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Sustainable development and the Guaraní Aquifer Agreement: A missed opportunity for truly sustainable groundwater governance

Author:

Maeve Flaherty

London School of Economics and Political Science, GB
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Abstract

In a period marked by increasing stress on global groundwater resources, the recent 2020 ratification of the Guaraní Aquifer Agreement (GAA) demonstrates an international consensus that continued sustainable development requires legally defined transnational cooperation on water sharing and governance. It is the first transnational groundwater agreement to be ratified before conflict and is a model of successful preventative diplomacy. While there is a large body of research on groundwater governance, diplomacy, and conflict-resolution, previous research on groundwater treaties has largely focused on aquifers in water scarce regions such as the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System shared by Egypt, Libya, Chad, and Sudan. The GAA has received comparatively little attention, with much of the research focusing on the ways in which it differs and expands upon the language of the UN Draft Articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers. Even less attention has been paid to its role in enshrining sustainable development as a shared, transnational focus. The GAA, ratified by the four riparian states of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, contains a direct but vague commitment to the principles of the Rio Doctrine. Signed in 2010, and with a full decade between signature and ratification, the GAA is shaped by a relatively outdated approach to development focused on resource extraction fueled growth. This article surveys the manner in which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have entered the existing, shifting global normative frameworks of groundwater governance. It critiques the normative framework rooted in the Rio Doctrine, of the GAA and calls for a reevaluation of the widely lauded GAA through the lens of the SDGs and a ‘green economy’ approach.
How to Cite: Flaherty, M., 2022. Sustainable development and the Guaraní Aquifer Agreement: A missed opportunity for truly sustainable groundwater governance. LSE International Development Review, 2(2).
Published on 20 Apr 2022.
Peer Reviewed

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