This report can be cited as follows: Céline DUBREUIL The Right to Water: from concept to implementation World Water Council - PDF

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Reproduction of this publication for educational or other non-commercial purposes is authorized without prior permission from the copyright holder. Reproduction for sale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. Copyright World Water Council, 2006 World Water Council Espace Gaymard 2/4 place d Arvieux Marseilles - France Phone: +33 (0) Fax: +33 (0) Website: ISBN: This report can be cited as follows: Céline DUBREUIL The Right to Water: from concept to implementation World Water Council Printed and bound in Mexico by Editores Buena Onda S.A. de C.V. Design and prepress production by 1 égal 2, Marseilles, France - The Right to Water: From concept to implementation Written by Céline DUBREUIL Under the guidance of Paul VAN HOFWEGEN Legal advice and research provided by: Financial support provided by: Foreword The right to water is an element that is indissociable from human dignity. Who, today, would dare say otherwise? For this reason, it has become and remains a moral duty to listen, to reflect on, to propose and to act so that the unfettered provision of drinking water and its corollary, sanitation, can gradually become a reality. In any case, it is an effort to which the World Water Council wished to contribute by facilitating the work of a group of both qualified and impassioned individuals. It was, first, essential to identify what was being discussed. Truly and concretely, what is this right, in its individual form and in its collective form? Are we evoking the right of the people or that of the States? Then, it was necessary to specify various approaches to the way in which the right to water can be implemented, and in a practical, accessible and sustainable way. The concrete cases that are collected and presented here have the merit of doing this. Lastly, it was crucial to identify the conditions that need to be met to encourage progress towards the right, in particular, the close association of national and local responsibilities in a single country. This work was carried out and those who contributed must be congratulated. It is part of the debate so that all may pursue the dialogue and encourage a positive evolution of the subject. No one can deny that the children, the women, the men, who populate our planet, have an elementary right: the right to live. Accordingly, this report is a modest but enthusiastic contribution to the fight against ignorance, injustice, poverty and thirst, and inversely, for knowledge, progress and tolerance. It is an honour for the World Water Council and its members to have initiated this step. Loïc FAUCHON / President of the World Water Council II The Right to Water Table of contents: Acknowledgements Acronyms Summary IV V VI Introduction 1 What is the issue? 3 The scope of the right to water 4 Is the right to water a legally protected right? 6 Content of the Human right to water 8 Rights and duties 11 Challenges to the acceptance of the human right to water 12 Implementing the human right to water 14 Legislation and policy approach 17 Accountability mechanisms approach 23 Community advocacy approach 26 Community implementation approach 28 Community s participation 29 Solidarity 32 Monitoring 38 Success factors for implementing the human right to water 40 Recommendations 43 Bibliography 44 Annex I 46 Annex II 48 The Right to Water III Acknowledgements This report is an outcome of the program Right to water: What does it mean and how to implement initiated by the World Water Council and funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). Many thanks to our sponsors. This report was created through the combined efforts and perseverance of a number of individuals and organizations that share a strong desire to promote the human right to water. Members of the expert committee that assisted in the development of this report include: Andrew Allan Elisabeth Catton Bertrand Charrier Céline Dubreuil Peter Gleick Guillaume Grisel Sabine Hoffmann Raymond Jost Ashfaq Khalfan Alain Mathys Kerstin Mechlem François Muenger Henri Smets Houria Tazi Sadeq Paul Van Hofwegen Daniel Zimmer International Water Law Research Institute World Water Council GreenCross International World Water Council Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security Centre de Droit Public Suisse Solidarité Eau Europe International Secretariat for Water COHRE Suez Development Law Service, FAO Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Académie de l Eau ALMAE World Water Council World Water Council We thank all individuals, NGOs and World Water Council members for their valuable contribution to this report and providing tangible case studies on the implementation of the right to water. We are grateful to the Office International de l Eau for providing us with facilities for the expert meetings on this programme. We would like to thank Carine Sirou for her assistance in the organisation of the expert meetings. Special thanks are due to technical reviewers Danielle Gaillard-Pichet, Virginia Roaf and the anonymous reviewer. We are grateful to Annapoorna Ramendar for her helpful comments. This document was written by Céline Dubreuil, under the guidance of Paul Van Hofwegen. IV The Right to Water Acronyms: CEDHA CELS CESCR COHRE DWAF GC15 HRTW ICESCR MDGs NGO PPIAF SABS UN UNICEF WASH WHO Centre for Human Rights and Environment in Argentina Centre for Legal and Social Studies Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions Department of Water Affairs and Forestry General Comment No.15 Human Right to Water International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Millennium Development Goals Non Governmental Organisation Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility South African Bureau of Standards United Nations United Nations International Children s Emergency Fund Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All campaign World Health Organisation The Right to Water V Summary 1. The right to water is defined in the General Comment N 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and entitles every human being to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use. The right to water includes the right to sanitation. 2. The right to water is necessary for the enjoyment of others human rights including the right to life and human dignity, the right to health, the right to adequate food, the right to adequate housing, the right to development and the right to a healthy environment. 