Transboundary organisations and programs


The legal framework for water management in the Nile River largely dates from colonial times. Great Britain then controlled the bulk of the river basin, after its geopolitical struggle with France (cf. the Fashoda Incident). Germany (Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania) and Ethiopia were the main upstream riparians - Belgium replacing the German  administration in Rwanda and Burundi after the First World War and Ethiopia being occupied later by Italy.
These old colonial treaties are technically still into force, affecting mainly bilateral relations between basin states. But especially the 1959 Agreement between Egypt and Sudan claims to have an influence over the river as a whole. This is a bilateral agreement between the two most downstream riparians, who divide amongst themselves all the water of the river, from its sources to its estuary, thereby denying the rights of access to the water for upstream riparians. In the absence of a basin-wide agreement over sharing the Nille water resources, the 1959 treaty soured the relationship between especially Egypt and Ethiopia until today (see also my aticle on "Security as a threat to development in the Nile River Basin" with some more background on the geopolitics of the Nile).

The only multilateral agreement on the Nile Basin is the Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework of 14 May 2010, an initiative of the Nile Basin Initiative. The text has been rejected by by Egypt and Sudan, and as long as the treaty has not entered into force the text can be renegotiated. These negotiations are currently in process.

This is an overview of agreements and treaties that regulate state relations over water in the Nile Basin:

This overview is mainly based on "International Water Law Project", a website dedicated to document international water law, case law and institutions.