The International Court of Justice (ICJ) Thursday delivered its judgment in a waterway dispute between Chile and Bolivia. The case is formally referred to as the Dispute over the Status and Use of the Waters of the Silala, a river which is shared by both Chile and Bolivia.The court found that the Silala River is governed by international law, meaning Bolivia cannot assert complete control over the waterway. President of the ICJ Joan Donoghue noted that, during the proceedings, Bolivia acknowledged that both the artificial flow and natural flow of the Silala River are governed by international law. The court found that the waterway’s “unique” qualities does not negate Bolivia’s acknowledgement that international law is applicable.With that understanding, the court also concluded that Chile is entitled to the “equitable and reasonable use” of the Silala River. Because of this, the court found that Chile is not responsible for compensating Bolivia for its use of the Silala in the past.The dispute arose in 2016 when Bolivia asserted that Chile should not have rights to the river because the Silala waters only flow into Chile through artificial channels. Bolivia demanded Chile compensate Bolivia for use of the Silala. Chile, on the other hand, claimed the Silala was an international river and noted that the artificial channels at issue were built more than a hundred years ago. Chile instituted proceedings in the ICJ against Bolivia in June 2016.The ICJ judgment is now binding on both countries, though, as an international court, it has no real means of enforcing the judgment. The decision comes at a moment when both Chile and Bolivia are experiencing severe drought.

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