Journal of Political Science and International Relations

Submit a Manuscript

Publishing with us to make your research visible to the widest possible audience.

Propose a Special Issue

Building a community of authors and readers to discuss the latest research and develop new ideas.

The Post-1990s Water Diplomacy in Eastern Nile Basin: Changing the Power Asymmetry

There have been diplomatic tensions and instances of threatening and concerned rhetoric between the countries of the Nile, especially between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. The main purpose of this paper is to examine the post 1990 water diplomacy in eastern Nile River basin in relation to changing the power asymmetry. For a long period of time in eastern Nile basin Egypt used to contain and influence the behavior of Sudan and other Nile River riparian states, particularly over issues pertaining to the utilization of the Nile’s waters. This paper argues the post 1990 multi-lateral water diplomacy especially NBI reduce the established power asymmetries, while contributing to the "sustainable socio economic development of all riparian’s through the equitable utilization of, and benefit from, the common Nile basin water resources. On the other hand, following NBI, Ethiopia shifted from ‘silent partner’ to ‘bargaining power’ so that it involved through a successive water deal among the nine countries. Consequently, in 2009, the discussions among the Nile riparian are on establishing a cooperative framework agreement reached and the constructions of Ethiopia Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile near the Ethiopian- Sudanese border transforming Ethiopia from “silent partner” to “influential partner and it is considered as a historic event not only for Ethiopia but also for the members of NBI’s. Drawing from lesson this article suggested that the Egyptians stand might not be consistence and the discussions and negation of Ethiopia on GERD project increasingly signaled a more flexible position on cooperating with the upstream states and harnessing its own water resources, away from Egyp.

Eastern Nile, Cooperation, Tension, Trans-Boundary, Diplomacy, Riparian

Surafel Getahun Ashine. (2023). The Post-1990s Water Diplomacy in Eastern Nile Basin: Changing the Power Asymmetry. Journal of Political Science and International Relations, 6(3), 87-98.

