having their views on the various aspects involved in the topic, in particular on: their practice, bilateral or regional, relating to the allocation of groundwaters from transboundary aquifer systems and the management of non-renewable transboundary aquifer systems relating to the topic entitled “Shared natural resources”.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/549 and Add.1)
  • Resolution 60/22 of 23 November 2005
    • Invited Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission on the topic.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/560)
  • Resolution 61/34 of 4 December 2006
    • Expressed its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the work accomplished at its fifty-eighth session, inter alia, for the completion of the first reading of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers under the topic “Shared natural resources”.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/577, Add.1 and Add.2)
  • Resolution 62/66 of 6 December 2007
    • Invited Governments to provide information to the International Law Commission on the topic.
    • Drew the attention of Governments to the importance for the International Law Commission of having their comments and observations be 1 January 2008 on the draft articles and commentaries on the law of transboundary aquifers adopted on first reading by the Commission at its fifty-eighth session.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/588)

Final Outcome

International Law Commission (60th session, 2008)

  • The Commission adopted the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers, on second reading, together with commentaries.
  • In accordance with article 23 of its Statute, the Commission decided to recommend to the General Assembly to the General Assembly: (a) To take note of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers in a resolution, and to annex these articles to the resolution; (b) To recommend to States concerned to make appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for the proper management of their transboundary aquifers on the basis of the principles enunciated in these articles; (c) To also consider, at a later stage, and in view of the importance of the topic, the elaboration of a convention on the basis of the draft articles.
 

General Assembly

  • Resolution 63/123 of 11 December 2008
    • Expressed its appreciation to the International Law Commission for the work accomplished at its sixtieth session, in particular for ... the completion of the second reading of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers under the topic “Shared natural resources”.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly and the topical summary of debate in the Sixth Committee (A/CN.4/606 and Add.1)
  • Resolution 63/124 of 11 December 2008
    • Took note of the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers, presented by the Commission, the text of which was annexed to the resolution, and commended them to the attention of Governments without prejudice to the question of their future adoption or other appropriate action.
    • Encouraged the States concerned to make appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for the proper management of their transboundary aquifers, taking into account the provisions of these draft articles.
    • Decided to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-sixth session (2011) an item entitled “The law of transboundary aquifers” with a view to examining, inter alia, the question of the form that might be given to the draft articles.
 
  • Resolution 66/104 of 9 December 2011
    • Further encouraged the States concerned to make appropriate bilateral or regional arrangements for the proper management of their transboundary aquifers, taking into account the provisions of the draft articles annexed to its resolution 63/124.
    • Encouraged the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, whose contribution was noted in resolution 63/124, to offer further scientific and technical assistance to the States concerned.
    • Emphasized the value of the articles in providing guidance to the States dealing with issues of nationality of natural persons in relation to the succession of States, in particular concerning the avoidance of statelessness.
    • Decided to include in the provisional agenda of its sixty-eighth session (2013) the item entitled “The law of transboundary aquifers” and, in the light of written comments of Governments, as well as views expressed in the debates of the Sixth Committee held at its sixty-third and sixty-sixth sessions, to continue to examine, inter alia, the question of the final form that might be given to the draft articles.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly
  • Resolution 68/118 of 16 December 2013
    • Commended to the attention of Governments the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers annexed to the resolution as guidance for bilateral or regional agreements and arrangements for the proper management of transboundary aquifers;
    • Encouraged the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, to continue its contribution by offering further scientific and technical assist ance to the States concerned.
    • Decided to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-first session the item entitled “The law of transboundary aquifers”.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly
  • Resolution 71/150 of 13 December 2016
    • Commended to the attention of Governments the draft articles on the law of transboundary aquifers annexed to its resolution 68/118 as guidance for bilateral or regional agreements and arrangements for the proper management of transboundary aquifers;
    • Encouraged the International Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to continue its contribution by providing further scientific and technical assistance upon the consent of the recipient State and within its mandate;
    • Decided to include in the provisional agenda of its seventy-fourth session the item entitled “The law of transboundary aquifers”.
  • See the website of the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly