This controversy mapping relies on quotes extracted from the letters submitted by the three main parties (Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan) during the UN Security Council process on the GERD.
You can explore all 225 extracted quotes using the filters: conversations, tones, speaker, and concepts (more information on the filters in Data and Methods).
Any agreement on the GERD must, as per the DoP, be comprehensive, and must regulate the complete process of filling the dam and its operation after the completion of the filling.
Conversely, throughout this process, Egypt has exercised considerable flexibility, showed limitless goodwill, and demonstrated a genuine political commitment to reach a fair and balanced agreement on the dam. Such an agreement would ensure that Ethiopia achieves it developmental objectives by generating hydropower from the dam, while preventing the infliction of significant harm on downstream riparian States.
Reaching a fair and balanced agreement on the GERD is not only necessary under the applicable rules of international law, but it is also imperative given Egypt’s hydrologically precarious position.
Like any compromise text that is fair and balanced, the agreement formulated by the U.S. and the World Bank is imperfect and does not completely satisfy Egypt’s needs. Nonetheless, given its genuine political commitment to reach an agreement, and in light of the fact that the text prepared by the international mediators is equitable and mutually beneficial, Egypt opted to initial this agreement. On the other hand, Ethiopia rejected this text and declared that it will unilaterally commence the filling of the GERD in breach of its obligations under the 2015 DoP.
The unilateral filling of the dam, before agreeing with downstream States on the rules governing both the filling and operation of this dam, is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation between co-riparians that share an international watercourse and amounts to a material breach of Ethiopia’s international legal obligations.
This is a situation that potentially poses a serious threat to peace and security throughout the region. The unilateral filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is slated become the largest hydropower dam in Africa, could cause significant harm to downstream communities. This would jeopardize the water security, food security, and indeed, the very existence of over 100 million Egyptians, who are entirely dependent on the Nile River for their livelihood.
Ethiopia is also arguing that the filling of the GERD is part of the construction process. Not only is this a disingenuous and distorted reading of the DoP, it is also wholly inconsistent with the any scientific understanding of the concepts of construction and filling of the dam.
Ethiopia’s announcement of its intention to fill the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam without an agreement is consistent with its policy of unilateralism that it has adopted since it commenced the construction of the dam in 2011 without notifying or consulting with its downstream co-riparians in violation of its obligations under international law.
For almost a decade, and especially during the five years since the conclusion of the 2015 DoP, Ethiopia has adopted a policy of obstructionism and prevarication that has undermined the negotiating process and that has sought to establish a fait accompli.
Ethiopia’s overall objective was, and remains, the exercise of unfettered control over the Blue Nile, including by filling and operating the GERD without taking the interests of downstream countries into consideration, and by securing an unrestrained right to undertake future projects upstream of the GERD, even if to the detriment of downstream riparian rights and Interests.
It was agreed that the TNC would appoint an international consultant to undertake these studies. During this period, the TNC held four meetings that failed to achieve any notable progress. It did not succeed in appointing an international consultant due to Ethiopian obstructionism on procedural issues such as the short-listing of the international consultants and the timeline for the conclusion of the studies recommended by the IPoE.
Ethiopia has recently declared that it intends to commence the impoundment of waters in the GERD reservoir and to begin the filling process without an agreement with downstream states. Ethiopia has sought to justify this position by citing article 5 of the DoP. This position is untenable. Any reading of article 5 that purports to permit the unilateral filling of the GERD is inconsistent with the plain meaning of the text, its context, and the object and purpose of this provision and the DoP as a whole. As aforementioned, article 5 regulates the process of conducting the studies recommended by the IPoE, which are to be utilized to agree on the rules governing the filling and operation of the GERD.
In a further demonstration of its unilateralist posture, Ethiopia has declared that it intends to commence the filling of the GERD during the summer of 2020, which constitutes a material breach of the DoP. Also in contravention of the DoP, Ethiopia has announced that it will not enter into an agreement on the long-term operation of the GERD, and affirmed that it will not accept any constraints on its future projects upstream of the GERD. These positions are wholly inconsistent with international law, and are unacceptable to Egypt as a downstream riparian that will be invariably affected by these projects.
Despite the fact that sufficient energy would have been efficiently generated by the GERD at the storage level proposed by the ENTRO, the technical specifications of the GERD were altered and its storage capacity was progressively increased to 74BCM. This dramatic increase in the volume of the storage reservoir of the GERD is unjustified and raises questions about the actual purpose of the dam and its projected uses, and dramatically increases its potential adverse effects on downstream uses.
Egypt has repeatedly affirmed its wholehearted support of Ethiopia’s right to development, including by harnessing the benefits of the Blue Nile. However, this must be undertaken in a cooperative manner and in accordance with the applicable principles of international law.
My country, Ethiopia, is the source of 86 per cent of the Nile waters. However, for close to a century, Egypt, through colonial-based treaties to which Ethiopia is not a party, saw to it that it received the lion’s share of Nile waters and introduced the self-claimed notion of “historic rights and current use”, leaving nothing to the remaining nine riparian countries.
In essence, Ethiopia was expected to simply generate and deliver the water, but never to touch it. This unjust state of affairs cannot continue and must be redressed. To this end, my country commissioned the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is a vital project of enormous potential for cooperation, regional economic integration and mutual benefits for countries in the region, including Egypt itself.
Ethiopia has made it clear from the very beginning that construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is based on its sovereign and legitimate rights to use the Nile waters and it not causing significant harm to downstream countries.
Unlike Egypt, which did not consult Ethiopia when it constructed the Aswan High Dam and when it decided to direct the Nile out of its natural course through the Peace and Toshka canals, Ethiopia held discussions with both Egypt and the Sudan throughout the entire period of construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
It is to be recalled that since the 1990s Ethiopia has been spearheading the establishment of a regional framework, in collaboration with all riparian countries of the River Nile, with financial and technical support from the international community. This was aimed at putting in place a new basin-wide water governance arrangement that would enable rules-based, equitable, sustainable, cooperative management and development of the Nile water resources. Such an arrangement would benefit all while promoting peace and security in the region. This was pursued through the NBI that upported the negotiations for a new Nile-Basin wide legal regime, namely the Agreement on the Nile River Basin Cooperative Framework (CFA).
During the last meeting held in Washington DC from 12–13 February 2020, the observers proposed to formulate the “legal text on guidelines and rules on the first filling and annual operation of the GERD.” Ethiopia declined the offer on both procedural and substantive grounds and officially communicated the same to the observers.
Egypt unilaterally requested the United States Government to get involved in the negotiation on the GERD. As the owner of the Dam, Ethiopia, in good faith and to show flexibility accommodated the persistent demands of Egypt and agreed to have the US and the World Bank as observers.
Ethiopia’s energy demand is growing by 19 per cent every year. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is instrumental to our national efforts to address the economic, social and environmental challenges and to meet the Sustainable evelopment Goals and Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
Ethiopia does not have a legal obligation to seek approval of Egypt to fill the Dam. Furthermore, the impoundment of 18.4 billion cubic meters of water in two rounds causes no significant harm on Egypt. Therefore, Ethiopia is in full compliance with the DoP and made a remarkable and generous gesture in offering an agreement to Egypt.
GERD will benefit Ethiopia and the downstream countries in several ways. The Dam will: (i) improve Ethiopia’s energy availability (ii) regulate water flow that will enhance water management for irrigation and other water uses in Egypt and the Sudan (iii) allow enhanced sediment management thereby reducing cost of dredging irrigation canals and increase the life of downstream dams (iv) enable water saving and avoidance of water loss due to seepage and evaporation (v) uplift energy of existing power stations at Roseries, Sennar and Merowe dams in the Sudan (vi) serve as a buffer against climate change-induced extremes, including flooding and drought, and net reduction in Green House Gases emission vii) strengthen regional socio-economic integration (viii) increase regional water storage capacity by 60 billion cubic meters and increases the installed capacity of power by 5150 MW (ix) increase the safety of the High Aswan Dam against major consecutive floods. Hence, GERD is designated as one of the continental projects to strengthen regional integration under the Project for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
Egypt owing to its continued unilateral approach, has rejected region-wide cooperative frameworks on the Nile River and constructed the Aswan High Dam and new canals without any consultation with regional stakeholders.
It is worth noting that Egypt ignored Ethiopia’s protests in the years 1956, 1957, 1980 and 1997 objecting to the significant harm that Egypt’s water infrastructure would cause to Ethiopia and other Nile riparian States.
