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The contribution of the UN Convention on the law of the non-navigational uses of international watercourses

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The 1997 UN Convention on international watercourses helps to clarify the basic standards governing the non-navigational uses of internationally shared fresh water resources. Generally, the Convention does not seek to push the law beyond its present contours, but reflects a general consensus regarding the principles that are universally applicable in the field. It provides a starting point for the negotiation of agreements relating to specific watercourses and, in the absence of an agreement, sets basic parameters governing the conduct of riparian states relative to those watercourses. Even where there is an applicable agreement, the Convention may play an important role in the interpretation of that agreement, as in the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros case. For these reasons, the success of the Convention does not depend on whether it enters into force. Its influence is more likely to derive from its status as the most authoritative statement of general principles and rules governing the non-navigational uses of international watercourses.

Keywords: environmental protection, equitable utilisation, Harmon doctrine, international watercourse, non-navigational uses of water, no significant harm, planned measures, water law

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