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Topics in Category: Human right to water and sanitation - SuSanA Forum Fri, 26 May 2017 18:47:51 +0200 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management /media/kunena/images/icons/rss.png Topics in Category: Human right to water and sanitation - SuSanA Forum en-gb Comprehensive handbook on Human Rights to WASH by Catarina de Albuquerque - by: Carol McCreary Realising the human rights to water and sanitation: A handbook was prepared by Catarina de Albuquerque, the United Nations' first Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

A product of six years of work, the goal of the handbook is to explain the meaning and legal obligations of these rights and to translate complex technical and legal language into accessible information. Designed for a broad audiences in the Global South and North, the information should be useful to civil society sanitation advocates, human right organizations, national and local offcials, service providers, and other stakeholders. Handbook objectives are to:
  • clarify the meaning of the human rights to water and sanitation;
  • explain the obligations that arise from these rights;
  • provide guidance on implementing the human rights to water and sanitation;
  • share some examples of good practice and show how these rights are being implemented;
  • explore how States can be held to account for delivering on their obligations; and
  • provide its users with checklists, so they can assess how far they are complying with the human rights to water and sanitation.
The target audiences for this Handbook are governments at all levels, donors and national regulatory bodies. It provides information that will also be useful to other local, regional and international stakeholders, including civil society, service providers and human rights organizations.

The Handbook consists of nine booklets, each available for free download.
  1. Introduction
  2. Frameworks (Legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks)
  3. Financing (Financing, budgeting and budget-tracking)
  4. Services (Planning processes, service providers, service levels and settlements)
  5. Monitoring
  6. Justice (Access to justice)
  7. Principles (Non-discrimination, equality, information, participation, sustainability)
  8. Checklists
  9. Sources (Glossary, Bibliography, Index)
The checklists in Booklets 2-7, which are consolidated in Booklet 8, allow officials and other actors to assess whether the State is complying with the requirements of the human rights to water and sanitation.

Currently available in English, Arabic, French, Spanish and Portuguese, the Handbook is is conveniently laid out in screen readable landscape format. The checklists allow people in jurisdictions that feel that WASH human rights area already protected to actually show that this is the case. It's available for free download here:

A shorter companion work is Making Rights Real: Clarifying human rights to local government officials It was prepared by WaterAid to help identify and mobilize WASH champions in local communities. It helps pratitioners and civil society groups explain the human rights framework to the local government officials. The three-piece guide is available here in French, English and Portuguese. Unfortunately, the dark colors and fonts make the Pocket Guide and mini-poster hard to read and expensive to print out. The Manual is better but since it's in vertical "portrait" format, it's difficult to read on most screens.

It would be great to have those who use Catarina de Albuquerque lengthly and usefully formatted work as well as Water Aid's materials review them here to help guide the work of other Forum members.]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Sat, 17 Dec 2016 16:50:23 +0100
The Two Approaches that cannot lead to Right to Sanitation - by: F H Mughal The Two Approaches that cannot lead to Right to Sanitation

Poor developing countries face enormous problems of inadequate and poor sanitation. At the same time, the developing countries have yet to recognize the right of citizens to sanitation. Right to sanitation has now been recognized by the United Nations.

Despite some modest progress on the sanitation front, worldwide 2.4 billion are without adequate sanitation. Most countries could not achieve satisfactory progress on sanitation in Millennium Development Goals. And now the world has Sustainable Development Goals.

Prof. Rosalind Malcolm, Professor of Law, and Director of Environmental Regulatory Research Group, at University of Surrey, UK talks of two sanitation approaches that she came across in Uganda and Kenya.

In Kampala, Uganda, she saw a field piled high with faeces where bare-footed children guided her around. This field was where the slum-dwellers went at night when the toilets were locked. The leader of the community took her to see the toilet block built by an NGO. Sheets of toilet paper were for sale and there were padlocks on the toilets. One had to pay the leader to gain access. In Kisumu, Kenya, in the informal settlement, she visited a pig wallowed in the mud outside the latrine.

