The law of international watercourses, or international water law, is an international legal framework, including both navigational and non-navigational uses, as well as its historical evolution. In recent years rules have been developed and codified through the work of the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, institutions and associations for international law, including the International Law Association (ILA) and the Institut de droit international (IDI). Central is the work of the UN International Law Commission (ILC), which led to the adoption of the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1997. The entry into force of this convention and the recent amendment of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki, 17 March 1992) to open it up to non-UNECE States have given a boost to this field of international law. As water scarcity and increasing environmental pollution will inevitably result in more disputes over international watercourses in the future and, at the extreme, in armed conflict, the further codification and progressive development of the law of international watercourses is essential to prevent this.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research in the field of the law of international watercourses. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) Water is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.


Sources of international law

  1. Volume I
  2. Volume II
  3. Volume III: Regional Issues: Africa and Asia
  4. Volume IV: Regional Issues: Europe
  5. Volume V: Regional Issues: Regional issues: North and South America



B. International Court of Justice

  • Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia)

Judgment of 25 September 1997ICJ documents; PPL keyword: Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project (Hungary/Slovakia)

D. Selected books

UN Declarations and Resolutions

The resolutions and decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council may provide valuable information on water issues. Although they cannot themselves constitute international law or serve as conclusive evidence of a rule of customary law, such resolutions do have value in providing evidence of existing or emerging law. This point of view has been acknowledged by the International Law Commission.

As every Member State has been recognized and has a vote in the UN General Assembly, finding General Assembly resolutions that passed unanimously or near-unanimously may serve as an excellent starting point in the legal research process. Pay attention to the language of the resolution. Those with firm obligations versus those that are merely aspirational or advisory in nature are more likely to be considered valuable as evidence of customary international law.

 Official Document System Search. ODS is the UN's Official Document System. You can search for UN declarations, resolutions and other documents by keywords, then narrow your search.

 Start Your Research: (7) Resolutions and Decisions of International Organizations.

Soft law

Reference works

Selected books and articles

For all peer-reviewed articles in the PPL Catalogue, click here.

Periodicals, serial publications