International conference: “A Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Dispute Resolution in the Law of International Watercourses and the Law of the Sea”

6 October 2017

On 25-26 September 2017, the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law hosted a unique two-day conference gathering the most renowned experts on the law of the sea and the law of international watercourses.


On 25-26 September 2017, the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg held one of its major events of the year. In cooperation with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Luxembourg National Research Fund, the Institute organized and hosted a major international conference concerning the resolution of international law of the sea and fresh water disputes. Through fascinating presentations and discussions, prominent international judges, arbitrators, lawyers and academics debated developments as well as significant challenges facing the global community in settling such disputes today and in the future. Promising early career scholars also presented their work, and 220 participants from Luxembourg, Europe and around the world registered for the conference.

The first day of the conference was dedicated to the resolution of international fresh water disputes. Following welcoming addresses by Prof. Hélène Ruiz Fabri, Prof. Erik Franckx and Mr Asaël Rouby, the first panel marked the 20th anniversary of the landmark judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros case with speakers reflecting on its contributions to the field of international water law and dispute settlement (chair: Prof. Boldizsár Nagy; speakers: Mr Samuel Wordsworth QC, Prof. Cesare Romano, Judge Peter Tomka). The second panel addressed the development of, and controversy surrounding, procedural principles of international water law and their role in the resolution of transboundary fresh water disputes (chair: Prof. Jutta Brunnée; speakers: Prof. Attila Tanzi, Prof. Owen McIntyre), whereas the third panel discussed the role of water agreements and institutions in such resolution (chair: Prof. Alan Boyle; speakers: Prof. Itay Fishhendler, Ms Judith Levine, Prof. Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Dr Komlan Sangbana). The final panel of day one offered case studies of contemporary fresh water disputes around the world, including the Nile, Indus and Mekong Rivers (chair: Prof. Laurence Boisson de Chazournes; speakers: Dr Salman M.A. Salman, Prof. Ashok Swain, Prof. Alistair Rieu-Clarke).

The second day of the conference focused on law of the sea dispute settlement, starting with a panel on questions of international procedural law before international courts and tribunals (chair: Prof. Alfred Soons; speakers: Prof. Marcelo Kohen, Mr Lawrence Martin, Sir Michael Wood). Topics such as the exhaustion of diplomatic means, fact-finding and third state intervention were debated. The following panel explored the various methods from which parties may choose to resolve their maritime disputes, including arbitration and conciliation (chair: Prof. Tullio Treves; speakers: Prof. Liesbeth Lijnzaad, Prof. Natalie Klein, Prof. Bernard H. Oxman). During the third panel, speakers offered perspectives on several regional and global actors that play a significant role in resolving maritime disputes, namely the European Union, regional fisheries management organizations and the International Seabed Authority (chair: Prof. Shotaro Hamamoto; speakers: Prof. Esa Paasivirta, Prof. Rosemary Rayfuse, Mr Michael Lodge). The day ended with a panel providing an in-depth forum for discussing the unresolved disputes in the Arctic region, inter alia overlapping continental shelves, navigational rights and fishing (chair: Prof. Erik Franckx; speakers: Ambassador Rolf Einar Fife, Prof. David VanderZwaag, Prof. Viatcheslav V. Gavrilov). Professor Sean Murphy wrapped up the conference with some final thoughts on the issues raised and debated by the speakers and participants, thereby drawing notable similarities and divergences between dispute settlement in international water law and the law of the sea.