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Part II Evolution and Theoretical Bases of the Law of International Watercourses, 4 The Theoretical Bases of International Watercourse Law: An Examination of the Four Principal Theories

From: The Law of International Watercourses (3rd Edition)

Stephen C. McCaffrey

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 03 October 2023

Freshwater — Lakes — Rivers

This chapter studies the four principal theoretical bases of the law of international watercourses, ranging from absolute territorial sovereignty to community of interest. This study yields several conclusions. First, there is virtually no support—in either state practice, judicial decisions, or the writings of commentators—for the isolationist and unilateralist theories of absolute territorial sovereignty and absolute territorial integrity. Second, the doctrine of limited territorial sovereignty—when the expression is properly understood—appears to come closest of the four theories to describing the actual situation produced by state practice. Finally, the community of interest theory has much to recommend it as a theoretical context for the law of international watercourses. The theory describes well the state of affairs existing among co-riparian states. It has also found expression in agreements establishing joint institutional mechanisms for the protection, management, and development of shared fresh water resources.

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