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Transboundary Hydropower, the Sustainable Development Goals and International Law (Advert Reference: RDF22/BL/LAW/RIEU)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof A Rieu-Clarke  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Hydropower is a crucial energy source in the transition away from fossil fuels. As a renewable energy, hydropower has the potential to make a substantial contribution to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), and more specifically SDG target 7.2 (by 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix).  However, a major obstacle to realising Hydropower’s potential is that 70 per cent of dams under construction or planned are on river shared between countries (Llamos and Sovacool, 2021).   Developing hydropower projects on these shared rivers, requires countries to cooperate to ensure that projects are implemented in an equitable and sustainable manner. An effective legal and institutional framework must therefore be in place to ensure that any benefits from such projects are shared equitable, and potentially impacts on potentially affected communities and ecosystems are carefully evaluated and mitigated in a sustainable way.

The importance of transboundary cooperation is recognised in SDG target 6.5, which calls for the implementation of integrated water resources management (IWRM) at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation, by 2030. Unfortunately, in many transboundary rivers, countries lack the necessary operational arrangements to support IWRM, and in turn to ensure that transboundary hydropower projects can be implemented in a peaceful, sustainable and equitable way (UNECE and UNESCO, 2021).  A related challenge is that international law concerning hydropower projects on transboundary rivers is fragmented.  A myriad of laws relating to human rights, environmental protection, water resources, investment and so on may apply to a particular hydropower project.  These laws are supplemented by a suite of policies, standards, and guidelines developed by international organisations, such as the International Hydropower Assessment, the Equator Principles, the OECD, and Development Banks.    

The purpose of this study will be to evaluate the capacity of existing laws, policies, standards and guidelines concerning transboundary hydropower projects to achieve sustainable and equitable outcomes.  The study will adopt a case study approach.  A selection of individual hydropower projects across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America will be studied with a view to identifying experiences and lessons learned that can inform future projects on transboundary rivers.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22/BL/LAW/RIEU) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Principal Supervisor - Alistair Rieu-Clarke

Funding Notes

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2021/22 full-time study this is £15,609 per year) and full tuition fees. UK and international (including EU) candidates may apply.
Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,365 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also read the full funding notes which include advice for international and part-time applicants.


Llamos C and Sovacook, BK, ‘Transboundary hydropower in contested contexts: Energy security, capabilities, and justice in comparative perspective’, 37 Energy Strategy Reviews (2021).
UNECE and UNESCO, Progress on Transboundary Water Cooperation – Global Status of SDG indicator 6.5.2 and Acceleration Needs 2021 (UN and UNESCO 2021).
Yihdego, Z, Rieu-Clarke, A & Cascão, A, eds, The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the
Nile Basin: Implications for Transboundary Water Cooperation (Routledge, 2017)
Rieu-Clarke, A, “The duty to take appropriate measures to prevent significant transboundary harm and private companies: insights from transboundary hydropower projects”, 20(4) International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 667 (2020).
Rieu-Clarke, A, “Notification and Consultation Procedures under the Mekong Agreement: Insights from the Xayaburi Controversy”, 5 Asian Journal of International Law 143 (2015)
Rieu-Clarke, A, “Transboundary Hydropower Projects Seen Through the Lens of Three International Legal Regimes: Foreign Investment, Environmental Protection and Human Rights” 3(1) International Journal of Water Governance (2015).
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