Institutional Mechanisms

Clearly the establishment of institutional mechanisms is imperative for States to cooperate effectively in managing floods. The establishment of a river basin organization (RBO) is the preferred mode of cooperation: “management of international watercourse systems through joint institutions is not only an increasingly common phenomenon, but also a form of cooperation between watercourse States that is almost indispensable if anything approaching optimum utilisation and protection of the systems of waters is to be attained” (McCaffrey 1990).

Numerous agreements provide for the cooperation on activities concerning international watercourses through joint institution, although the roles and responsibilities of the institutions vary considerably.

For instance, the 1997 UN Watercourses Convention (Article 8(2)) recommends that: 

 “watercourse States may consider the establishment of joint mechanisms or commissions, as deemed necessary by them, to facilitate cooperation on relevant measures and procedures in the light of experience gained through cooperation in existing joint mechanisms and commissions in various regions.”

Although States are not obliged, under international law, to establish joint institutions for international watercourses, in many cases such institutions will be the most appropriate mechanism by which States coordinate their activities and implement their obligations relating to international watercourses. Joint bodies dealing amongst others with transboundary flood management issues can be established between national states but also between sub-federal states or cities of two countries, e.g. the two sub-federal states directly on the border. The latter example may especially be necessary where specific elements of the flood management system is handled on the sub-federal level.


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