Knowledge Base

Institutional aspects of interstate cooperation

After gaining independence, the Central Asian countries needed to set up an organizational mechanism for regional cooperation to implement inter-State agreements and arrangements. The new economic and political conditions of recent years require a reassessment of the situation, and the prevailing opinion is that there is a need to draw up institutional principles for the management of inter-State water relations.

Among the issues relating to the development of the organizational structure for regional cooperation, differences arise regarding methods of implementing the principle of watershed management. Though everyone basically supports the principle itself as a basis for the regulation of nature resource use within the river basins, there is difference of opinion regarding its territorial implementation.

On the one hand, some countries propose to apply this principle solely at the national level without extending it over the entire region, at least for a certain time. The argument in favour is the lack of preparedness of the countries to transfer part of their regulatory authority to interstate structures because they still have unresolved differences with regard to water allocation, and are voicing complaints about the others' inequitable water use, failure to comply with agreements, and violation of commitments. This result in tendencies to strengthen the sovereignty of countries, which also complicates the reaching of an agreement on watershed cooperation on a regional scale and makes them focus on the organization of watershed management within national boundaries instead.

There is a different approach that presupposes support for the regional integrated management, a broader mandate for the existing regional structures and their improvement on the basis of positive foreign experience. In particular, the following combination of measures is proposed:

  • Strengthening of the organizational structures of ICWC, regular rotation of its management;
  • Establishment of a basin committee affiliated with ICWC and BVOs as a public organization representing the interests of water users, the local population, social groups, with advisory powers in the initial stage and regulatory powers in the next stage;
  • Giving officials of regional bodies diplomatic status, thus applying principles of extraterritoriality and independence from pressure of local executive bodies;
  • Establishment of a committee of water reservoir directors;
  • Successive expansion of the system for the exchange of and open access to information that would enable this to become a major element of not only openness and equal rights of all ICWC members, but also for improvement of the entire management process;
  • Involvement in ICWC activities of bodies of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs , especially to resolve issues of visa issuance and customs control.

At the same time, there are views that radical structural reforms in the institutional sphere should be postponed until the basic principles of regional water relations have been agreed on. It is also pointed out that the establishment of new structures will require additional maintenance expenditures, whereas the already existing structures and international programmes are not fully funded by the participating countries.