U.S. Department of State

Semester: 2014 Spring

Students: Erin Bloom, James O'Neill

A complex framework of legally binding treaties and less formal agreements governs water sharing and use in Central Asia. The need for water in upstream hydropower projects and for downstream irrigation has increased regional tensions.

Greater dialogue among the Central Asian states on addressing competing needs within an existing or perhaps expanded legal framework, including review of potential compulsory compliance and dispute resolution mechanisms, could help solve this difficult issue. Organizations such as the International Fund to Save the Aral Sea (IFAS) and the UN Regional Center for Central Asia (UNRCCA) have had some success in facilitating engagement, but despite these beginnings, regional cooperation remains a challenge at a time when the issue is becoming more critical. The Department of State hopes to facilitate dialogue among the region’s stakeholders, perhaps suggesting confidence-building measures and, working with other partners, potentially identify or support ways to improve the existing piecemeal regional water framework.

Deliverables envisioned:

  • Summarize the elements of the legal and non-binding framework governing water use in Central Asia, including international obligations of the Central Asian states;
  • Review and recommend best practices from other regions;
  • Recommend negotiation strategies to facilitate regional dialogue and cooperation, including mutual learning and coordinated actions for building sustained legal relationships across the spectrum of actors.
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