COP27 Brings GERD Debate Back To The Table

Via The Reporter, an article on how COP27 – held in Egypt – will bring the GERD debate back to the forefront:

An excerpt from the joint statement issued by the European Union (EU) and Egypt during their ninth Association Council meeting held in Luxembourg in June of last year reveals the EU’s position on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

EU and Egypt applauded the United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement on GERD made a year ago because it pushes the countries to come up with a legally-binding deal to fill and operate the dam and inconsiderately acknowledges how important the Nile River is to Egypt.

By stating in the joint statement that “reaching such an agreement as soon as possible is a top priority for the EU and Egypt in order to protect Egypt’s water security and promote peace and stability in the wider region,” the EU attempted to demonstrate its firm stance in support of the protection of only Egypt’s interests.

The statement then goes to offering assistance in negotiation and coming up with a binding agreement. This is a strong indication that Ethiopia has always been standing alone on the issue of GERD, which is being financed from its own coffers. Since Ethiopia started constructing the dam, pressure from the international community has increased, primarily brought on by Egypt.

It is in light of this fact that Egypt is going to host this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27 (Conference of Parties), by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Sharm El Sheikh.  The biggest global climate change decision-making conference, COP27, which will take place in 2022 from November 6 through 18, will provide the best opportunity for the country to use it as a lobbying platform.

During the trilateral negotiations of GERD, the filling of the dam was the key topic of discussion on which the downstream nations, Egypt and Sudan, pushed Ethiopia to sign a legally binding agreement.

“There are indications and requests that Egypt is to develop concepts of legally enforceable agreements to compel Ethiopia to release water from the dam anytime the downstream nations declare they are experiencing drought,” Habtamu Itefa (Dr.-Ing), minister for Ethiopia’s Water and Energy Ministry, told The Reporter. 

Habtamu fears the main agenda of the trilateral talks on GERD, which are currently at a standstill among Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, will shift from water filling to drought and climate change.

“When we started to build the dam, they couldn’t do anything about it so they came up with the idea of discussing on how it should be filled with terms of binding agreements. Now that we have already started filling it, they aren’t in a position to mandate us anymore,” he said.

With assurance that there could no longer be any discussion of water filling after the third filling of the dam was complete, Egypt was compelled to make a desperate effort to persuade the world community to accept the new narrative of drought and climate change related to the dam, Habtamu believes.

Water specialist Fek-Ahmed Negash, a former executive director of the Nile Basin Initiative, keeps a close eye on the GERD issue. He believes that Egypt always raises its objections to the dam that Ethiopia is developing, regardless of the situation.

“Even if they were to hold the World Cup, they would express worry about GERD, let alone a climate-related event. The problem of drought and climate change was already being mentioned during the last negotiations, and now they could come up hard on it,” Fek-Ahmed said.

He suggests that the government step up its efforts to persuade the international community and work on setting agendas rather than being reactive to the agendas set by the downstream countries. He advises that experts like himself should actively discuss and write about the Nile with Ethiopia’s interests in mind.

Since the last negotiation session, which took place in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a year and a half ago, the trilateral negotiation is currently at a standstill. In the meantime, construction is progressing well. Much of the civil and electro mechanical works of GERD has been completed, with 2025 slated to be inauguration of the giant dam. The first two turbines of the dam are producing electricity. Negotiation has been stalled however. 

The Minister, Habtamu, says Ethiopia has been pushing for the continuation under the auspices of the African Union, in his explanation of how changes in regional political dynamism affect the negotiations and other regional integrations.

Habtamu had noticed indications that the Egyptian side was putting together another legally binding agreement related to droughts because Ethiopia is currently finding it difficult to accept the water filling agreements. He claimed that if Egyptian claim to have droughts in their country, the agreement will most likely demand that water be released from the dam in order to maintain the water reservoir in the Aswan Dam. 

Habtamu called this a shameful act and explained that Ethiopians used their own scarce resources to build the dam in order to use the water. “They will shamelessly demand a legally-binding agreement to oblige us,” he said.

The Egyptians are getting ready to decry in front of the international community, making it a matter of food sustainability and climate, accusing the up streaming countries like Ethiopia of endangering their irrigation-based agriculture. 

Eng. Gedion Asfaw, the chair of the Ethiopian delegation’s GERD Negotiating Technical Committee, has been monitoring the Egyptian media recently and observing how their senior officials have been publicly announcing that the GERD issue will be on the COP27 agenda, notably during the roundtable sessions. 

Gedion said that while the conference typically doesn’t focus on a particular country’s problem, they will take advantage of the chance to bring it up since they are hosting the conference. He urges the Ethiopian team to prepare thoroughly because it will provide them the chance to network with vast number of decision makers attending the event. 

The benefit of GERD to prevent water evaporation is one of the main points to serve Ethiopia as a negotiating card at the water security roundtable discussions, which Gedion mentions.

“Only up to 1.7 billion cube meters of water evaporate from GERD due to its mountainous and highland surroundings. However, due to the desert weather condition in Egypt, up to 16 billion cubic meters of water evaporate every year. This is the largest benefit that GERD can offer the region,” he said. 

Bearing the pressure from the international community, Gedion believes that advancing its agenda and influence that GERD has no bad consequence, is one of the biggest tasks of the government.

The call to resume the negotiation will be made by Macky Sall, president of Senegal and the current chairperson of the African Union. In the event that the chairperson doesn’t make a call, Gedion anticipates that the African Union would devise a different strategy. 

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 22nd, 2022 at 5:50 am and is filed under Egypt, Ethiopia, Nile, Sudan.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

Comments are closed.

© 2023 Water Politics LLC .  'Water Politics', 'Water. Politics. Life', and 'Defining the Geopolitics of a Thirsty World' are service marks of Water Politics LLC.