Prof. Rosalind talks of hardships in establishing a human right to sanitation, based on her visit to these two countries. Kenya’s constitution contain the right, while Uganda’s constitution does not.

She says: “Both countries recognize the right in different ways, yet large numbers of citizens do not enjoy it in practice. This is a particular problem for informal settlements in poor cities. In Kisumu, 86% of the community share inadequate latrines – or none at all, according to University of Surrey research.”

(See details at )

Prof. Rosalind suggests four ways for achieving right to sanitation. These are:

First, it should be incorporated into constitutions. This is an important step showing that the state formally accepts its obligations and helps drive changes in national legislation requiring regulatory agencies to improve access to toilets. Citizens can then demand their rights.

Second, municipal legislation should include planning laws and building regulations that enable the provision of toilets at acceptable standards.

Third, there should be changes to the law that enable land to be acquired compulsorily as a last option to provide sites for toilets.

Fourth, and perhaps most important alongside government commitment, people need to be trained to manage the toilet facilities that are provided.

Prof. Rosalind concludes – to which I fully agree – “Ultimately, the law is only going to be useful if there is political commitment towards making the provision happen. If the establishment of an international human right to sanitation drives political will, all good. However, action will always speak louder than law, and such laws are not worth the paper they are written on without a change in regulation, funding and attitude.”

F H Mughal]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Tue, 16 Feb 2016 06:43:08 +0100
United Nations General Assembly affirms that water and sanitation are distinct rights and confirms a strong definition of these rights - by: arno The General Assembly resolution, in operative paragraph 2, also for the first time recognises the content of entitlements under the right to sanitation and right to water respectively, and specifically highlights that these entitlements apply “without discrimination.” It states that everyone is entitled “to have access to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use” and entitled “to have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and socially and culturally acceptable and that provides privacy and ensures dignity.”

These are the closest definitions yet seen reaching towards sustainable water supply and sanitation. The only word I miss in the definition for sanitation is the word affordable. It's there for water supply but not for sanitation. The trend today in poor countries is that water supply is to be subsidized but sanitation is something that consumers have to cover themselves. That may be OK for rural communities but urban sanitation systems will almost always need large subsidies for capital and maintenance expenditures.]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Sat, 26 Dec 2015 18:11:29 +0100
Interview with Mr. Léo Heller UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation - by: pf4wash
Mr. Heller, thank you for sharing your time and views with us!

You can read the interview here ]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Fri, 13 Nov 2015 10:36:38 +0100
Human Rights to Water and Sanitation, SDGs - and: For sanitation, a “rights-based approach” may be the wrong strategy - by: joeturner

Full text of the article added by moderator:

For sanitation, a “rights-based approach” may be the wrong strategy


When it comes to sanitation, rights are not enough. A contribution to the open global Rights debate on economic and social rights.

About the author:
Gordon McGranahan is principal researcher for the human settlements group in London’s International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). His recent article in World Development discusses the challenges of urban sanitation reform.

Full article:

A century or more ago, sanitation improvement was the symbol of progressive government in the world’s most rapidly growing cities. In today’s booming urban settlements, however, sanitation often lags other developments, especially when conventional sewers are not affordable.

Neither market-led private enterprise nor government-driven public utilities are well-suited to providing low-cost sanitation, but regulations can also be an unfair and inefficient means of getting poor people to invest in acceptable sanitation.

The UN's recent recognition of the human right to basic sanitation is very welcome; sewage improvements clearly deserve our most concerted and extraordinary efforts. Still, the same obstacles that prevent markets, public providers and regulations from delivering sanitation improvement are likely to impede a narrowly “rights-based” approach. Moreover, successful demand-led efforts have used different approaches, with good reason.

In principle, a rights-based approach could entail a complete overhaul of countries’ legal and governance systems, as implied by the Handbook on Realising the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation. In practice, however, it is likely to focus on claims-making against those failing in their duty to provide adequate sanitation, including landlords who do not provide tenants with latrines; public utilities refusing service to shacks; local governments blocking provision to unauthorised settlements; law enforcement agencies ignoring sanitary regulations; and perhaps even national or international donors who ignore sanitation while funding less critical services.

