Rivers are well-known drivers of human exchanges of all kinds, and have laid the foundation for the first models of interstate cooperation. These models have evolved over time. First viewed as instruments of trade in line with purest capitalistic theories, rivers have progressively been regarded as shared natural resources and have now started being treated as legal persons. This shift has had an impact on the institutional organisation around rivers and the regulation of inland water transport (IWT). Could the powers and processes developed within river commissions for IWT be used to represent rivers as legal persons? We claim that this is technically possible. Through these evolutions, interstate cooperation around rivers may once again constitute an ideal laboratory for innovative models, which aim to correct some of the disorders of our globalised economy. In that sense, the story of regional cooperation around rivers may echo, on a smaller scale, the story of globalisation, with its opportunities, limits and potential adjustments.