Remarks by Taye Atske Selassie, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nation, at the United Nations Security Council meeting on the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Ethiopia’s commitment to the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter; its support for collective security and multilateralism speaks for itself. It’s been contributing to the cause of peace through active participation in United Nation Peace keeping since the 1950s. Egypt’s insistence on involving the UNSC by seeking today’s meeting is wholly unjustified.

It contravenes Article 33 of the UN Charter, as well as the principle of complementarity and subsidiarity between the UN and AU. It also sidesteps the DoP provisions on dispute settlement. The African Union is now seized of the matter. The 3 countries have agreed to resume negotiations and resolve the remaining issues through consultations within the framework of African solutions to African problems.

The Council should allow the AU-led process to take its course. The Nile is as important to Ethiopia as it’s to Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia generates 86% of the average annual flow of the Nile but it’s never benefited from it. This is why accessing and utilizing this vital resource is not a matter of choice, but of existential necessity for us.

Contrary to historical facts, Egypt likes to accuse Ethiopia of taking unilateralist actions with respect to the building of the GERD. Cairo has, on numerous occasions, rejected our objections while pursuing unilateral projects, incl. the 1959 Agreement, Toshka and Peace Canals.

The 1959 agreement between Egypt and the Sudan has apportioned the entire waters of the Nile between the two of them, with Egypt securing the lion’s share, leaving nothing for Ethiopia. It’s the most unilateralist decision to have ever been taken concerning transboundary rivers.

GERD is the centerpiece of our national development aspirations. The unfortunate reality is that in 2020 tens of millions of Ethiopians still use firewood as a primary source of fuel. We’ve a national and moral responsibility to change this and improve the lives of our people.

Consider, for a moment, the images of young girls or mothers with back-breaking loads of firewood. Or pregnant mothers carried on stretchers for hours due to lack of electricity to access life-saving obstetrics care. GERD is an answer to their prayers, hopes, and cries for help.

All rural households where 85% of Ethiopians live, and nearly two-thirds of school children are forced to stay in darkness. Once completed, the Dam will bring electricity and an opportunity for a dignified life to more than 65 million people, who currently live in total darkness.

It should be absolutely clear that GERD is a development project and not a security threat. + Our efforts to ensure social progress and improve the standards of life for our people―leaving no one behind―is in line with the spirit of the UN Charter, SDGs and the AU Agenda 2063.

I also wish to underline why the GERD is a people’s project, that’s being built by Ethiopians from all walks of life with unprecedented zeal. My govt. is coordinating a public-owned and public-funded project. It’s a responsibility to bring this project to a successful completion.

Ethiopia has been guided by internationally-accepted principle of equitable and reasonable utilisation and that of not causing significant harm. During the negotiations, we’ve shown a great deal of flexibility in the tripartite process to build the necessary trust and confidence.

Egypt insistently argues the initial filling of the GERD cannot start unless agreement is reached. This simply is unacceptable. Under the DoP Egypt and Sudan agreed that filling is part of the Dam construction. And agreement has been reached on the filling schedule of the GERD.

Mother nature is in agreement, too. This year is indeed an opportune time to begin impounding water in the GERD. Currently, both the Blue Nile and the White Nile have above normal flow. Lake Victoria is at a record high level.

The High Aswan Dam is at a 40-year record high. It’d be regrettable if Ethiopia’s call not to politicise the issue of the GERD is not heeded by this Council. We can only hope that you will choose to be on the right side of history, for in a lot of ways, the matter being dealt with today is deeply rooted in a colonial legacy.

Our historic links through the Nile provide us with truth and faith to do what’s right for the betterment of all of our peoples. GERD offers a unique opportunity for transboundary cooperation between our sisterly countries. It should never be an object of competition or mistrust.

Ethiopia will pursue an amicable solution through win-win negotiations. We are confident that we will reach a cooperative agreement in the coming weeks under the AU-led process. Ultimately, good-faith negotiation is the only avenue to bridge gaps and find a lasting resolution.

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