In this sort of rights-based approach, NGOs and other activists work with grassroots movements to push national legal systems to support their demands and hold governments accountable.

Less likely under a rights-based approach, however, would be efforts by the residents of deprived communities themselves to organize their own sanitation improvements, work closely with local authorities to produce mutually acceptable solutions, prioritize affordability over acceptability to achieve scale, or use sanitation improvement as a means of achieving stronger communities capable of engaging more effectively with local authorities. Yet this is exactly what successful and well-documented community-led efforts to improve sanitation have done.

Consider the simplified sewers of Karachi, developed through the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), or the communal toilet blocks of Pune and Mumbai, developed through Mahila Milan, SPARC and the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India (the Alliance).

Flickr/PraveenaSridhar (Some rights reserved)
A communal toilet block in Allahabad, India.

In both cases, the communities created their own organizations, not just to protest against existing conditions, but also to implement real sanitation improvements. In the OPP, local residents created “lane committees” to oversee sewer extensions; in the Alliance, women’s savings groups and other residents organized around communal toilet blocks.

In both instances, residents challenged local governments to contribute to realistic solutions that authorities and citizens could jointly “co-produce”. With OPP, public sector contributions included trunk sewers into which community sewers flowed; with the Alliance the public sector started off very sceptical, but eventually became a significant funder of local toilet blocks.

In both instances, residents worked with sanitation systems widely considered inadequate due to gross mismanagement. OPP struggled to prevent limited sanitation funds from being spent on costly conventional sewers in Karachi, while the Alliance chose a technology that would not even qualify as “improved” in official international statistics, as they are shared, rather than private, facilities.

Both groups of local citizens used their sanitation improvements to gain legitimacy for their settlements, all without putting rights-based claims front and center. Rather than organizing to make demands, they first organized to find and start implementing improvements. Then, instead of demanding solutions from government authorities, they demanded support in coproducing solutions they had developed. Finally, rather than seeking to secure the facilities they desired most, they worked hard to make these more affordable, negotiating also to get contributions from the state.

Does this mean that a narrow focus on rights can never succeed? No. When conventional sewer connections are appropriate and affordable, at least with realistic subsidies, a rights-based approach can be effective. With sufficient political and financial support, engineers can design sewer extensions, accountants can cost them, economists can devise affordable tariffs, and public utilities can roll them out. Activists can then use rights legislation to push for universal coverage.

For most people without adequate sanitation, however, these conventional sewer connections are not an option. Lower cost systems are decentralized, and require users to help operate and maintain them. They create challenges requiring users to organize themselves locally, cooperate with local authorities, prioritize affordability, and use sanitation to gain legitimacy for their settlements.

In particular, these efforts involve several key challenges: collective action, coproduction, affordability, and housing insecurity.

Bad urban sanitation involves private behaviours with huge public impacts. To put it crudely, your own shit is not the problem; it is other people’s shit, contaminating the local environment, that causes you serious damage. If you improve your facilities, and your neighbours don’t, you and your children still face serious sanitation problems. To overcome this “collective action problem”, as social scientists call it, local residents must organize locally and act collectively, rather than leaving it to individual households to decide independently whether to up-grade.

But even when communities overcome this problem, they can’t do the job alone; they need local government to take responsibility for the ultimate removal and treatment of excreta. The local government may also need to make other contributions. Residents, public utilities and/or local authorities, in other words, must combine forces to “coproduce” sanitation.

Cost, however, is a big problem. Under these conditions, the kind of strict government regulations demanded by some rights activists are more likely to exclude than uplift. Cost, however, is a big problem, since the poor can’t afford good sanitation any more than they can afford adequate food, clothing or shelter. Under these conditions, the kind of strict government regulations demanded by some rights activists are more likely to exclude than uplift. The new standards will be unaffordable for many, and irregularly enforced. The result is likely to be more informality and corruption, not healthier people.

Also, the poorest residents often live in informal settlements where their right to reside is insecure – and doubly insecure if they are tenants – blocking both residents and public agencies from investing in proper sanitation. Sanitation reforms must either address such tenure issues head-on, or find other ways of overcoming the disincentive to invest.