Copyright © 2023 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Abadir Ibrahim (2011). The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement: The Beginning of the End of Egyptian Hydro-Political Hegemony. Environmental law and policy Review, 18 (2), Pp. 283-313.
2. Abate, Z. (1994). Water resources development in Ethiopia. Reading: Ithaca Press.
3. Al Jazeera. (2010). Ethiopia rejects Egypt Nile claims. Al Jazeera News Agencies.
4. Andreas Holm Røsberg. 2014. Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Nile Understanding Egypt´s Refusal to Renegotiate the 1929 and 1959 Agreements Concerning Rights and Allocations of the Nile. Master´s Thesis The Department of Political Science University of Oslo.
5. Attia, H., & Saleh, M. (2021). The Political Deadlock on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. (GIGA Focus Afrika, 4). Hamburg: German Institute for Global and Area Studies (GIGA) - Leibniz-Institut für Globale und Regionale Studien, Institut für Afrika-Studien. 0168-ssoar-74082-8
6. Cascão, & Zeitoun (2010b). Changing Natutre of Bargaining Power in the Hydropolitical Relation in the Nile Basin. Transboundary Water Managemnet and Principle, London, 187-191.
7. Cascão, A. & Nicol, A. (2011). Against the flow: New power dynamics and upstream mobilization in the Nile Basin. Review of African Political Economy, 38, 317-325.
8. Cascão, A. (2011). Power relations, conflict, and cooperation in the Eastern Nile River Basin. In Elmusa, S. (Ed.), The Burden of Resources: oil and water in the Gulf and the Nile Basin (pp. 20-51). Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.
9. Cascão, A. E. (2008). Ethiopia–challenges to Egyptian hegemony in the Nile Basin. Water Policy, 10 (S2), 13-28.
10. Cascão, A. E. (2009a). Changing power relations in the Nile river basin: unilateralism vs. cooperation. Water Alternatives, 2 (2), 245-268.
11. Cascão, A. E. (2009b). Political economy of water resources management and allocation in the Eastern Nile river basin (Doctoral dissertation, University of London.
12. Cascão, A. E. (2012). Nile water governance. In S. B. Awulachew, V. Smakhtin, D. Molden, & D. Peden (Eds.), The Nile River Basin – Water, agriculture, governance and livelihoods (pp. 229–252). Abingdon: Routledge-Earthscan.
13. Cascão, A. E., & Nicol, A. (2016). GERD: new norms of cooperation in the Nile Basin? Water International, 41 (4), 550-573.
14. Cascão, A. E., & Zeitoun, M. (2010). Power, hegemony and critical hydropolitics. Transboundary water.
15. Cooperative Waters (2016) The Nile River – First Edition. Addis Ababa: New Arts and Culture Advert.
16. Dereje Zeleke (2010),”The Nile Basin Cooperative Frame Work Agreement Negotiations and the Adoption of a ’Water Security’ Paradigm: Flight into Obscurity or a Logical Culde-sac?” EJIL, Vol. 21, No. 2, 421-440.
17. Farrow, T. 2014. Hydro Diplomacy: Best practice for achieving sustainable water security. Available at: https://www. Farrow+-+Dissertation+-+Hydro+diplomacy+(1).pdf/ d1bdf- 2ca-174f-4cf7-91f3-3c0299e9252a
18. Gebreluel, G. (2014). Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam: Ending Africa’s Oldest Geopolitical Rivalry? The Washington Quarterly, 37 (2), 25–37.
19. Hammond, M. (2013), “The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Blue Nile: Implications for transboundary water governance” Discussion Paper 1307, University of Exeter, United Kingdom.
20. Henok S. (2016), Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Changing Power Relations In The Eastern Nile Basin by: A Thesis Submitted To The School Of Graduate Studies Of Addis Ababa University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for The Degree of Master of Arts in Peace And Security Studies.
21. Holdijk N, (2021), A media analysis of the applied soft-power mechanisms in the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and how these contributed to a changing power balance in the Blue Nile River.
22. Huntjens, P., and De Man, (R. 2017), Water diplomacy: Making water cooperation work. Policy Brief, Planetary Security Initiative, The Hague Institute for Global Justice.
23. Huntjens, P., Yasuda, Y., Swain, A., De Man, R., Magsig, B., Islam, S. (2016), The Multi-track Water Diplomacy Framework: A Legal and Political Economy Analysis for Advancing Cooperation over Shared Waters. First edition, The Hague Institute for Global Justice, 2016.
24. Ibrahim, A. M. (2010). The Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement: the beginning of the end of Egyptian hydro-political hegemony. Mo. Envtl. L. & Pol'y Rev., 18, 282.
25. Kansal, M. L., & Ekadu, S. (2018). Hydropolitics in water governance of the Nile River in Africa. In World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2018: International P.
26. Kebrom Mekonnen (2011), “water use and the quest for sustainable development of the Eastern Nile Basin: An International law analysis” MA thesis, Addis Ababa University.
27. Keskinen, M., Inkinen, A., Hakanen, U., Rautavaara, A., Niinioja, M. (2015), Water diplomacy: bringing diplomacy into water cooperation and water into diplomacy. Available at: http:// Water Diplomacy.pdf
28. Kraska, J. (2009), Sharing Water, Preventing War-Hydrodiplomacy in South Asia. In: Journal of Diplomacy & Statecraft. Volume 20, 2009 – Issue 3.