Egypt deliberately consolidated all the lopsided proposals that had been rejected at different levels in the negotiations. Among several other objectionable details, it contained rules maintaining natural flow (foreclosing any existing and future development upstream of the GERD), guaranteed release (despite hydrological variability), maintaining HAD at 165 meters above sea level (while Ethiopia has no control over factors that determine HAD level), and opening an office at the GERD for joint management (infringement of Ethiopia’s sovereignty). Egypt then embarked on extensive diplomatic and other campaigns to pressure Ethiopia to accept its submission. Despite Egypt’s efforts to curtail the process, the three countries had to return to the NISRG mechanisms. This disruptive action wasted the invaluable time for the negotiation.
Egypt’s stubborn approach of “agreement on all or no agreement” prevented the NISRG from analyzing issues and developing scenarios for the first filling and annual operation of the dam.
Currently, Ethiopia’s installed capacity is 4425 MW electric power. The GERD when completed will add 5150 MW installed capacity. Ethiopia must harness its available resource to expand its energy sector to attain energy security. Ethiopia’s economic potential on which the survival of its people hinges may only be unlocked through the supply of sufficient energy to improve agriculture and realize structural economic transformation through industrialization.
The Republic of the Sudan is an important riparian country along the Blue Nile, the country immediately downstream from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and thus stands to be impacted the most by the dam.
Therefore, Sudan has always believed in and advocated regional cooperation and partnership over the Blue Nile, as well as the Nile River as a whole. This is demonstrated by Sudan’s positions and actions since its independence as a leader in all regional initiatives and programmes around the Blue Nile and the Nile River as a whole.
It is important to emphasize that for the positive impacts to be realized and for the negative impacts to be mitigated there has to be an agreement in place with Ethiopia on how to fill and operate the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam; otherwise, the dam stands to cause substantial risks to Sudan.
Sudan is currently leading an initiative to convince Egypt and Ethiopia to resume negotiations to reach a final and fair deal before starting the filling of the dam.
For these reasons, Sudan remains fully committed to the DoP, and believes firmly that its provisions afford adequate, fair and appropriate grounds for resolving the remaining differences on the filling and operation of the GERD, and its safety, as well as the two studies, and for reaching a full and final (and not a partial) agreement on the GERD. Accordingly, Sudan believes and calls for the immediate resumption and continuation of the trilateral negotiations on the remaining differences on the GERD on the basis of the DoP, as well as good faith and cooperation, as the DoP itself stipulates.
Sudan also believes that the three countries can bring about the necessary, fair and just agreement. Therefore, despite being an important member of the Arab League, Sudan declined to endorse a resolution by the Arab League on the issue of the GERD. Sudan felt, despite the body’s good intentions, that the resolution will be counterproductive to the process and not in the best interest of encouraging finding a solution to the pending issues that is acceptable to all three countries.
Thus, Sudan strongly believes that signing a partial agreement covering only the first stage filling will not be tenable because there are many other technical and legal issues which should be included in any agreement related to the filling and operation of the GERD. These include, but not limited to, the coordination mechanism, normal operation, data exchange, dam safety measures, and the pending environmental and social impacts studies.
Furthermore, Sudan strongly believes that reaching an agreement on the guidelines and rules for the first stage filling, prior to starting the filling of the GERD is extremely necessary and important for all parties, as GERD is a huge dam, built just 15 km from the border, with millions of Sudanese people living downstream along the river banks. Most importantly, GERD is only 100 km upstream of the Roseries Dam which is one-tenth smaller in size. Any unilateral decisions on the timing and rules of filling the GERD will put millions of lives and communities at risk.
The potential positive impacts of the GERD on Sudan emanate from regulating the water flow of the Blue Nile. The regulation of flow will reduce the annual floods during the rainy season and enable Sudan to better manage its irrigation system. It will increase the hydropower generation from existing hydropower plants. In addition, the dam will increase the navigation depth along the Blue Nile and main Nile Rivers.
On the negative side, the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will completely change the flow regime of the Blue Nile by flattening its hydrograph. With this gigantic size, the dam risks causing significant negative impacts on Sudan if not properly designed, constructed, filled and operated. These impacts range from threatening the lives and safety of millions of Sudanese citizens living directly downstream from the dam to the operational safety of the Sudanese dams, the flood plain agricultural system of the country and the socioeconomic and environmental impacts along the Blue Nile and the downstream main Nile River all the way up to the border with Egypt.
While Sudan recognizes the right of Ethiopia to develop its water resources for the benefit and well-being of its citizens, it is vital that Ethiopia does so while ensuring that any potential negative impacts are properly addressed and mitigated in close consultation and coordination with the downstream riparian countries.
Sudan believes that the 1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses reflects and codifies the basic principles of customary international water law, which must be adhered to in order to resolve the remaining differences on the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Therefore, Sudan would like to request the Security Council to: (a) encourage all the parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions, including starting filling the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam prior to reaching a comprehensive agreement, or taking any other action that jeopardizes regional and international peace and security; and (b) support Sudan’s efforts and call upon all the parties to resume immediate negotiations in good faith with the objective of resolving the pending issues and concluding a final comprehensive agreement.
Throughout this process, we sought a win-win solution that preserves and promotes the rights and interests of the three riparian states of the Blue Nile. We worked tirelessly to reach an agreement that fulfulls Ethiopia's developmengt goals while minimizing the adverse effects of this mega-dam on downstream riparian states.
The Ethiopian position reflects its desire to fill and operate the GERD without any meaningful protections that would minimize the adverse effects of this dam on downstream states, and to consecrate an unregulated and unrestrained right to construct future projects upstream of the GERD and to unilaterally utilize the waters of the Blue Nile, even if to the detriment of the rights of downstream riparian states.
For Egypt, a country of more than a 100 million souls that is entirely dependent on the Nile River for its existence, such a situation would be intolerable. Moreover, it is deeply troubling that the GERD is being constructed without having completed the requisite studies on the hydrological and environmental impacts of the dam, and without the necessary guarantees to ensure its structural safety, which threatens over 150 million Sudanese and Egyptian citizens.
The filling of the GERD has been subject to intensive negotiations between the three riparian states. It strains credulity to assume that Ethiopia has, for several years, been discussing the filling plan of the GERD, and the drought mitigation measures that must be applied during the filling, merely out of neighborly generosity. The three parties are engaged in negotiations on the filling because it is a legal obligation under international law.
Egypt never contested Ethiopia's right to utilize the Nile River in accordance with the applicable principles of international law. However, it is disappointing and disheartening that Ethiopia has, repeatedly, raised the banner of sovereignty in discussion on the GERD as though it were a wholly internal river. International watercourses are not subject to the sovereignty and exclusive control of a single riparian and Ethiopia is obliged not to use the Nile water in a manner that causes significant harm to the downstream states.
This proposal covers only the initial stage of the filling. Not only is this inconsistent with the DoP that requires the three states to reach an agreement on both the filling and the operation of the GERD, it would also leave the two downstream states beholden to Ethiopia's goodwill on whether or not to reach an agreement on the subsequent stages of the filling and on the operation.
Ethiopia was never a colony, and all of the Nile water agreements to which Ethiopia is bound were concluded when it was an independent, sovereign state. The GERD must be governed, as stipulated in the 2015 DoP, by the applicable principles of international law, which require preventing the causing of significant harm to existing water uses.
The negotiations on the GERD relate to a single project on a single tributary of the Nile River. Water sharing and water apportionment are simply inapposite in these negotiations. Rather, these negotiations are intended to fill and operate the GERD in a manner that provides Ethiopia with the equitable benefits of this project without inflicting significant harm on downstream states.
Bringing up issues relating to so-called 'colonial' treaties is a political ruse designed to distort facts and deflect attention from the real issue, which is the need to reach a balanced agreement that preserves the interests of all three riparian states.
None of the downstream riparian states that share international watercourses with Ethiopia (South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt) are either signatories to or parties of the CFA. As such, the CFA is entirely extraneous to the GERD negotiations. Moreover, the GERD negotiations related to a single project on the Blue Nile, which means that the White Nile and its riparian states are not affected by this dam. This further confirms the irrelevance the CFA in this context.
Ethiopia's incessant inclusion of the CFA in conversations on the GERD demonstrates its desire to impose a fait accompli on its downstream co-riparian states that have not acceded to this divisive agreement that, even after ten years since it was opened for signature, has not entered into force.
Unless Ethiopia believes that effective coordination and streamlined data sharing that ensures transparency and promotes cooperation would undermine its "rights to operate its own Dam", the Washington Agreement enables Ethiopia to operate the GERD and reap the benefits of this project while protecting downstream states against significant harm.
Egypt is entirely supportive of the right of Ethiopia, and other Nile riparian states, to development and to enjoy the benefits of the Nile River. Egypt, however, believes that such a right must be exercised equitably and reasonably and in accordance with the applicable rules of international law that, inter alia, protect downstream riparians against significant harm.
