An agreement between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is within reach, with the United Nations standing ready to support talks and the African Union-led process to settle remaining differences, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs told the Security Council in a videoconference meeting yesterday.
“These differences can be overcome,” said Rosemary A. DiCarlo, briefing the Council on the latest developments, “and an agreement can be reached should all the parties show the necessary political will to compromise in line with the spirit of cooperation highlighted in the 2015 Declaration of Principles.”
Recalling that the Blue Nile contributes 85 per cent of the main Nile volume when it merges with the White Nile in Khartoum, she said it is an important transboundary water resource, critical for the livelihoods and development of the people of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan.
Construction of the dam, a major hydropower project located on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region, began in April 2011 and, when operational, will significantly boost that country’s energy sources, allowing it to increase electrification, accelerate industrialization and export excess electricity to the region.
Recognizing the need for cooperation to fully realize the dam’s benefits and mitigate potential negative effects on the downstream countries, she commended the three nations for such initiatives as establishing the International Panel of Experts in 2012 to examine design and construction plans, a follow-up Tripartite National Committee in 2014 and the 2015 Declaration of Principles. Recalling their establishment in 2018 of the National Independent Research Study Group, she said the United States and the World Bank have assisted in trilateral discussions since 2019. While a draft text was discussed, the three riparian States were unable to reach agreement in February 2020.
Since then, Sudan sought to narrow the differences, given that 90 per cent of the technical issues have already been settled, she said. The three countries agreed to appoint observers to the talks — including South Africa, United States and the European Union — and on June 26, the African Union convened the Bureau of the African Union Heads of State. The three nations agreed to an African Union-led process aimed at resolving outstanding issues and will meet over the next two weeks to do so.
Commending the parties for their determination to negotiate an agreement and the African Union’s efforts to facilitate the process, she said the remaining differences are technical and legal in nature, including the binding nature of an accord, a dispute resolution mechanism and the management of water flow during droughts. While the United Nations has not participated in negotiations, the Secretary-General is fully seized of this matter. The United Nations stands ready to assist, through technical and expert support, as appropriate and as requested by the three countries, including any support that may be required by the African Union-led process.
Transboundary water cooperation is a key element in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, emphasizing that climate change, combined with projected demographic growth and socioeconomic changes, will increase water management challenges worldwide, not only for Blue Nile riparian countries. “Cooperation is not a zero-sum game; it is the key to a successful collective effort to reduce poverty and increase growth, thus delivering on the development potential of the region,” she said, expressing hope that Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan will persevere with efforts to achieve an agreement that is beneficial to all.
Council members shared their perspectives, with many extolling the multiple benefits of the project and recognizing commendable progress in negotiating technical issues. Many delegates expressed strong support for recent African Union-led efforts.
South Africa’s representative, recalling that over the last few weeks, the Council has received letters from each of the three countries detailing their perspectives on the dam project, said it is clear that the Nile River is an extremely important resource for the African continent, specifically Ethiopia, as the origin of the Blue Nile, Sudan, where the confluence of the White and Blue Nile takes place, and Egypt, where the Nile flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The river is not only a source of development, but survival, for all riparian States, and as a shared natural resource, it is essential that there be cooperation on its use. The project, under construction for a decade, is expected to usher in a new era of development for Ethiopia and potentially the entire sub-region, becoming Africa’s biggest hydro-electrical dam. As such, it should be celebrated as a symbol of much-needed development and not become a source of conflict and disagreement. The Council’s discussion today represents a clear recognition that the issue affects the continent.
Following the recent Bureau of the African Union Assembly meeting, convened by Chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, he said a positive and constructive spirit clearly showed the willingness of all parties to find a mutually accepted agreement. The parties recognized the project’s potential for the African Union, committed to a process facilitated by the Chairperson and pledged to refrain from making any statement or taking any action that may jeopardize or complicate the bloc-led process.
Source: UN News