E-Learning Programme on International Water Law

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E-Learning Programme on International Water Law

September 2016 – December 2016

Geneva Water Hub and Platform for International Water Law, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva

Acquire solid competencies of legal and institutional frameworks for transboundary water cooperation: rise to one of the major challenges for sustainable management and protection of fresh water resources.

The governance and protection of fresh water is one of the biggest challenges facing the planet over the next decade. With the steady increase of world population, urbanization and environmental degradation, the competing demands of the riparian States will continue to grow and amplify the risk of disputes.

The 2030 Agenda includes SDG 6. It aims at “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” and to “implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation”. Instruments and norms of international water law contributing to the realization of the SDG 6 will become crucial in coming years. 

Legal knowledge and skills are required by professionals to negotiate and implement legal and institutional frameworks on transboundary water resources. The strengthening of capacities is essential for efficient and effective water cooperation and the sustainable management of water resources.

The e-Learning Programme on International Water Law combines legal knowledge and expertise with new technologies, stimulating dynamic interactions between the participants and experts, to equip participants with the required knowledge and skills.

This programme benefits from the longstanding tradition in international law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva and its dedicated Platform for International Water Law, from the inputs of the Geneva Water Hub experts and from the international organizations based in Geneva.


To gain good knowledge of international law.

To acquire in-depth understanding of the multifaceted aspects of the governance on water resources.

To foster reflection on innovative solutions to use more effectively legal tools to improve access to water and solve water disputes.

Skills and Competencies

       Interpret and apply the instruments, principles and norms of international water law in order to contribute to prevent and solve water disputes.

       Understand and use key instruments and principles of the law on transboundary aquifers.

       Understand the current legal developments in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals and contribute to the creation of instruments promoting equitable access and sustainable use of water resources.

       Develop negotiation skills for the implementation of fresh water agreements.

       Promote cooperation and prevent conflicts arising from water use and sharing of fresh water resources.

       Support environmental protection and public participation.

        Create synergies among local, regional and international actors working on water issues, such as the United Nations and regional organizations.


Professionals from different backgrounds including law, international relations, hydrology, engineering or economics: government officials (diplomats, technical and scientific specialists working in transboundary water issues), international organizations staff, NGO, civil society representatives, academics and professionals from the private sector.

Pedagogical approach

        A structured and flexible modular e-learning programme designed for professionals.

        A focus on theoretical and practical knowledge as well as hands-on experience with case studies.

       Interactive lessons, thought-provoking videos and tutorial with updated library and audio-visual resources.

       Strong collaborative activities such as peer-reviews and discussion groups to facilitate learning.

Tutoring and coordination

Personalized support and feedback is provided for all activities, both on-line and off-line. An online tutor guides participants through their learning experience and facilitates collaborative work and knowledge exchange throughout the course.

Evaluation modalities

All modules comprise an online assessment exercise and a written assignment. The final exam consists of a case study.


The programme includes 6 thematic modules and a 7th module consisting in the resolution of a case study. The completion of the programme corresponds to 4 ECTS credits equivalent to 120 learning and training hours.

A module of one week corresponds to 10 – 12 hours of teaching and learning per week including audiovisual material and reading of legal texts and literature. Depending on the module, the participants will have between 3 – 4 hours of on-line activities (i.e. discussion forums, quiz, answers to case-studies etc.) and an average of 6 hours of personal work (i.e. reading of legal texts and literature and preparation of on-line activities) per week.

A module of two weeks includes an average of 20 hours of learning and teaching.

The seventh module consists of about 10 – 12 hours of learning and teaching including the preparation of the final case study.


Module 1: Sources and Concepts of International Law. 1 week: 12-18 September 2016. 11 hours (4 hours on-line and 7 hours off-line).

  • Explaining the characteristics of the subjects of international law.
  • Defining the sources of international law. 
  • Comparing diplomatic and judicial methods for settling international water disputes.

Module 2: The Evolution of International Regulation on Transboundary Water Resources. 2 weeks: 19 September – 2 October 2016. 19 hours (on-line and off-line).

  • Analyzing the key aspects and scope of the 1997 Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.
  • Describing the activities of the League of Nations, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations in the development of international water law.
  • Differentiating between the work of the International Law Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). 

Module 3: The Law of Transboundary Aquifers. 2 weeks: 3 – 16 October 2016. 23 hours (on-line and off-line).

  • Understanding and analyzing the principles applicable to the management and protection of transboundary aquifers.
  • Examining and assessing the relationship between the International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Transboundary Aquifers of 2008, the 1997 Convention on the Law of Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses and the Model Provisions on Groundwater Resources of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
  • Identifying the main rules of the existing agreements on transboundary aquifers.

Module 4: The Principles of the Law on Transboundary Water Resources (1st part). 2 weeks: 17 – 30 October 2016. 21 hours (on-line and off-line).

  • Examining the content of the principle of equitable and reasonable use, the obligation not to cause significant harm and the principle of cooperation.
  • Discussing and providing examples of international judicial decisions dealing with international water law.
  • Understanding the role and function of river basin organizations.

Module 5: The Principles of the Law on Transboundary Water Resources (2nd part). 2 weeks: 31 October – 13 November 2016. 21 hours (on-line and off-line).

  • Explaining the role of water in international environmental law and human rights law.
  • Defining and assessing the human right to water and sanitation.
  • Identifying the norms on the protection of water during armed conflicts.

Module 6: Water and International Economic Law. 1 week: 14 – 20 November 2016. 13 hours (on-line and off-line).

  • Understanding the linkages between water and international economic law.
  • Differentiating between international trade law and international investment law.
  • Defining the functions of amicus curiae in arbitrations dealing with water.

Module 7: Case Study: Analysis and Legal Resolution. 1 week: 21 – 27 November 2016. 10 hours  (on-line and off-line).

Admission Requirements

       A recognized University degree (Bachelor, Master, Ph.D or equivalent).

       Two years of relevant professional experience related to the management and protection of water resources.

       Fluency in English, particularly written and reading abilities.

       Applicants must have a computer and a reliable internet connection. They must possess basic computer skills such as navigating the Internet and using Microsoft Word.  

       Applicants must send a CV and a letter explaining their motivation to participate in the programme. 

Selection process

       The selection is made by the Scientific Committee on the basis of candidates’ academic qualifications and professional experience.

       A maximum of 35 participants will be selected to participate in the programme.

It is possible to register for one module only (except Modules 1, 6 and 7). However, priority is given to those candidates who will follow the whole programme.     

Tuition fees

       The entire programme costs CHF 2’800.-.

        An individual module costs CHF 400.-.

       Scholarships are available for participants coming from developing and least developed countries.  


Diplo Foundation

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

Scientific Committee


  • Professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva.
  • Professor Makane M. Mbengue, Faculty of Law and Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva.
  • Dr. Mara Tignino, Platform for International Water Law and Geneva Water Hub, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva.  

Coordinator of the programme:

Dr. Mara Tignino

Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of the Platform for International Water Law

Faculty of Law, University of Geneva

Boulevard Carl-Vogt, 66

1205 Geneva

Tel: +41 22 379 85 46

Email: [email protected]