Conflict and Co-operation in shared natural resources: the case of the Nile Basin conflict

More than a quarter of all river basins in the world are shared. This has meant that states have to make adjustments to their interactions as the need for cooperation and accommodation of diverse interests crops up. This study explores the nature of international interactions with a focus on shared natural resources. The study gives an introduction to the international political system as well as the statement of the research which centres on what really is the end result of sharing of natural resource and does the sharing always end in conflict? Chapter two is a historical background to the Nile conflict while chapter three looks at the Nile as a case study for conflict and cooperation in the sharing of natural resources. Chapter four is a critical analysis of the emerging issues which include the debate over the legality of the Nile agreements as well as the role of history and the Nile politics in the conflict.

The main objective of the study is to establish the main actors in the Nile basin conflict and thus the role played by the sharing of natural resources by these actors in the conduct of their international relations. The study analyses the legal and institutional mechanism in the Nile basin in a bid to understand how the shared resources affect their conduct. This is informed by the fact that over time, there have been instances where states engage in hostilities due to the utilization of a common resource. It would be important therefore to understand the possible results and thus enable concerned parties to plan appropriately.

The study adopts a conceptual approach that is based on liberalist interdependence theory of international relations, realism theory, and institutionalism theory as well as the cooperation under anarchy theory. While realism argues that international institutions cannot help states in fostering co-operation, neo-liberalism contends that states are able to co-operate when they involve themselves in the same activities in a common institution/organization. The study used both secondary and primary data. Personal interviews with some government officials are used as well as texts on the Nile basin conflict. Primary data collection was however hampered due to the sensitivity of the matter as well as the prevailing political situation in the region especially in Egypt and the Sudan.

This called for a more critical analysis of available secondary data. The key findings of the study include; (i) the legal regime in the Nile basin is weak more so in the absence of an acceptable agreement and an international regime that may guide interactions; (ii) the main cause of the tension among the riparian states is the inequitable allocation of the water resource, (iii) the Nile agreements form the key foundation for the legal framework guiding the Nile River (there is however growing likelihood of a change with the formulation of the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) under the Nile Basin Initiative) and that, (iv) states are the main actors in the Nile basin. The study's recommendations include; the creation of common data exchange programmes among the actors, development of joint activity projects, formulation of international guidelines that can inform on the sharing of international resources as well as the adoption of new attitudes among the actors in resource based conflicts to enable dialogue.