Policy Implications and future research
The current contestation between three riparian countries in the Nile Basin – Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan – may assert policy implications for the near and long-term future. Existing challenges are not limited to the water sector, going beyond the scope of productive and consumption purposes of water. For instance, the functional GERD will produce energy that can potentially bring considerable economic benefits to Ethiopia. However, to maximize the expected potential, Ethiopia has to shift drastically from a rural to an industrial economy. Such a transition is by nature challenging and needs time. It implies changes in existing architecture and. As witnessed in the GERD case, possible disagreement and tensions among involved parties. At this point, the non-linear relationship between water cooperation and cooperation beyond the water box in other sectors has not translated into optimal benefits yet.
Successful (and long-term) regional cooperation can sometimes be established when a regional actor leads the cooperation process (see for instance the cases of the Senegal and Niger river basins). Further, successful regional collaboration depends on the state's capacity to drive the cooperation process by establishing its legitimacy at home and in the region. In theory, the GERD could become a potential catalyst to promote regionalism; however, as it stands, given the lack of alignment of specific interests of the three riparians, difficulties remain significant. However, if the three countries decide to move out of the status quo, diplomatic initiatives (and notably the ones linked to water) would benefit from recognizing emerging power dynamics. The current diplomatic initiatives almost neglected emerging international and domestic realities in the three riparian countries. For instance, Egypt excluded Ethiopia's changing domestic political realities and how politically crucial GERD is to its population, resulting in an existing stalemate. So far, the African Union and United Nations Security Council have failed to bring the three countries to a common agreement. Moving beyond such formal setting, alternative negotiation or dialogue platforms (existing or newly created) could be used to restart the diplomatic processes, considering the power sensitivities of each riparian country.
However, before moving into the direction of such an informal platform, it seems essential to further develop political analyses of how each riparian in the region is evolving domestically and regionally and how this evolution shapes their changing visions and discourses of the Nile basin. Before addressing the challenges and opportunities linked to regional integration, it is a prerequisite to understand how each riparian's domestic ambitions will shape the region's future relationship and establish new configurations and relations of power. This work aims to modestly contribute to such analyses, focusing on actors (the speakers), attitudes (the tones), types of discussion (the conversations), and framings (the concepts) that have been present and used during the preparation of the two UN Security Council sessions dedicated to the GERD controversy. By exploring a new dataset on the GERD, we hope to further contribute to shedding light on the different variables explaining current challenges.