29. Laura, R. and Margaret, G. (2015). Water Diplomacy: Perspectives from a Group of Interdisciplinary Graduate Students, Journal of Contemporary Water research & education issue; 155, 11-18.
30. Lawrence S. and Shafiqul I. (2012). Water Diplomacy: Creating Value and Building Trust in Transboundary Water Negotiations; Science & Diplomacy; 1, 3.
31. Martina Klimes, Elizabeth A. Yaari, David Michel, and Phillia Restiani. 2019. Water diplomacy: Facilitating dialogues. the Special Issue on Water Diplomacy of the Journal of Hydrology published April 2019.
32. Molnar, K, Rosa, C, Schmeier, Siegfried, D. (2017), Preventing Conflicts, Fostering Cooperation – The many Roles of Water Diplomacy. International Centre for Water Resources and Global Change under the auspices of UNESCo. 19 December 2017.
33. Mulat, A., & Moges, S. (2014). Assessment of the Impact of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Performance of the High Aswan Dam. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 6, 583-559.
34. 66057NBI (2021). Nile Basin Water Resources Atlas. Kampala, Uganda: New Vision Printing and Publishing Company.
35. Sadoff, C. W., & Grey, D. (2002). Beyond the river: The benefits of cooperation on international rivers. Water Policy, 4, 389-403.
36. Salman, S. M. (2013). “The Nile basin cooperative framework agreement: A peacefully unfolding African spring?” Water Int., 38 (1), 17–29.
37. Salman, S. M. (2016). The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: the road to declaration of principle and the Khartoum document. Water International, 1-15.
38. Shapland, G. (1997) Rivers of Discord: International Water Disputes in the Middle East. New York: St. Martin's Press.
39. Solomon. (2015, April 2). The declaration will only change the hydro-politics of the Nile if Egypt, EthiopiaandSudan.
40. Susskind and Shafiqul, Islam "Water Diplomacy, Creating Value and Building Trust in Transboundary Water Negotiations" Journal of Science and Diplomacy, Vol. 1, issue. 3, (2012), pp: 1-7.
41. Swain, A. (2011). Challenges for water sharing in the Nile basin: changing geo-politics and changing climate. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56 (4), 687-702.
42. Swain, Ashok (2011). Challenges for Water Sharing In the Nile Basin: Changing Geo-Politics and Changing Climate. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 56 (4), Pp. 687-702.
43. Tafesse, T. (2001). The hydro-political assessment of the Nile question: an Ethiopian perspective. Water international, 26 (4), 1-11.
44. Tesfaye Tafesse (2011). Water conflict resolution and institution building in the Nile Basin. In Berouk Mesfin and Roba Sharamo (Eds.), Regional Security in the post-Cold War Horn of Africa (Pp. 257-281) [Monograph]. Institute for Security Studies.
45. Tvedt, T. (2004). The River Nile in the Age of the British: Political Ecology and the Quest for Economic Power. London, I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
46. Underdal, Arild (1994). “Ch. 8: Leadership Theory: Rediscovering the Arts of Management”, in Zartman, I. and Zartmann, I. (Red.), International Multilateral Negotiations. Approaches to the Management of Complexity, Jossey-Brass Inc., Publishers: 178-197.
47. Verhoeven, H. (2011). Black Gold for Blue Gold?: Sudan's Oil, Ethiopia's Water and Regional Integration (pp. 19-22). Chatham House.
48. Warner, Jeroen (2012). “Three Lenses on Water War, Peace, and Hegemonic Struggle on the Nile”, International Journal of Sustainable Society, vol. 4, nos. 1/2: 173-193.
49. Waterbury, J. (2002). The Nile Basin: National determinants of collective action. New Haven: Yale University Press.
50. Wondwosen. T, (2008). Trans-boundary Water Cooperation in Africa: The Case of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI). Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations. 7 (4), 129-138.
51. World Bank. World Bank,. (2015). Ethiopia's Great Run the Growth Acceleration and How to Pace it. World Bank Group.
52. Yacob, A. &Tamirat I. (2005). Ethiopia and the Eastern Nile Basin. Aquatic Science, 67, 15-27.
53. Yakob A,. (2007) Ethiopia and the Nile: Dilemma of National and Regional Hydro-politics. Thesis (PhD). Center for Security Studies, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.
54. Yasmin Z. (2019). Pursuing the Common Good: Overcoming Barriers to Collective Action through Transboundary Water Negotiation along the Blue Nile Rive. Massachusetts Institute of Technology September 2019.
55. Yihdego, Zeray (2013) "The Blue Nile dam controversy in the eyes of international law," Global Water Forum, (2013).
56. Yildiz, D., Yildiz, D., Gunes, M. S., 2016. New Security Concept and AnalyticalTransdisciplinary Approaches to Hydro Politics. Int. J. Sci. Eng. Res.
57. Yohannes, Okbazghi and Keren Yohannes (2013). “Turmoil on the Nile River Basin: Back to the Future?” Journal of Asian and African Studies, 48: 195: 195- 208.
58. Zeitoun, M., Cascão, A. E., Warner, J., Mirumachi, N., Farnum, R., & Matthews, N. (2014). Transboundarywater interactions III: Contesting hegemonic arrangements Concept paper prepared for the Seventh International Workshop on Hydro-Hegemony. London Water Research Group: London: University of East Anglia, 10-11 May 2014.
59. Zeitoun, M. and Warner, J., (2006). Hydro-hegemony–a framework for analysis of trans-boundary water conflicts. Water policy, 8 (5), pp. 435-460.