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Changing Hydropolitical Relations in the Nile Basin: A Protracted Transition


A new hydro-political order is emerging in the Nile Basin. Upstream riparian states have improved their bargaining power vis-à-vis downstream countries by adopting a common position in the negotiations over a new framework agreement to govern the utilisation of the Nile water. Some upstream riparians have unilaterally constructed hydraulic projects that threaten Egypt’s hegemonic position in the basin, the most notable of which is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Whether these developments will lead to a more equitable utilisation of water resources and a more cooperative order will depend on the policies of the riparian states, especially in the Eastern Nile. Respect of the Declaration of Principles on the GERD signed between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan could help build trust between the three countries after years of tensions around the project. Beyond that, a basin-wide plan for the utilisation of water resources would not only maximise the benefits from the river and address the common challenges facing the basin, but also reduce the political costs of tensions on future projects.
Keywords: Nile Basin; historical agreements; hydropolitics; GERD; water resources