Filling and operating such a mega project as GERD without an agreement and in the absense of any mutually agreed safeguards that protect downstream riparians against the potentially significant harm that may be inflicted upon them constitutes a clear and present danger to Egypt, which could have serious repercussions that threaten international peace and security.
Ethiopia continues to insist on unilaterally commencing the impoundment of waters in the GERD reservoir. This would be deeply disconcerning politically, as it would represent an alarming attempt by Ethiopia to establish and exercise unfettered control over a vital transboundary river. Moreover, this would constitute a material breach of the Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the GERD that was concluded between our three countries on March 23, 2015, which stipulates that the filling and operation of the GERD must be undertaken pursuant to the guidelines and rules to be agreed between Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan.
Ethiopia also opposed the application of effective mitigation measures to address the impacts of droughts and prolonged droughts on downstream communities, which exposes Egypt and Sudan to the ravaging socio-economic effects of these severe hydrological conditions.
In a further demonstration of its genuine political will to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, Egypt invited neutral third parties to participate in the negotiations and express its readiness to accept any compromise formulas or agreements proposed by those impartial parties.
Given the gravity of this situation and in light of Ethiopia's continued intransigence, which potentially constitutes a threat to international peace and security, I am writing to Your Excellency to request that the U.N. Security Council address this matter urgently.
Egypt has elected to bring this matter to the attention of the UN Securiy Council after having explored and exhausted every avenue of reaching an amicable solution to this situation by concluding an agreement of the GERD that preserves and promotes the rights and interests of the three riparian states of the Blue Nile.
It is incumbent on the U.N. Security Council, and the international community, to urge Ethiopia to act as a responsible stakeholder, by concluding a fair and balanced agreement on the GERD and by not undertaking unilateral measures in relation to this dam, and to abide by its international legal obligations and the principles and rules of international law.
Ethiopia's equivocation an implacable posture also led to the failure of the latest round of negotiations that were held upon the initiative of the Republic of the Sudan and which lasted for several weeks. While Egypt reengaged in these talks to, once again, demonstrate its genuine commitmment to reach an agreement on the GERD, Ethiopia adopted a legally unpalatable and technically unconstuctive attitude throughout these negotiations. It refused to conclude an agreement that would be binding under international law, and proposed to adopt guidelines and rules the content of which it would be entitled to adjust at its discretion.
Contrary to the assertions included in the letter directed to Your Excellency by H.E. the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on May 14, 2020, the failure of negotiations on the GERD is due to Ethiopia's persistent policy of obstructionism and prevarication.
But we are not surprised at all, for it has been apparent for some time that Egypt had no intention of contributing to the sucess of the trilateral process. It has instead prioritized taking the matter to the Security Council - bypassing all regional mechanisms - with the view to internationalizing the GERD negotiations.
It is no accident that Egypt falsely accuses Ethiopia of not wanting to be bound by the guidelines and rules under negotiation. This comes from its latent motive of enforcing the guidelines as a water sharing agreement to block future upstream development. As we have made it abundantly clear, time and again, this is not a water sharing negotiation. If it were, then other riparian countries will have had every right to take part in the negotiation process since the three countries cannot decide on the rights of other riparian states.
Ethiopia will abide by and faithfully implement the guidelines and rules on the annual operation of the GERD once an agreement is reach. However, it will not constrain its right to use the Nile waters for future development by the guidelines and rules or the quantified obligations contained therein.
I must also state frankly that Egypt's unilateral decision to bring this matter to the Security Council is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Declaration of Principles (DoP) that the leaders of the three countries signed on 25 March 2015.
Furthermore, it was Egypt that eventually rejected the region wide cooperative framework on the Nile River that was a result of decade-long dialogue and negotiation among the basin countries. I have enclosed herewith for your reference the relevant historical documents, including copies of the protest letters by Ethiopia, the unfair and unjust 1959 agreement signed by Egypt and the Sudan, as well as the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA).
Ethiopia agreed to establish coordination mechanism and reciprocal data exchange. On the other hand, Egypt refused to provide data and seeks to monitor Ethiopia's dam in a blatant disregard of Ethiopia's sovereign rights.
Ethiopia finds it extremely hypocritical that Egypt continues to accuse Ethiopia of undertaking "unilateral measures". Needless to say, unilateralism is not in Ethiopia's national character or foreign policy practice. As indicated in my previous letter, it was Egypt that built the High Aswan Dam without consulting Ethiopia. It was Egypt that ignored Ethiopia's protests in the years 1956, 1957, 1980 and 1997, objecting to the significant harm its water infrastructure would cause to Ethiopia and other Nile riparian states. It was also Egypt that decided to direct the Nile out of its natural course through the Peace and Toshka canals. Furthermore, it was Egypt that eventually rejected the region wide cooperative framework on the Nile River that was a result of decade-long dialogue and negotiation among the basin countries.
Ethiopia is not taking any unilateral measures. We are spending so much time and energy engaging in the tripartite negotiation process to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. We believe we have come a long way in addressing most of the outstanding technical issues, but we still have some work to do in nanowing the gaps on the legal issues.
The dam is a national project which is designed to help extricate our people from abject poverty and is by no means a threat to peace and security, justifying the invocation of the mandate of the Security Council under Article 35 of the Charter' Egypt knows this fact very well but it is trying to politicize the issue to maintain its hegemonic status-quo over the Nile waters. In this day and age, this is untenable.
The Security Council should not give, even inadvertently, succor to a state which has so far abhorred a just, fair and a win-win outcome which is the only means of ensuring sustainable peace and security.
Egypt's submission to the UNSC came in the middle of a negotiation. Insistence of Egypt to characterize the technical negotiation as a threat to international peace could only be a notice by the Government of Egypt for the international community that it intends to cause friction and disrupt international peace. Still, the major impediment for advancement in negotiations is Egypt's insistence to preserve its interests enshrined under the 1959 Treaty to which Ethiopia is not a party.
It is our firm conviction that finalizing the ongoing tripartite process based on transparency and good faith is the best way forward in resolving the outstanding issues. That is why we believe Egypt went overboard in requesting the involvement of the Security Council by falsely claiming that the issue constitutes a threat to international peace and security.
Egypt knows that there is nothing more unilateral than apportioning the entire average annual flow of the Nile to Egypt and the Sudan at 55.5 and 18.5 billion cubic meters, respectively, excluding Ethiopia, which contributes 86 percent of the Nile waters. This, Excellency, is the crux of the matter and why we have not been able to achieve a breakthrough in the trilateral negotiation. In plain language, Egypt had made it a point to use the GERD negotiations to impel Ethiopia to endorse the unfair and unequal 1969 Agreement, which is anathema for Ethiopia, as it would be for any soverign nation.
If there is in fact any threat to peace and security, in connection with the GERD, the responsible party would be Egypt, which has been engaged in saber-rattling and bellicose threats to use force. It is our hope that the Council would not be misled by Egypt's misrepresentation of the facts surrounding the construction of the GERD. Moreover, we also trust that it would reject Egypt's unwarranted demands which are designed to ensure that the unequal, colonial-era arrangements on the Nile remain unchanged and unaltered.
Sudan is deeply concerned about Ethiopia decision to start filling the of GERD reservoir in the absence of an agreement. The water of the Sudanese Roseires reservoir, is only 15 km downstream the GERD. With its small size (one tenth of the GERD), unilateral filling of GERD put operation of Roseires, and hence the lives of millions people living downstream at a very high risk.
We request the Security Council to consider the following: (1) call upon the leaders of the three countries to demonstrate their political will and commitmment by resolving the few remaining issues and conclude and agreement; (2) call upon the parties to adopt the comprehensive draft Sudan has submitted as the basis for finalizing an agreement; (3) discourage all parties from unilateral actions including starting the filling of the reservoir before reaching an agreement.
We believe the three parties made significant progress on the main technical issues, mainly the first filling, annual operation, mitigation measures, dam safety, environmental and social issues, coordination mechanism, and data exchange. However, on the legal matters a widening gap emerged on the issues of the binding nature of the legal arrangement including amendments and termination. The gaps on the legal matters also include dispute resolution mechanism, and the reference to 1959 water treaty between Egypt and Sudan as well as a demand by Ethiopia to enter into a water sharing agreement within 10 years in accordance with Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement.
Sudan believes that the window for reaching an agreement is closing by the hour. Let us all work very hard to mark a historic moment in the Nile region and turn GERD into a trigger for cooperation instead of a cause for conflict and instability.
