Legal framework of interstate water cooperation in Central Asia

General principles of interstate cooperation:

1) Principle of sovereign equality of states (SES)

This principle implies that sovereignty of all states is respected and that the states are equal members of the international community. These two components of the principle can be viewed also as independent principles of international law (IL).

In modern IL, the SES principle includes the following points:

  1. each state must respect sovereignty of other states;
  2. each state must respect the territorial integrity and political independence of other states;
  3. each state has the right freely to choose and develop its political, social, economic and cultural systems;
  4. all states are judicially equal. They have equal rights and duties, notwithstanding differences of an economic, social and political nature;
  5. each state is an entity of IL since its establishment;
  6. each state has the right to take part in an international issue affecting its own interests;
  7. each state has one vote at international conferences and in international organizations;
  8. states make IL norms by agreement on equal footing. Neither group of states may impose on other states international legal norms made by this group.

SES is aimed at ensuring free development of each state, against the policy of dictate and submission and serves as protection for smaller states.

At the same time, SES is a guarantee for bigger states preventing them from imposing on them the will of smaller states that are numerically superior in present-day international organizations.

2) Principle of non-intervention

The principle of non-intervention is closely related to the principle of sovereign equality of states and was developed in IL in parallel with the latter principle.

The non-intervention principle is enshrined in the UN Charter. It restricts the ability of outside nations to interfere with the internal affairs of another nation.

3) Principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples

The occurrence of the principle of self-determination of peoples dates back to the time of bourgeois revolutions. However, this principle has not become widely recognized even in European international law (IL). The existence of the colonial system, as well as of some European multinational empires was in marked contrast to the principle of self-determination of peoples.

The principle of self-determination of nations does not mean that the nation (people) must strive to become an independent state. Self-determination is the right of nation rather than imperative.

As stated in the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law, the establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people constitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination by that people.

4) Principle of cooperation of states

This principle is a result of deeper global division of labor and wider development of international economic and other ties.

The UN Charter, Article 1, while listing the purposes of the Organization, sets that the United Nations are “to be the center for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends”.

The 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law determines the principle as follows:

  1. States have the duty to co-operate with one another in the various spheres of international relations, in order to maintain international peace and security and to promote international cooperation and progress;
  2. States have the duty to co-operate with one another, irrespective of the differences in their political, economic and social systems;
  3. States should co-operate in the promotion of economic growth throughout the world, especially that of the developing countries.

5) Principle of respect for human rights

In 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Later on, the covenants on human rights were adopted by the General Assembly in 1966.

6) Principle of the fulfillment in good faith of international obligations

This principle refers to oldest basic principles of international law.

This principle is enshrined in the UN Charter. In the preamble to it the UN peoples are determined “to establish conditions under which … respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”.

The Charter obliges all UN members to fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the Charter (Article 2(2)).

The principle applies to all international obligations arising from treaties and customary laws, as well as from binding decisions of international bodies and organizations (courts, arbitrations, etc.).

As a general rule of IL, the above principle includes more specific norms. Among them are good faith and rigor fulfillment of international obligations, non-allowability to take obligations that are in contrast with already existing obligations with third states. It is also prohibited to refuse or revise international obligations in unilateral manner.

In recent decades, some experts also include the below principle in the list of principles of international cooperation.

7) Principle of environmental security

This principle implies the need for interstate cooperation in case of environmental disasters and crises in the states and sets measures for assistance and responsibility for laiser-faire concerning environmental matters.

Sources (in Russian):
Право–Международное право. 3. Общие принципы межгосударственного сотрудничества
Общие принципы международного сотрудничества

Author: Rysbekov Yu. Kh., SIC ICWC