The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Cooperation and Contentment

1 Jun 2020

The Nile can deliver new level of fraternity and cooperation


Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are to resume technical discussions on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), currently under construction on the Nile river, after Egypt accepted an Ethiopia-Sudan proposal to resume negotiations. On 21st May, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted that water ministers from the three countries would “attempt to reach a win-win solution,” and Egypt’s Foreign Ministry stated that “Egypt is always ready to enter into negotiations and participate in upcoming meetings to reach a fair, balanced and comprehensive agreement.”

Following the official launch of the GERD in April 2011, Ethiopia proposed setting up a tripartite committee and a range of fora, which eventually led to the adoption of the Declaration of Principles on GERD (DoP) in March 2015, signed by all three countries to facilitate the trilateral dialogue. Principally, the DoP underlined the critical need for equitable and reasonable use of the Nile waters.

Ethiopia has held innumerable discussions with both Egypt and Sudan throughout the entire period of construction of the GERD and made it clear from the very beginning that construction of the GERD is based on its sovereign and legitimate rights to use the Nile waters and its commitment to not cause significant harm to downstream countries. Ethiopia has consistently promoted the concept of collective security and multilateralism at international, regional, and sub-regional levels.

As a hydroelectric dam, the GERD will not cause significant harm to downstream countries. The fact remains that the GERD will increase Ethiopia’s electricity generation capacity to meet its domestic and industrial demands. As Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew noted, “More than 65 million Ethiopians don’t have access to electricity,” adding “This is not acceptable; we are trying to pull them out of darkness using the power generated from this dam.”

In fact, the survival, development and prosperity of Ethiopia, and the region as a whole, are inextricably linked with Ethiopia’s ability to develop its water resources. The GERD has a range of benefits for Nile Basin countries, including the promotion of access to a reliable economic power supply, opportunities for better flood and erosion control as well as the prospect of a new era of regional cooperation for mutual development.

This has also been underlined by members of the international community. In May, Ethiopia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gedu Andargachew held a video-conference with the European Union to discuss bilateral and regional issues. The EU recognises the strategic importance of the Nile waters and the GERD for Ethiopia, and has encouraged further dialogue between Ethiopia and the two downstream countries. On 20th May, Minister Gedu spoke to the UK’s Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, who stated that unresolved issues regarding the GERD should be solved through dialogue. The African Union (AU) has also stated that the three countries are responsible for resolving any issues relating to the GERD through the DoP that they all signed. It remains the only instrument that provides the basis for tripartite consultations.

Completion of the GERD, scheduled for 2023, will help alleviate the region’s energy deficit and play a critical role in spurring development through industrialisation, which is fundamental to the promotion of sustainable development, peace and security across the region. Ethiopia remains committed to this win-win outcome.

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