Sudan has engaged - in good faith - in all the stages of the dam negotiations, including organising the main trilateral negotiation rounds in Khartoum (2013-2015) that culimnated in the successful conclusion of the agreement on the declaration of principles on the GERD.
Sudan led additional initiatives. A series of six video conference rounds of bilateral technical discussions and seven trilateral negotiations took place from 19th of May to 17th of June 2020. During these rounds, Sudan succeeded in bringing the divergent views and positions by submitting three consecutive versions of the draft agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD. These drafts are based on the consensus achieved till mid-Feb. 2020 in DC as well as the discussion from May-June 2020.
Sudan submitted a proposal with a draft agreement on June 14 2020, it represents the best compromise text. The draft is comprehensive, fair and balanced and it paves the way for concluding a comprehensive and final deal.
This led, after intensive negotiations, in which the three countries fully participated, and for the first time after almost a decade of talks, to an agreement that was prepared under the auspices of the United States and with technical input from the World Bank. This agreement, which Egypt accepted and initialled on 28 February 2020, but which Ethiopia rejected at the eleventh hour, provided a fair and balanced, win-win solution that promotes the interests of our three countries and preserves their riparian rights and equities.
It is Egypt’s belief that an agreement on GERD must be a legally binding instrument under international law, which must also include clear definitions that establish the threshold of significant harm that must be prevented, in addition to a binding dispute resolution mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of this agreement
The unilateral filling and operation of this dam, without an agreement that includes the necessary precautions to protect downstream communities and to prevent the infliction of significant harm on their riparian rights, would heighten tensions and could provoke crises and conflicts that further destabilize an already troubled region
This means that, if GERD is filled and operated unilaterally, in the absence of a mutually beneficial agreement that protects the lives and livelihood of downstream communities, it can place further stress on an already severely strained hydrological reality and endanger millions of people in both Egypt and the Sudan.
Any other understanding or interpretation of this commitment would reflect the lack of political will to reach an agreement on GERD and reveal an underlying intention to impose an unacceptable fait accompli on downstream States and enforce the unilateral will of an upstream State on its co-riparians, and turn any talks into an exercise in futility.
Filling GERD unilaterally, without an agreement with Egypt and the Sudan, would jeopardize the interests of downstream communities, whose existence and survival depend on the Nile River.
The unilateral operation of this mega-dam could have disastrous socioeconomic effects that will diminish every dimension of the human security of Egyptians, including food security, water security, environmental security and human health. It will also expose millions to greater economic vulnerability, leading to increasing rates of crime and illegal migration. It would reduce water quality, disrupt the riparian ecosystem, damage biodiversity and aggravate the dangers of climate change.
This eventuality represents a serious threat to international peace and security. It could also have serious, if not seismic, political ramifications. Downstream States would find themselves in an intolerable situation and create an atmosphere of animosity between our countries and sow the seeds of discord between our peoples.
It is therefore necessary for the Security Council and the international community to exert every effort and support every initiative that is intended to lift this looming threat and remove this ominous peril on the horizon.
It is important that the Security Council consider this matter. As the body entrusted by the international community with the unique responsibility to maintain international peace and security, the Council is expected to exercise watchful vigilance to avert the escalation of tensions, to prevent the outbreak of conflict and to contain crises that threaten to prejudice the peace in a fragile region.
As a responsible stakeholder, Egypt elected to bring this matter to the attention of the Security Council to forestall further escalation and to ensure that unilateral actions do not undermine efforts to reach an agreement on GERD or prejudice the riparian rights and interests of downstream States, or, more alarmingly, to endanger the lives of almost 150 million Egyptian and Sudanese citizens, thereby generating greater tension in an unstable region.
It is incumbent on the Security Council to take note of and welcome these outcomes of the meeting of the African Union Bureau and to call upon the three counties to comply with their commitments and pledges.
We call upon the Security Council to encourage the parties to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement on GERD and to refrain from any unilateral measures until such an agreement is reached. Until our efforts are successful and an agreement is concluded, the Council should, as it discharges its duties, remain actively seized of the matter.
In keeping with our principled position that GERD must be filled and operated in accordance with a mutually beneficial agreement that promotes the common interests of our three countries, Egypt accepted the invitation of the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to hold an extraordinary African Union Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government meeting on 26 June 2020 to deliberate on this matter. The object and purpose of this meeting was to ensure that an agreement on GERD is reached expeditiously.
Any other understanding or interpretation of this commitment would reflect the lack of political will to reach an agreement on GERD and reveal an underlying intention to impose an unacceptable fait accompli on downstream States and enforce the unilateral will of an upstream State on its co-riparians, and turn any talks into an exercise in futility.
This treaty, the content and terms of which are unambiguous and unequivocal, was intended to provide greater political impetus and guidance to our discussions. It reconfirmed the legal obligation incumbent upon Ethiopia to conduct studies on the transboundary hydrological and socioeconomic effects of GERD and to undertake an assessment of its environmental impact. It also reaffirmed Ethiopia’s political commitment and its legal obligation not to fill the dam without an agreement with its two downstream co-riparians on the rules governing both the filling and operation, which would guarantee Ethiopia the hydropower benefits of this project while minimizing its many harms on downstream States.
Egypt has been subjected to an unjustifiable campaign of unfounded claims that we sought to bind other parties to agreements from the dark era of colonialism. The reality, however, is that every treaty relating to the Nile that was concluded by Ethiopia was signed by its Government, free of any compulsion or coercion, and as an independent and sovereign State. These include a treaty freely signed by the Emperor of Abyssinia in 1902 that prohibited the construction of any waterworks across the Blue Nile that affect the natural flow of the river, and a General Framework for Cooperation, also freely signed by Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, and Egypt’s President in 1993, in addition to the 2015 Agreement on Declaration of Principles. Needless to say, all these treaties remain binding and in force.
Regretablly, however, despite the fact that we contracted an international consultancy firm to conduct the studies on the effects and impacts of the dam, the process of undertaking these studies was obstructed, and as a result, they were never completed. Nor do we have unassailable guarantees regarding the safety and structural soundness of GERD. This means that, in the absence of sufficient scientific data, communities downstream of this great structure appear condemned to live in the dark shadow of a great unknown.
If, God forbid, GERD experiences structural failures or faults, it would place the Sudanese people under unimaginable peril and would expose Egypt to unthinkable hazards. Indeed, our concerns in this regard are not unwarranted. In 2010, the head-race tunnel of the Gibe II dam constructed across the Omo River collapsed within days of the completion of its construction.
Concurrently, however, we are unwaveringly committed to support our fellow African nations, especially in the Nile Basin and including Ethiopia, in their efforts to realize greater prosperity. This is evident in the fact that Egypt has cooperated with every Nile Basin State in constructing dams, in rain harvesting projects, in digging water wells and in the removal of waterweeds that constrict the flow of the river. This reflects our unshakable belief in our common destiny as Africans and confirms our conviction that the Nile River is not the exclusive property of Egypt or of any riparian State, but the common heritage and sacred trust of all our peoples.
Much as we wholeheartedly support Ethiopia’s right to development, including through the use of our shared water resources, we believe that justice dictates that Ethiopia respect Egypt’s right to life.
Contrarily, Egypt and the Sudan demand Ethiopia be indefinitely committed to the thresholds unless they agree to the review. This position clearly shows the intention of Egypt and the Sudan to make the GERD the only water development project Ethiopia could build over the Blue Nile.
Ethiopia proposed a compulsory arrangement whereby Egypt and the Sudan will review the document when there is upstream abstraction or they enter into a proper water allocation agreement with Ethiopia. Egypt and the Sudan decline both and have advanced their position, which gives them a veto power over the right of Ethiopia to further use the Blue Nile.
Regarding the issue of dam safety, the international panel of experts had clearly attested, in its report dated 31 May 2013, that dam design studies have been undertaken to meet internationally recognized safety standards; dam height was determined on technical criteria, such as energy production, reservoir filling, dam site morphology and upstream dam site location; the dam size is consistent with the inflow at the GERD site; and the contractor and the consultant are companies renowned for accumulated experience in the field of dam construction.
Although none of the three countries ratified the Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, its important principles are already enshrined in the Declaration of Principles. In relation to the obligation to provide “prior notification”, the Sudan and Egypt did not comply with any of the principles under the Convention.
The African continent has a good tradition of solving regional issues through dialogue and consultation. Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan are all important countries in the region and good friends of China. China sincerely hopes that the three parties will reach a solution acceptable to all through patient dialogue and consultation. We hope that the international community will create a conducive external environment and support the three parties in narrowing differences through dialogue and consultation in an effort to maintain peace, stability and development in Africa. The Council’s consideration of the Renaissance Dam issue should not set a precedent. China is ready to work with all parties to play a constructive role.
