Water management in the Middle East and North Africa - The effect of signed water treaties

The management of internationally shared rivers is inherently complex. Freshwater systems ignore national boundaries. In fact, they quite often make up contested boundaries. International cooperation and joint management are necessary in order to administer the essential water resources constructively and to avoid disputes following from disagreements over the shared resources . International water law is not sufficiently well developed to meet these needs. There is a growing focus on international regulation of international rivers, but no supranational agency or unitary international law. However, the lack of consensus on a common governing body does not mean that there are no agreements between river-sharing countries. More than 3,600 treaties have been identified from the past 1,000 years. River treaties therefore appear to provide the best vehicle for cooperation in international river basins today. In this paper, we examine existing treaties in international river basins, to see what works and what does not, with a view to improving good governance. Based on data on water treaties from the Transboundary Freshwater Database, we explore what kinds of treaties appear to spark further cooperation over shared water resources and thus contribute to averting water conflicts. Are multilateral treaties more successful than bilateral? Are treaties focusing on the quality or quantity of the water more likely to succeed? We specifically examine the Middle East , the region arguably most prone to water conflicts. Our hope is that results from these analysis will provide some guidelines for future water treaties and insights for policy makers concerned with international water law and water management.