3. The national government is primarily responsible for enabling implementation of the right to water through legislation, regulation, policies, work plans and associated budget allocations. The actual implementation is at local level where local governments and their service providers develop and extend services to the yet un-served. 4. To ensure continued implementation of the right to water, sustainability of the water sources, both quantity and quality, is essential. Local as well as national governments should include protection of water resources and water ecosystems as a main element in any implementation program of the right to water. 5. In order for the right to water to be implemented, the leadership and initiative of key actors, including government departments, NGOs and international agencies are required as boosters to help revise laws and policies, provide education and assistance to communities, and ensure their effective participation in decision-making. The fact that the right to water and sanitation is included in international law - and increasingly in national law - is only a preliminary step and will not automatically lead to implementation. However, these rights provide the tools for authorities and key actors to advocate and implement the right to water. 6. The implementation of the right to water requires a clear definition of rights, obligations and responsibilities of each stakeholder, the identification of an authority to oversee the implementation of this right, as well as the allocation of adequate human and financial resources. 7. The right to water can be implemented in various ways, which can all be effective if appropriate to the national and local context and actively involves all relevant stakeholders. 8. For the successful implementation of the right to water, local initiatives and community s participation should be fostered. It is necessary to raise awareness about the existence of the human right to water, particularly amongst poor and marginalised people. 9. Meeting the costs associated with implementation of the right to water requires solidarity between citizens, cities and regions to make access to water and sanitation services affordable to all people, especially the poorest. This solidarity must be institutionalised. 10. Implementing the right to water in countries where almost all of the population has access to safe water has a different meaning than in countries where a large portion of the population does not yet have this access. International solidarity is particularly important in the poorest countries. VI The Right to Water 11. For effective implementation, the right to water should be included in the national legislation but also in policies and action plans. However, the lack of explicit mention of the right to water in national laws should not be an excuse not to implement it. 12. The implementation approach for the right to water must be sustainable, ensuring that this right may be guaranteed for present and future generations. The Right to Water VII INTRODUCTION This report starts with the observation that there is significant support for the concept of the right to water. Heads of State, members of government, parliamentarians, civil society representatives and many others have spoken in favour of the right to water on an individual basis. However, recognition of the right to water by governments is uneven. At the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, and the Rio Conference on Environment and Development, States accepted mention of the right to water. At the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, they recognised the right to water and sanitation. However, at the 2005 meeting of the Commission for Sustainable Development, States did not agree on reference to the notion of right-based approaches. Many countries do not take an official position on the right to water. Where does the problem come from, when economic and social rights such as the right to food are formally recognised in international law? The UN General Comment No.15 on the Right to Water, which was adopted in 2002 has contributed to clarifying the scope of the right to water and stimulated significant action by civil society, and legislative recognition of the right to water in a small number of countries. However there are countries which have not yet taken steps to implement measures required under the right to water. Several reasons may explain this situation: The relative lack of interest in water on the part of certain centralised governments as a service to render to citizens. It is interesting to note, however, that in contrast to national governments, local governments loudly and clearly state their attachment to implementing the right to water for their citizens; Continued reluctance based on the misunderstanding that the right to water implies exemption from payment for consumers; and A certain apprehension that human rights when applied to water may have negative implications on resource management, including international water resources. Today, we must re-examine these questions, clarify the content of the right to water and, crucially, move forward with its implementation. This implies that the debate must be focused on what the human right to water really means, which is access to water for life and dignity. When mentioning the human right to water, it implicitly includes the right to sanitation. The Right to Water 1 It is our responsibility to make sure that the essential needs for water and sanitation of everyone, particularly those who are most in need and those who are excluded, are met. The implementation of the Millennium Development Goals should contribute to satisfying these needs. However, much still remains to be done so that each woman, man and child may exercise their effective right to water and sanitation. The synthesis presented in this report aims to: Clarify the meaning of the right to water; Present approaches on how right to water can be implemented in developing and developed countries, in rural and urban areas, and in a practical and affordable manner; Identify key factors for effective implementation of the right to water. 