I would like to note that meeting in the SC Council to discuss this issue should not create a precedent, but should be seen as part of our collective efforts to help all parties resume negotiations and come up with an acceptable, amicable and implementable solutions.
AU is seized of this issue. The council could support this regional initiative, as it would send a strong signal of recognition of the essential role played by regional organizations in the peaceful settlement of disputes of this nature. Regional org. Such AU often have a better understanding of regional dynamics. Accordingly, they can detect the early warning signes of impending conflict, and through that knowledge, promote dialogue and reconciliation among the parties, as has been pointed out in the reports of the SG on strengthening the partnership between UN and AU on issues of peace and security in Africa. The principle that African problems should be solved through African solutions.
AU remain seized of this matter of concern to the continent. It is therefore important that the SC respect the continental efforts and provide space for the parties, through the agreed upon mechanisms, to find a solution that will ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for these three neighbourly countries.
The United States takes note of the recent efforts of the AU to facilitate additional discussions among the three countries on the GERD. We recognise that this issue is before the council because time is short and the window to achieving such an agreement may be rapidly closing.
It is encouraging to hear that the parties have decided to continue a negotiation process led by the African Union (AU). In this regard, we welcome the announcement by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission that more than 90 per cent of the disputed issues have been resolved and that a legal and technical committee to discuss outstanding issues has been formed.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam poses a unique opportunity for this part of Africa, where droughts, desertification and economic underdevelopment have befallen generations of people. An agreement on the Renaissance Dam has the potential to transform a region that is home to over 250 million people, expanding economic opportunities through transboundary cooperation and regional integration. Increased food security, improved energy access and expanded agriculture projects are just a few of the transformational benefits that the dam can afford the region.
We have seen first-hand how the Nile is deeply intertwined with the national identities of Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan and how its future is of paramount importance to the livelihoods and well-being of their peoples.
The Bureau of the African Union Assembly and participating Heads of State and Government have requested the Security Council to take note of these developments and of the fact that the African Union remains seized of this matter of concern to the continent. It is therefore important that the Security Council respect the continental efforts and provide space for the parties, through the agreed upon mechanisms, to find a solution that will ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for these three neighbourly countries.
The construction of the dam has been under way for almost a decade and is expected to usher in a new era of development, not only for Ethiopia but potentially for the entire subregion as well. It will be the biggest hydroelectric dam on the continent and should therefore be celebrated as a symbol of much-needed development and not become a source of conflict and disagreement.
Failure to reach this agreement, the infliction of harm on the riparian interests of the downstream States and jeopardizing their water security would result in the escalation and heightening of tensions throughout East Africa and the Horn of Africa and would constitute a serious threat to international peace and security.
Indeed, Ethiopia appears reluctant to become party to a legally binding instrument that establishes clear rights and obligations for the three parties and that includes robust mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation.
Similarly, Ethiopia refused to accept a proposal that underscored the leadership of the African Union Chair and underlined that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would facilitate the negotiations with the assistance of the European Union, the United States and the United Nations in order to formulate solutions to the outstanding legal and technical issues.
Acordingly, Egypt calls upon the international community to impress upon Ethiopia the importance of engaging, in a spirit of good faith, in negotiations to conclude an agreement on GERD within the upcoming months and to refrain from taking any unilateral action, including the execution of the second filling during the flood season that will begin during the summer of 2021, until an agreement is conclude.
With the active engagement of the international community, a fair and balanced agreement can be reached on GERD that unlocks the potential for cooperation between our three countries and that charts a new course for the entire Nile Basin and East Africa.
Failure to reach this agreement, the infliction of harm on the riparian interests of the downstream States and jeopardizing their water security would result in the escalation and heightening of tensions throughout East Africa and the Horn of Africa and would constitute a serious threat to international peace and security. It would place Egypt in a strategically untenable position and would make the survival and livelihood of our peoples subject to the control of an upstream riparian that has demonstrated a lack of the political will to act as a responsible stakeholder and co-riparian.
Furthermore, Ethiopia has recently suggested that the three countries establish a mechanism for the exchange of technical data on the process of filling GERD. While a proposal to exchange technical data may ostensibly be constructive, the reality is that the purpose of a data exchange mechanism in this context is to ensure compliance with the substantive terms of an agreement on the filling and operation of GERD. Without such an agreement, the establishment of a data exchange mechanism will become a vehicle for securing Egypt’s de facto recognition and acceptance of Ethiopia’s unilateral filling of GERD. The filling of the GERD reservoir must proceed according to the terms of a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of GERD, the execution of which should be monitored by, inter alia, a data exchange mechanism.
Even more disconcerting is the fact that Ethiopia has repeatedly declared that it intends to execute the second stage of the filling of GERD regardless of whether an agreement is reached with Egypt and the Sudan. If undertaken unilaterally, this second filling, during which Ethiopia is expected to impound at least 13.5 billion cubic metres of water in the GERD reservoir, could cause significant, if not disastrous, harm to Egypt and the Sudan.
In particular, 20 million Sudanese citizens, who live downstream of GERD and Sudanese hydropower facilities, including the Roseriers Dam, will be directly impacted and threatened by the second stage of the filling and by the continued unilateral operation of GERD. Similarly, Egypt, which is entirely dependent on the Nile River for its livelihood and for the survival of its 105 million citizens, will be adversely affected by GERD, especially during periods of drought that might coincide with the filling and operation of this dam, which could cause significant water shortages in Egypt.
Regrettably, the African Union-led process has, thus far, proven fruitless. After over eight months of talks, we are no closer to an agreement on GERD. The positions of our three countries continue to diverge and efforts to bridge the gap on the outstanding legal and technical issues have been unsuccessful. Despite the flexibility that Egypt has shown and our sincere efforts to accommodate Ethiopian concerns and interests, our negotiations have not yielded any progress.
This is due to Ethiopia’s intransigent positions that reflect a lack of political will to conclude an agreement that takes into consideration the riparian rights of Egypt and the Sudan or that includes adequate measures to mitigate the potential harm that GERD could inflict on the two downstream States. Indeed, Ethiopia appears reluctant to become party to a legally binding instrument that establishes clear rights and obligations for the three parties and that includes robust mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation.
Unfortunately, however, Ethiopia rejected the multiple proposals and ideas presented by Egypt and the Sudan during this ministerial meeting to revisit and enhance the modalities of the African Union-led process. It rejected a proposal to establish an international quartet that would act as a mediator between the three parties and that would be led by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and include the European Union, the United States and the United Nation.
It is unfortunate that Egypt and the Sudan rejected this goodwill gesture by Ethiopia and continue insisting on their unreasonable demand that the second-year filling of the dam should not proceed without “a comprehensive agreement” forecloses Ethiopia’s water use. It should be clear that this argument does not have any legal basis but, most importantly, it contravenes Ethiopia’s inherent right to utilize its natural resources based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and causing no significant harm. If the two countries want the second-year filling not to proceed without an agreement, then the best way forward is to agree to the compromise proposal by Ethiopia on the filling and related operation of the dam and to continue the negotiation to eventually reach a comprehensive agreement.
Ethiopia has only one conclusive response to this: it has a right to proceed with the filling of the dam, and it will certainly continue with the development of its water resource and the construction of any other water development project based on the principle of equitable and reasonable utilization and of causing no significant harm. Egypt and the Sudan are opposing Ethiopia’s use of the Nile water, citing the perceived harm they will sustain to a self-claimed water share and unilaterally imposed claim over use of the water of the Nile.
Unfortunately, Egypt and the Sudan have not been interested at all to continue the negotiation in good faith and make the necessary concessions to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. Instead, they have been engaged in scuttling the tripartite negotiation and internationalizing the issue on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to exert maximum pressure on Ethiopia.
Specifically, Ethiopia continues to refuse to sign a legally binding instrument, and has proposed limiting the negotiations to agreeing to the filling of the GERD and suggested establishing a data exchange and technical cooperation mechanism instead of elaborating rules for the filling and operation of the GERD.
Similarly, it is implausible to establish data exchange or technical cooperation mechanisms in the absence of rules to govern the filling and operation of the GERD. Indeed, the very purpose of those mechanisms is to monitor compliance with the terms of an agreement and to ensure that the filling and operation of the GERD proceed in accordance with the technical rules governing these processes. Therefore, in the absence of agreed rules on the filling and operation, establishing data exchange or technical cooperation mechanisms would only serve to legitimize Ethiopia’s policy of unilateralism and its filling of the GERD without an agreement with its downstream co-riparians
More troublingly, Ethiopia has declared its intention to continue the filling of the GERD in the upcoming weeks. This is an act of unilateralism that Egypt categorically rejects.
