For millions of people in the South Caucasus mountain region of Turkey, Georgia, Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Kura River is one of the largest and most important sources of freshwater. Today, the river is at the center of an international effort to ensure that transboundary rivers are managed cooperatively. International leaders have called on FIU College of Law Professor Ryan Stoa for his expertise as they seek to finalize a treaty on how the Kura River Basin will be managed.
For most of the last century the river was governed by treaties between the USSR and Turkey, and the USSR and Iran. When the USSR fell in 1991, the Kura became an international waterway between Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran but there hasn’t been a governing treaty in place.
FIU has been working on water management and policy issues in the region for several years as part of the Global Water for Sustainability (GLOWS) program, a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development to address the global water crisis. Stoa, deputy director of GLOWS and also a fellow in Water Law and Policy at FIU Law, was invited in May to Georgia to review a draft treaty between Georgia and Azerbaijan that would provide a cooperative framework for the Kura River Basin. Stoa provided his expertise to Georgian ministries and organizations involved in the negotiations.
At the table were the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Agriculture, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with participation from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“Like many tranbsoundary watercourses, there are a multitude of stakeholders and interested parties in the Kura River basin,” Stoa said. “The challenge is to create an agreement that provides benefits to all stakeholders and can act as a mechanism for further collaboration.”
During Stoa’s visit, he discussed outstanding issues, the state of international water law, and the rights and duties that are imposed by the draft treaty. The agreement, he said, provides a workable mechanism for Georgia and Azerbaijan to cooperatively manage the river basin,
“I’m confident the agreement provides tangible benefits to Georgia and the region,” he said. “The next step is to build enough legal awareness and political capital that the political actors involved can seal the deal.”.