2 The Right to Water WHAT IS THE ISSUE? Many people don t have access to water and sanitation. The acknowledgement of water as a human right may prove the most valuable approach to addressing the challenge of providing people with the most basic element of life. Over recent decades, the urban-industrial model of life has developed so dramatically, that it has generated a serious crisis of rural disintegration and urban saturation, creating public health problems in poor countries. This crisis has been aggravated by factors such as accelerating population growth, increasing inequalities, national or regional conflicts and the influence of climate change on the water cycle. It has been estimated that in order to meet basic needs, individuals require a minimum of 20 to 50 litres of safe water each day 1. Despite water s necessity to life, the reality is that billions of people worldwide are denied access to safe water. In 2002, the WHO estimated that 1.1 billion people (17% of the global population) lacked access to improved water sources, and 2.6 billion people (42% of the global population) lacked access to improved sanitation. Every day, 3,900 children under the age of 5 die from water-related diseases (e.g. diarrhoea). The lives of these people, often among the poorest on our planet, are devastated by this deprivation. Lack of access to water also impedes the enjoyment of health and other human rights (e.g. right to education, right to adequate standard of living, right to food). To improve the situation in terms of water supply and sanitation, international commitments have been made through the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), one of which aims to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water by The Johannesburg Declaration adopted at the World Summit of Sustainable Development in 2002, also set a new target to halve the proportion of people who do not have access to basic sanitation by The International Decade for Action Water for Life aims to galvanize efforts to meet the internationally agreed targets, placing special emphasis on the involvement and participation of women in these efforts. Meeting the targets on water and sanitation would also contribute significantly to the realisation of other MDGs, including reducing poverty, promoting gender equality, reducing child and maternal mortality and providing universal primary education. According to WHO s Report 2, the costs of achieving the MDG drinking water and sanitation target are affordable; the human costs of failing to do so are not. As a result of the MDGs, actions to provide access to water and sanitation are underway all over the world. However, this is not enough. It is necessary to prioritise providing and maintaining water and sanitation services. Inadequate attention to water in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) illustrates the challenges governments have in making choices and setting priorities with limited means at their disposal. 1- United Nations World Water Development Report (2003) 2- World Health Organisation (WHO) (Hutton & Haller) Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements at the Global Level, 2004 Will the right to water help in setting political priorities and in achieving the MDGs? The Right to Water 3 THE SCOPE OF THE RIGHT TO WATER There is much debate on right to water and its meaning. In this chapter, we try to clarify some of the different viewpoints. Water has not received the attention it deserves as a public good which is essential for life. There are increasing and conflicting demands on its use, which are compounded by the fact that water resources are being polluted or badly managed, causing a further depletion of safe water sources. Water has been established as a public or common good, but its role as an economic good often overrides this. The usefulness of water in its various functions is evident. And with the exponential demand of water for its various uses, freshwater has become a rare asset, which accentuates its role as an economic good. Treating water as a purely economic good implies that its various functions are considered as interchangeable values that can, therefore, be measured in monetary terms. However, the values linked to water are often complementary and, thus, cannot be replaced by money. For instance, the fundamental values of life, which are essential for dignified living conditions by people or communities are linked intrinsically to the values of preservation of the environment and aquatic ecosystems; the values of intra- and inter-generational equity or the values of social cohesion that water-distribution services bring. The value of these functions should not be administrated according to market rules, since they cannot be measured in monetary terms. However, it is important to distinguish different categories of values at stake and the ethical criteria of fairness and sustainability in order to establish an order of priority among user rights, as well as management criteria for each level. The different functions and values of water can be divided in three complementary levels: Water for life concerns providing water for the survival of both human beings (individual and collective) and other living beings. This must be recognised as the highest priority in order to guarantee the sustainability of ecosystems so that access for all to a minimum quantity of good quality water is recognised as one of the human rights. Water for citizens concerns providing water for general interest purposes, as regards public health or the promotion of values of equity or social cohesion, must be ranked at the second level of priority, in connection with citizen s social rights and in the general interest of society as a whole. This is the role of public institutions. Water for development is an economic function relating to production activities which in general concerns private interests like irrigation for agriculture, hydroelectricity, or industry and should occupy the third level of priority. 4 The Right to Water This function consumes the largest part of all water resources from rivers and aquifers, and is, therefore, largely responsible for the problems of scarcity and pollution arising in the world. This production-based demand must be managed in accordance with economic efficiency, social equity and environmental sustainability. The Human Right to Water entitles everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses 3. This definition has been provided by the General Comment No.15 which interprets Articles 11 and 12 of the ICESCR 4 referring, respectively to the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to the highest attainable standards of health. It goes on to state that an adequate amount of safe water is necessary to prevent death from dehydration, to reduce the risk of water-related disease and to provide for consumption, cooking, personal and domestic hygienic requirements. The impo
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