Reaching an agreement limited to the filling of the GERD would enable Ethiopia to impound 50 billion cubic metres of water and commence the production of hydropower, without instituting any effective mechanisms to mitigate the long-term adverse effects of either the filling or operation of the GERD.
To prevent the infliction of harm on downstream States, it is essential to establish operational rules to mitigate the potentially ravaging impact of droughts and to ensure the safety of downstream hydropower facilities. In the absence of these technical elements, any agreement on the filling of the GERD would be patently unfair, iniquitous, and would imperil the interests of downstream States
Failure to reach an agreement on the GERD owing to Ethiopia’s intransigence and its unilateral filling and operation of this mega-dam, which is the largest hydropower facility in Africa, could have significant, if not disastrous, socioeconomic impacts on Egypt.
It is regrettable that I find it necessary to, once again, inform the Security Council that negotiations on the GERD are at an impasse and that Ethiopia remains intent on imposing a fait accompli on Egypt and the Sudan by continuing to impound the waters of the Blue Nile to fill the GERD reservoir. The failure of negotiations on the GERD, the unilateral filling and operation of this dam, and its potential adverse effects on downstream States and communities could precipitate a situation that threatens peace, security and stability throughout the Nile basin and the Horn of Africa.
The responsibility for the failure of the African Union-led process lays squarely with Ethiopia. Throughout the previous year, Ethiopia undermined the African Union-led negotiations by adopting substantively intransigent positions and a procedurally unconstructive attitude.
The negotiations on the GERD have, thus far, failed, not owing to disagreements on technical matters or questions of dam engineering, but because the issue is ultimately political. Throughout a decade of negotiations, Ethiopia has neither shown nor exercised the requisite political will to conclude an agreement on the GERD that is fair, balanced and mutually beneficial.
During the latest ministerial meeting in Kinshasa, Ethiopia rejected every proposal tabled by Egypt and the Sudan to augment the African Union-led process and ensure its success by enabling the Chairperson of the African Union and our international partners, namely the European Union, the United States of America and the United Nations, to become actively engaged in the negotiations to assist the three parties in reaching an agreement.
Egypt has elected to, once again, bring this matter to the attention of the Security Council in the light of its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The current lack of progress in negotiations, Ethiopia’s continued intransigence, and its policy of unilateralism, which is embodied in its determination to fill and operate the GERD without regard to its impact on Egypt and the Sudan, could have serious ramifications that threaten peace and security throughout the region. Averting this eventuality requires the active engagement of the international community to reach a peaceful settlement to this matter.
Unfortunately, throughout a year of faltering negotiations, the African Union-led process was obstructed by Ethiopian intransigence. Despite the tireless efforts of President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, during his tenure as Chairperson of the African Union, and the unwavering commitment of President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the current Chairperson of the African Union, to advance the negotiations, the African Union-led process failed to generate any meaningful progress towards finalizing a text of a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD.
Despite claiming to support an enhanced role for the African Union and our international partners, the reality is that Ethiopia refuses to engage in an efficacious process of negotiations that has the potential to yield positive results.
Ethiopia has declared its intention to continue the filling of the GERD in the upcoming weeks. This is an act of unilateralism that Egypt categorically rejects, and which constitutes a serious breach of Ethiopia’s obligations under customary and conventional international law, including the 2015 agreement on the Declaration of Principles, and is also inconsistent with the spirit of African solidarity and the principles of comity and good-neighbourliness.
It is deeply disconcerting that Ethiopia has sought to exploit the GERD negotiations in order to consecrate an unfettered right to unilaterally construct further waterworks and undertake future developments along the Blue Nile upstream of the GERD and across other transboundary rivers that it shares with its neighbours. For Egypt, all riparian States of the Nile basin, including Ethiopia, have an inalienable right to enjoy the benefits of the Nile River.
For Egypt, all riparian States of the Nile basin, including Ethiopia, have an inalienable right to enjoy the benefits of the Nile River. However, such a right must be exercised in accordance with the applicable rules of international law, especially the principles of prior notification and consultation, the equitable and reasonable utilization of iinternational watercourses, and the obligations to protect the riparian ecosystem and to prevent the infliction of significant harm.
The Council of the League of Arab States at the ministerial level, at its extraordinary session held on 15 June 2021 in Doha, decides to affirm that the water security of the Republic of the Sudan and the Arab Republic of Egypt is integral to Arab national security and reject any action or measure that negatively affects those two countries’ rights to the Nile waters
The Council of the League of Arab States at the ministerial level, at its extraordinary session held on 15 June 2021 in Doha, express strong concern about the announcement by Ethiopia of its intention to continue filling the Renaissance Dam reservoir during the upcoming flood season in the summer of 2021, a unilateral measure that would violate international rules in force, in particular the Declaration of Principles signed by the three countries in Khartoum on 23 March 2015, and damage the interests of Egypt and the Sudan, in particular with regard to water facilities in the Sudan, most notably the Rusayris Dam
The AU-led process, as demonstrated in the AU Bureau of the Assembly of Heads of States Communique of June 26, 2020, was predicated on the good faith of Sudan, Egypt and Ehtiopia to build on the 90 percent of issues already agreed upon in previous rounds, and resolve the outstanding legal and technical matters. However, Ethiopia has refused repeatedly to engage with the AU Bureau's chosen "augmented committee" negotiation method, which stipulated an active role for observers and AU-appointed independent experts to support the three Parties in reaching a comprehense agreement.
Ethiopia has sought to introduce new negotiating positions and concepts such as time-bound “partial agreement” on filling and operation in order to link any comprehensive agreement to a concomitant “water allocation” agreement .
In all the meetings held in Khartoum, on November 4-5, 2013, December 8-9, 2013 and 4-5 January 2014, Egypt thwarted progress by tabling unrelated agenda. Thus, the meetings ended with no concrete agreement and the process was stalled for six months. Egypt stonewalled the process.
Egypt yet again delayed the process by over two years by blocking transmission of the comments of the three countries to the consultant. This - and preceding delays caused by Egypt- disabled the TNC from carrying out its functions. In effect, the countries were prevented from conducting the joint studies.
Egypt curtailed establishment of the NISRG by refusing to table to proposal in the agenda of the Nine Party meeting (Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Water Affairs and Chiefs of the Intelligence) held on 05 April 2018.
Unlike the simplistic portrayal given by Egypt, the dispute is not on the legal status of the GERD guidelines. Rather, it is on the content of this guidelines and rules. Egypt wants an instrument that will be cited to foreclose Ethiopia from using the Nile upstream of the GERD. Ethiopia refuses to sign such instrument. Egypt demands Ethiopia to agree to an adversarial and adjudicatory dispute resolution mechanism. Ethiopia offered a consultative dispute resolution mechanism, with a possible involvement of mediators, leaving the last call for heads of governments of the three countries. It should be noted, Egypt do not have any dispute resolution clause in its water sharing agreement with Sudan. Contrarily, Ethiopia within the CFA on the Nile Basin agreed to adjudicatory dispute resolution in the incidence of dispute.
Entertaining downstream notions that wrongly perceive water issues as a security issue in contradiction with the notion of equity and reasonableness may make the UNSC privy to Egypt and Sudan’s historical design for total control of the Nile through the 1959 treaty and sets precedence impinging on the entitlement of upstream states of the Nile in their respective territories.
Beyond the self-claimed and colonially imposed “historic right”, Egypt made it impossible for anyone to agree with it on the matter of the Nile, by nationalistic and belligerent narratives.
Disguised in the annual operation of the GERD, Egypt wants to uphold the status quo and maintain the 1959 partial water allocation to the detriment of Ethiopia. To this end, Egypt introduced triple layered thresholds in the name of drought, prolonged drought and prolonged dry years that will keep the GERD on a perpetual state of release.
Ethiopia, the largest land locked developing country without alternative water resources, has no option but to utilize the waters of Abbay/Blue Nile that constitutes two-third of Ethiopia’s water resources.
To deal with the management and utilization of the Nile waters without addressing the root cause i.e., the absence of a fair water allocation framework in the basin is to ignore the elephant in the room. In the GERD negotiations, the cart came before the horse. Had there been a fair and equitable water allocation and utilization framework in the basin, the issue of the guidelines and rules for the first filling and annual operation of the GERD would have been less complex. Unfortunately, this prerequisite agreement is not in place. As a result, any detail agreed on the GERD must change whenever Ethiopia develops the Blue Nile upstream of the GERD. Otherwise, no one but Ethiopia that has barely used the resource will sustain harm as Egypt and Sudan already exhausted the resource andopenly declare they need more water to meet their need.
