It’s called the Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, and it was adopted 12 years ago today (via IntLawGrrls’ excellent “On this day in…” feature). Though it passed the UN General Assembly by a resounding vote of 103-3, the Convention has not yet entered force because the requisite 35 countries — 35! — have not yet ratified it.
What the treaty sets out are basically the regulations of how countries can mind the effects that their usage of border-crossing rivers have on other countries’ usage. So, if a country wanted to build a dam on a river that flows into a neighboring country, it would have to notify that other country of the effects this project would have. Similarly, it would prevent one country from dumping pollutants in a river that would then be dumped into the country where the river ends.
This seems to make sense to me. And if a country found it onerous to have to consult with a river-sharing neighbor about a certain project, that seems to be only more reason to need to have a mechanism to deal with these kinds of disputes. Maybe if we could ratify the Law of the Sea here in the United States, we could make some progress on rivers, too…
UPDATE: Probably unsurprisingly, the Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses didn’t appear to make the list of top treaty ratification priorities for the United States.
(image from flickr user superciliousness under a Creative Commons license)