The United Nations Security Council released a statement 15 September urging Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to resume talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The negotiations had been taking place under the auspices of the African Union (AU).
This follows an earlier meeting of the Security Council dedicated to the GERD that had taken place in July. Egypt and Sudan had requested the Security Council to table the matter as the African Union had so far failed to resolve the crisis. However, the Security Council stressed the need for the three countries to continue talks under AU auspices.
In August, Algeria responded positively to an Ethiopian invitation to help break the deadlock in negotiations between the countries. Algeria is seen to be an important country in the region which has good relations with all three disputing states as well as with the European Union.
Tensions had escalated over the dam in July, when Ethiopia announced the second filling of the dam, while Egypt and Sudan took the position that a binding agreement should be reached on the dam before it being filled. Ethiopia has defended the filling of the dam on the basis of the right to development as enshrined in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Upon completion the dam is expected to significantly boost Ethiopia’s power generation capacity, providing up to 16 TWH in reliable energy for itself as well as neighbouring countries. Egypt and Sudan however have argued that the human right to water, which is based on the right to life itself as well as the right to health, takes precedence over the right to development.
A study published in Nature Communications in October 2020 indicated that once the GERD had been filled there is a possibility that the average annual outflow will be equal to the average annual inflow and that under these conditions Egypt will not suffer water deficits, while Sudan could benefit from reduced flood risk.
However, the outflow will be reduced significantly during the second filling period, and once the dam is filled, future outflows depend on rainfall conditions, which may be influenced by the effects of climate change. Furthermore, the outflow after filling will be in part determined by power generation, which is dependent on the development of a regional power grid.
In August, Sudan presented a formal request to Ethiopia to purchase 1000 MW of power, although it is not specified whether this power is to be sourced from the GERD. The GERD is the second major dam to be built on the Nile following the construction of the High Aswan Dam in Aswan, Egypt in the 1960’s. The Nile therefore has two major dams, each of which have the capacity to store the annual flow of the Nile river, without an agreement on water sharing or reservoir operation yet being in place.