On 9 May 2021, Egypt and the Sudan met in Khartoum to unceremoniously declare the negotiation a failure. In addition, Egypt and the Sudan went ahead and tried to drag the Arab League into the situation, which Ethiopia believes is unhelpful. The efforts of Egypt and the Sudan are bound to create misunderstanding between the African Union and the Arab League.
Egypt and the Sudan insist that Ethiopia should not be allowed to fill the dam without their consent. Ethiopia, as a riparian country that contributes 86 per cent of the entire water flow, has the right to utilize the Nile. Ethiopia is under no obligation under international law or practice to seek the consent of the two lower riparian countries. That would clearly amount to affording a veto power to those two countries over the development endeavours of the more than 110 million people of Ethiopia.
Egypt’s contradicting narratives to its public and to the international community are part of its effort to make the second-year filling of the dam an international phenomenon due to domestic political considerations that the Security Council could have been spared from.
The Republic of South Africa, during its chairmanship of the African Union, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, since the assumption of its chairmanship in February 2021, have been discharging their role to facilitate the trilateral talks on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Unfortunately, since its commencement, Egypt and the Sudan have disrupted the African Union-led negotiation nine times, each time blocking a productive discussion.negotiation nine times, each time blocking a productive discussion.
In May 2021, President Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo proposed a phased approach for the talks, after a highly regarded and welcome shuttle diplomacy between the capitals of the three countries. Ethiopia accepted the proposal and forwarded its version of the filling rules, per the request of the Chairperson. In addition, President Tshisekedi designated a facilitator to the trilateral process to fast-track the talks with full-time and regular follow-up. Egypt rejected the esteemed facilitator, thereby squandering the efforts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and prolonging the process.
Article 10 of the DoP provides the agreement of the parties to resolve differences in a peaceful manner. It enshrines three alternatives that may be invoked by the three countries. These are, mediation, conciliation or referral to heads of states. Neither Egypt nor Sudan invoked this provision to channel the process from negotiation to a phase of dispute resolution.
Egypt prevented the NISRG from analyzing issues and developing scenarios. The Group was even unable to compile and submit the report of its work to the water affairs ministers. In the process, the NISRG adopted by agreement the stage based first filling schedule that is currently a common element of the negotiation documents of the three countries.
Egypt refused to sign the minutes of the second meeting in Cairo on 2-3 December 2019. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Affairs met again on December 9, 2019 and January 15 at the office of the US Treasury Secretary. Further, two meetings were held in Washington, DC on 28-31 January 2020 and 12-13 February 2020. 12-13 February 2020, the observers proposed to formulate the “legal text on guidelines and rules on the first filling and annual operation of the GERD.” Ethiopia declined the offer on both procedural and substantive grounds and officially communicated the same to the “observers.”Despite Ethiopia’s request to postpone a meeting that was scheduled for 27-28 February 2020, consultations were held with Egypt and the Sudan in the absence of Ethiopia. Ethiopia has learned that Egypt has initialed a document prepared by the “observers”.
Reference Sudan made to Article 35 of the UN Charter is unwarranted. Ethiopia strongly believes that the GERD is a pillar for cooperation. It doesn’t pose threat to the peace and security of the countries in the region. The GERD, is a hydro-electric dam, that represents the most minimal aspect of Ethiopia’s legitimate exercise of its rights as a riparian state and source of eighty six percent of the waters of the Nile. By no stretch can a hydroelectric dam or a technical difference on the utilization of a transboundary river warrant the involvement of the UNSC. The negotiation pertaining to the first filling and annual operation of the GERD is one of many and continuing global water issues the resolution of which is the exclusive domain of the riparian states.
The dealings of the Council are supremely important and shall strictly be limited to its mandate as prescribed under the Charter of the United Nations. In this regard, it is unfortunate to see abuse of the time and energy of the Council by Egypt and Sudan towards their underserving political end.
The Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity of Sudan on an official press conference declared his country’s readiness to reach agreement. This created hopes in reaching a critical milestone in the negotiations. However, this did not last long as Sudan and Egypt immediately resorted to series of actions targeting the disruption of the AU led process.
The current water affairs minister of Sudan made a presentation in 2015 based on the detailed study he conducted on benefits of the GERD to Sudan. The following are excerpts from his presentation on the main benefits that will accrue to Sudan upon the completion of the GERD. Although these details are rooted in the intents of Sudan and do not create any assumption of duty on the part of Ethiopia, it gives an accurate portrayal on the inconsistent claims by the Sudan.
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam benefits the Sudan more than any other riparian country. To borrow the statement of Sudanese officials, the dam is for the Sudan what the High Aswan Dam is for Egypt. Regulated flow of the Nile will allow the Sudan to produce more food and generate more electricity. It will also save the lives and property that the Sudan keeps losing to excessive and perennial flooding. Cognizant of the benefits the Sudan will acquire, the people and governments of the Sudan have supported the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project from its inception. More recently, the Sudan has changed course for reasons known only to them. In this regard, it is worth noting that Egypt and the Sudan, per the 1959 agreement, are under obligation to advance a common position.
Sudan keeps on blaming the GERD filling for water supply shortages it purports to having experienced. The truth is, at the peak days of the filling - Ethiopia released 90 – 102 million-meter-cube/ day water downstream. This is more than fifty times higher than the daily water supply required in Sudan.
Egypt and Sudan notified the UN, the US, the EU and others about the proposal to have a four-way mediation. They also orchestrated a political and media campaign, pushing the idea of the so called “quartet”. The two never thought the importance of running this news by Ethiopia. Later in the Kinshasa talks, both countries dropped the so called “quartet” and “mediation” without much consideration.
The ongoing trilateral negotiation on the dam is under way under the auspices of African Union, a common organization for Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan. The African Union-led negotiation is guided by the conviction of finding “African solutions to Africa’s challenges”.
I am writing the present letter to communicate Ethiopia’s position on the unacceptable interference by the League of Arab States that addressed the Security Council and the General Assembly on the matter of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The League of Arab States is reputed for its unfettered and unconditional support for any claim that Egypt has presented on the issue of the Nile. However, it is a cause of great disappointment for the League to take this approach and address the United Nations on a matter that does not fall within its purview. Ethiopia rejects the unwelcome meddling by the League of Arab States. It also risks undermining the friendly and cooperative relations between the African Union and the Arab League.
The Meeting of the Bureau of the Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government was held in a fraternal spirit guided by the principle of Pan-African solidarity and cooperation and the attendant desire to find an African solution to an African problem.
Egypt has consistently adopted the position that any understandings reached regarding the execution of the stage-based filling of the GERD must be incorporated within and implemented as part of a comprehensive agreement that governs the filling and operation of this dam, and that includes effective measures to mitigate its harmful downstream effects.
I would also like to reiterate that, as I noted in my letter dated 11 April 2021, Egypt does not accept your proposal of establishing a mechanism for the reciprocal exchange of data. Such a mechanism can only function as part of a comprehensive agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD to provide the necessary channels for the exchange of data and technical information relating to the implementation of this agreement and verifying compliance with the rules included therein.
It is deeply alarming that Ethiopia has decided to continue to execute the filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) unilaterally in the absence of an agreement that regulates this process and provides the requisite protections and guarantees for the rights and interests of downstream States, including the safety of their hydropower facilities and waterworks.
Accordingly, I am writing to inform you that Egypt categorically rejects this further act of unilateralism and intends to bring this matter to the attention of the Security Council. Ethiopia’s persistent policy of unilateralism, and the adverse impacts on Egyptian riparian rights and interests that will result from the continued unilateral filling and operation of the GERD, will have serious political ramifications that could threaten peace and security throughout the region.
This act of unilateralism constitutes a further material breach by Ethiopia of the Agreement on Declaration of Principles concluded between Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan on 23 March 2015. This Agreement clearly and unequivocally requires Ethiopia to reach a legally binding agreement on the filling and operation of the GERD before undertaking the filling of the reservoir of this dam.
It is appropriate to assert that the predicament described above is in direct contravention of the international water law principles of cooperation and causing no significant harm, as the mitigation measures undertaken by Sudan owing to Ethiopia’s non-cooperation have taken a substantial economic and social toll.
The Ministry reaffirmed that the State of Kuwait supports international efforts to resolve and bring to an end this important and sensitive issue, stressing that the international community, in coordination with the African Union and the League of Arab States, must intensify its efforts to commence negotiations among Egypt, the Sudan and Ethiopia in order to arrive at solution that conforms to the principles of international law and international conventions, as well as to preserve the interests and rights of those States and the States of the Nile Basin and to realize the aspirations of the peoples of the region by reaching a lasting and comprehensive solution.
