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The Guarani Aquifer Accord

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Cooperation in South America towards Prevention of Harm and Sustainable, Equitable Use of Underground Transboundary Water

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The Guarani Aquifer Accord of 2010 represents a plan for the multiple, sustainable, equitable and reasonable use of the water of the Guarani Aquifer System and a pledge to prevent significant harm to this vast natural resource in South America. Based on good science and good international law, this regional agreement was reached by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, acknowledging the environmental, economic and geopolitical importance of the underground water linking the four states known as the “Guarani Aquifer System.” The Guarani Aquifer Accord (“Acordo sobre o Aquífero Guarani” or “Acuerdo Aquífero Guarani”) is the first regional treaty to be modeled after the International Law Commission Draft Articles on Transboundary Aquifers of 2008, which address “confined” aquifers that are outside the scope of the United Nations Watercourses Convention of 1997. This article explores the Guarani Aquifer Accord’s provisions for exchanges of scientific and technical information, notification and consultation, direct negotiations, referral to a joint commission to be created once the Accord enters into force for evaluation and recommendations in case of a dispute, and the option of a subsequent arbitration protocol to be negotiated in future. Taken together, procedural requirements and the provisions in the Accord in favor of diplomatic and political resolution of future disputes over the use and protection of the water may forestall the need to resort to litigation in international courts or tribunals. This article concludes that, even absent an additional protocol for arbitration of disputes and absent the establishment of a joint commission to facilitate information exchange, convene regular meetings and build trust as contained in the agreement, the Guarani Aquifer Accord provides a framework for regional cooperation designed to avoid or resolve conflicts.

Affiliations: 1: New York City Bar Association


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