Changing water politics in the Nile basin: A more equitable order emerging or a conflict delayed?

Water Lecture Series

Bonn, 17.06.2015


German Development Institute/ Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Center for Development Research (ZEF), UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC), United Nations University (UNU) in Bonn, Global Water Systems Project (GWSP), and Water Unit of the Geography Department (University of Bonn)

After four years of escalating tensions between downstream and upstream countries in the Nile basin, in particular in view of Ethiopia’s construction of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), some recent developments have provided reasons for optimism over the future of cooperation in the world’s longest river. Last February Egypt attended the Nile Basin Initiative’s meeting in Khartoum for the first time after 2010 when five upstream riparians signed the Comprehensive Framework Agreement (CFA), an agreement which it considered as a threat to its acquired rights in the Nile waters. Cairo has further moderated its stance in the dispute with Ethiopia over the GERD replacing the empty rhetoric of threatening to use force with an attempt to reach compromises through joint mechanisms. In return, Ethiopia has used diplomatic means, including public diplomacy, to improve relations with Egypt. Last March, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed a declaration of principles that encourages co-ordination between the three countries in the operation of the dam. But do these developments really indicate a transition to a more equitable, cooperative and stable regime in the Nile basin or they just mean that the conflict between downstream and upstream countries have been delayed.

On 17 June 2015, the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) organised a new session of the Water Lecture, as always in cooperation with other Bonn-based institutions working on water; the Centre for Development Research (ZEF), the Global Water Systems Project, UN-Water and the University of Bonn.

Rawia Tawfik, Guest Researcher at DIE’s Environmental Resources and Natural Resources Management department and lecturer at Cairo University, delivered a lecture on recent developments in the Nile Basin. The Nile river flows through ten riparian countries which are aiming at increasing water use for irrigation and hydropower purposes. After four years of escalating tensions between downstream and upstream countries, new avenues for cooperation seem to open up. Ms Tawfik discussed the decision of upstream countries to sign a Framework agreement on water use rejected by the Downstream riparians Egypt and Sudan. She analysed how this fact together with Ethiopia’s unilateral construction of the Renaissance Dam challenged Egypt’s long-standing hegemony on the Nile. She examined the opportunities and challenges that the Ethiopian dam proposes for Ethiopia, for downstream countries, and for co-operation in the Eastern Nile. Finally, Ms Tawfik offered recommendations to translate the recent Declaration of Principles signed by Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan on the dam into a benefit-sharing deal that can be replicated in future hydraulic projects.

Tobias von Lossow, fellow at the Middle East and Africa research division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs/ Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP) commented on the lecture. He gave insights into the narratives and discourses dominating in Egypt and in Ethiopia. He opined that although the Renaissance Dam escalated the tensions between the two countries, conflict and cooperation will continue to co-exist in the Basin. He argued that the Declaration of Principles on the dam was a compromise that helped to ease tensions around the project, but left the core issues of the conflict surrounding the questions of water allocation and historical agreements

For additional information on DIE’s activities
on “water and energy” please see our
website special:

Speaker: Rawia Tawfik, guest researcher at the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.

Discussant: Tobias von Lossow, Fellow, Middle East and Africa research division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs/ Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)

Moderator: Ines Dombrowsky, Head of Department Environmental Policy, German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

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Datum / Uhr
17.06.2015 / 18:00 - 19:30


Center for Development Research (ZEF)
Walter-Flex-Straße 3
53113 Bonn

Contact Information

For further information, please contact:
Annabelle Houdret