Effective, cooperative water management also becomes all the more important in the context of climate change. Indeed, climate models indicate that the flow of the Nile will exhibit increasing variability during the period of modelling up to 2040, leading to more floods and more intense droughts. It is therefore imperative that the parties work together to manage those interconnected challenges. In order to reach an optimal agreement, trust, transparency and open engagement will be key.
In conclusion, we would also like to make a concrete proposal. Since all the interested parties are gathered here in New York, why not hold a round of negotiations, brokered by the presidency of the African Union, to resolve the differences over the dam? We believe that this would be the best possible contribution of the Security Council to resolving the situation in the spirit of our shared principle of African solutions to African problems.
Shared watercourse can also be the foundation of cooperation, well-planned hydraulic infrastructures on a shared river course can be a source of enhanced collaboration and need not be a zero-sum game. With integrated planning, damaging seasonal inundations can be prevented; energy can be traded; water storage can be optimized; and benefits can materialize both in terms of development and in terms of water optimization.
The Nile is a very critical shared source of water. It is the source of livelihoods and development for the people of Ethiopia, the Sudan, Egypt and the region. In the light of the current situation related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, there is an urgent need for a coordination and cooperation mechanism among the countries concerned on the use of that water resource and the resolution of the disputes that might arise. That would ensure the rights of the upstream country without harming the rights and interests of downstream countries at the same time.
We fully understand the political and socioeconomic significance of this hydropower project, the largest on the African continent, for the millions of people living in Ethiopia, a country that is experiencing a major electricity shortage. At the same time, we note the legitimate concerns expressed by Egypt and the Sudan regarding the possible negative effects the operation of the dam could have, in the absence of an agreement, on the inhabitants of those countries during dry years.
China believes that, through joint efforts, the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) can become a tripartite development project to enhance mutual trust and win-win cooperation.
While Member States have also acknowledged that most aspects related to the GERD have been addressed, we do understand that the parties still have to agree on some core issues, including a dispute-resolution mechanism and on drought mitigation, particularly the filling and operation of the dam in drought years.
An agreement on the GERD can and indeed must be reached. Cooperation among the riparian states regarding the critical natural resources has never been more important.
We hope that today’s meeting will give new and firm impetus to the negotiations under the auspices of the AU, to help the three countries reach a binding agreement that respects the vital interests of their people, protects their water security and the right to development, provides new opportunities for cooperation in the region and prevents the growth of additional tension.
We encourage them to assuage their entrenched positions and continue with the trilateral negotiations in good faith in order to reach an amicable, equitable and reasonable agreement. Such agreements between riparian States become even more critical as climate change increases both flooding and drought in the river, as highlighted earlier by the UNEP Executive Director, Ms. Inger Andersen.
After a decade of negotiations, we believe that an agreement on the filling of the GERD should be within the reach of Ethiopia, the Sudan and Egypt. In the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the GERD, the three countries committed to cooperation, equitable and reasonable utilization, security and the peaceful settlement of disputes. We hope that the remaining differences can be overcome with the necessary political will and a spirit of compromise that will benefit all the people of the region.
We recognize that the parties have already undertaken several initiatives to address issues arising out of the construction and filling of the GERD in Ethiopia. Those include the establishment of an international panel of experts in 2012 to examine the dam’s design and construction plans, a follow-up Tripartite National Committee in 2014 and the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. We believe that those initiatives, particularly the 2015 Agreement on Declaration of Principles, provide a good basis to continue negotiations aimed at reaching an amicable solution that protects the interests of all three countries.
We would like to emphasize the importance of fostering the further codification and development of international law regarding the sustainable use of transboundary watercourses, including through the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses.
China attaches great importance to the issue of the GERD and appreciates the fact that, in 2015, the three countries signed the Agreement on Declaration of Principles on the GERD following a dialogue and the holding of multiple rounds of negotiations under the auspices of the AU.
As we have heard, the United Nations remains ready to support Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan, as well as the African Union, in their efforts to achieve an agreement on the GERD that is beneficial to all. Coordination around hydro-infrastructure in that basin is critically important. When done right and with strong political leadership by the riparian nations, it can provide a basis for deeper, mutually beneficial regional cooperation around shared natural resources, which would enhance sustainable development and peace.
The Security Council, whose primary role in resolving international disputes is indisputable, should support the African Union and assist the facilitator in the quest for peace in that volatile area of the Horn of Africa.
We believe that it is important for the United Nations and the Security Council to support the pivotal role of the African Union in sponsoring those negotiations by sending a clear message on the issue, as part of cooperation and integration between the United Nations and regional organizations.
The United Kingdom notes Egypt and the Sudan’s disappointment that a resolution has yet to be reached, as well as the stated commitment of all three countries to the AU-led talks. The United Kingdom is confident that, working together with the ongoing support of the African Union and the wider international community, Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sudan have the strength and resolve to reach agreement to the benefit of all. We call on all three sides to refrain from actions that undermine negotiations.
Kenya has total confidence that our Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese brothers and sisters will make the principle of African solutions for African challenges a reality.
We call on the three parties to refrain from any action that could undermine negotiations and make full use of the good offices of the AU, especially through its facilitator role.
It is our principled position that the African Union is best-suited to facilitate the pacific settlement of disputes on the motherland, and we further underscore the importance of respecting the principle of subsidiarity, as well as Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations.
We call on the Congolese presidency of the AU to step up its efforts. In our view, an increase in the number of mediators or observers in the negotiations will not bring added value.
Those negotiations should be held under the leadership of the African Union (AU) and should recommence with urgency. This process should use the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam signed by the parties and the July 2020 statement by the Bureau of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government as foundational references.
We hope that with the facilitation of the African Union, the parties will continue to work to come to an agreement in a timely manner. The African Union, as the regional organization, should remain the main forum for this.
We believe that the African Union-led negotiations remain the best forum for finding a comprehensive agreement on the GERD. We encourage the African Union to continue to draw on the necessary technical expertise and political support to carry out this highly complex facilitation role. Ireland fully supports the efforts of the African Union and the observers to the process to bring the parties together and find a negotiated solution, and we encourage the swift resumption of the talks.
We call on Ethiopia, Egypt and the Sudan to work constructively with the AU-led processes, with a view to resolving the outstanding issues in a purposeful manner and with the urgency it deserves. Since the AU is seized of the matter, it is important that all parties engage urgently to find a way forward.
While the Council must focus on all matters that could potentially pose a threat to international peace and security, in this case a preventive approach must be sought at all times, consistent with Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations. Mexico’s position with regard to international disputes, especially those affecting several countries at the same time, has been to promote, above all, a peaceful and mutually acceptable solution for all parties, based on dialogue. Moreover, as this is an issue that affects three African countries, and based on Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, we consider it particularly important that the international community support the efforts of the African Union to bring the positions of the three countries closer together and resume negotiations, taking into account the proven capacity of that regional organization to seek African solutions to problems affecting the continent.
As we have stated time and again here, we continue to support the important role of the African Union (AU) in upholding its responsibility to promote negotiations and mediation on regional issues, as it has done over the past year on the GERD issue.
China looks forward to the AU’s continued proper role in that regard. The international community, including the Council, should support the three countries in resolving their differences through dialogue and consultation and, to that end, create an environment conducive to jointly maintaining peace, stability and development in the African region. China stands ready to continue to play a constructive role alongside all the parties.
France commends the efforts of the African Union chairmanship to support the negotiations, especially the personal engagement of President Ramaphosa, and now, President Tshilombo Tshisekedi. Those efforts must continue and be intensified. We encourage the United Nations to continue to bring its expertise to bear on the process and urge the three parties to accept a more active role for observers in the negotiations.
In that regard, the Sudan submitted a proposal to bolster the African negotiation mechanism by granting it a mediation role under African Union leadership, with the participation of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and South Africa, the latter three having been observers to proceeding negotiations. However for the same reasons concerning Ethiopia’s intransigence and its rejection of all proposals put forward that round was also unsuccessful.
Therefore, Ethiopia’s attempt to disrupt the Sudan’s agricultural capabilities by imposing its hegemony in a unilateral manner with regard to the filling and operation of the GERD is extremely dangerous and threatens our promising emerging agricultural renaissance and the Sudan’s widespread strategic agricultural projects.
We believe that the African Union is the most appropriate venue to address this dispute, and the United State is committed to providing political and technical support to facilitate a successful outcome. We urge the African Union and the parties to use the expertise and support of the three official observers - South Africa, The European Union and the United States - as well as the United Nations and other partners to help achieve a positive outcome.
Those negotiations should be held under the leadership of the African Union (AU) and should recommence with urgency. This process should use the 2015 Declaration of Principles on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam signed by the parties and the July 2020 statement by the Bureau of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government as foundational references.