Authors: Stephen McCaffrey
Executive Summary: The topic of this conference is timely. Over one billion people lack access to safe water and some 2.4 billion are without adequate sanitation facilities, according to the World Health Organization. Moreover, while the amount of freshwater on Earth remains constant, the global population continues to increase. According to the United Nations Population Division, by July 2005, the world will have 6.5 billion inhabitants, a figure which is projected to climb to over 9 billion by 2050. The result is less water on a per capita basis and growing competition for increasingly scarce water supplies. An aspect of this problem that is not always appreciated is that much of Earth’s freshwater is shared by two or more states. According to a United Nations study, the world’s 263 international drainage basins account for some 60% of global river flows. Around 40% of the world’s population lives in these river basins, which form at least a part of the territory of 145 countries.
When the decreasing availability of freshwater is combined with the extent to which it is shared internationally, the potential for disputes between countries over this precious resource becomes obvious. How do states deal with these disputes? Are there relevant principles of international law that can be of assistance in resolving them? Prof. McCaffrey provided examples of disputes between states over shared freshwater resources and indicate how they have been addressed from the perspective of international law. He began by outlining in broad terms the rules of international law governing the use of international watercourses. He then reviewed briefly a number of disputes between states sharing freshwater resources. Finally, he drew some conclusions regarding disputes between states over water and the factors that indicate they will be resolved peacefully. In addressing these questions, he confined himself to the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.
Biography: Prof. McCaffrey is a Distinguished Professor and Scholar at the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California. He served as a member of the International Law Commission of the United Nations (ILC) from 1982 until 1991 and chaired the Commission's 1987 Session. He was the ILC's Special Rapporteur on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses from 1985 until 1991, when the Commission provisionally adopted a full set of draft articles on the topic. These articles formed the basis for the 1997 United Nations Convention on the same subject. Among other activities, he currently serves as Legal Counsel to the Nile River Basin Negotiating Committee and Legal Adviser to the Palestinian Authority/PLO. Professor McCaffrey’s publications include The Law of International Watercourses: Non-Navigational Uses (Oxford University Press, 2001), and International Environmental Law & Policy, with Edith Brown Weiss, Daniel Magraw and others (Aspen, 1998).
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