Considering these challenges, a narrowly rights-based approach to sanitation puts too much emphasis on individual rights, enforces too sharp a public/private separation, ignores the sanitation regulations’ exclusionary tendencies, and neglects tenure problems.

Private markets and public plans are already failing hundreds of millions of the poorest urban dwellers. Ironically, the right to basic sanitation could also be poorly served by a narrowly rights-based approach that fails to take these challenges seriously.]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Wed, 24 Jun 2015 19:55:22 +0200
The Human Right to Water and Sanitation (new publications by Amnesty International and by WASH United and Waterlex) - by: F H Mughal The Human Right to Water and Sanitation

All human beings are entitled to safe water, in adequate quantities with easy physical access and, appropriate sanitation. United Nations General Comment No. 15 (E/C.12/2002/11 of 20 January 2003) covers the right to water.

The United Nations General Assembly document A/HRC/24/44 (Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque) focuses on the sustainability in the realization the human rights to water and sanitation. All UN Member States have recognized the human right to water and sanitation to be binding on them.

Amnesty International and WASH United have produced an excellent publication titled “Recognition of the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation by UN Member States at the International Level.” The document is available at:

The publication gives an overview of resolutions and declarations that recognize the human rights to water and sanitation. In addition to significant useful information, of interest is the fact that it gives country position of many countries. It is sad that, in spite of advancements on human rights aspect, many populations, especially the marginalized population, continue to suffer in the field of water and sanitation.

Earlier, in January 2015, WASH United and Waterlex issued a publication titled: “The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in Courts Worldwide – A Selection of National, Regional and International Case Law.” This publication, a compilation of law cases, shows increasing trends in applying the human rights to water and sanitation, by the judiciary.

According to the document:

“This Thematic Guide provides for an overview of both the human rights principles of most relevance to the realisation of the rights to water and sanitation, and the categories that define the normative content of the rights to water and sanitation.

Each case summarised in this publication revolves around one or several principles (non-discrimination and equality, access to information, participation, accountability and sustainability) as defined in international human rights law and/or around one or several human rights criteria (availability, physical accessibility, acceptability, affordability, and quality and safety).”

The publication can be accessed at:

A Pakistan case is given at pp. 184. I find this interesting and, hope that the forum users will find both documents useful and interesting.

F H Mughal]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Sun, 10 May 2015 17:21:03 +0200
Consultation on Handbook to Human Right to Water and Sanitation - by: Louisa Gosling


What are the criteria that need to be satisfied for the human right to be a realised?

The normative content of the human rights to water and sanitation comprises the elements of availability, accessibility, acceptability, affordability and quality , which are outlined in this first section. The implications of the normative content for law, regulations and policy are discussed in this second section

The other sections will be posted on the site as follows:

When: The online consultation will start in mid-January and will run until the end of March. The planned timetable is as follows:

17 January 2014 / Chapter 1.1. Incorporating the rights to water and sanitation into legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks

27 January 2014 / Chapter 1.2. Incorporating the rights to water and sanitation into legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks

6 February 2014 / Chapter 2. Incorporating the rights to water and sanitation into financing and budgeting processes

15 February 2014 / Chapter 3. Accountability and the rights to water and sanitation: Access to justice

24 February 2014 / Chapter 4. Equality and non-discrimination and the rights to water and sanitation

10 March 2014 / Chapter 5. Participation and the rights to water and sanitation

17 March 2014 / Chapter 6. Access to information and the rights to water and sanitation

24 March 2014 / Chapter 7. Accountability and the rights to water and sanitation: Monitoring service provision

Once posted the sections will remain on the site so you can continue to comment on all the sections until the end of March]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Tue, 28 Jan 2014 13:45:01 +0100
UNECE, WHO-Europe Release 'The Equitable Access Score-Card' for Water and Sanitation - by: secretariat The Equitable Access Score-Card: Supporting Policy Processes to Achieve the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.'

Aims of the score-card include
- establishing a baseline measure of the equity of access to water and sanitation
- discuss further actions
- evaluate progress through self-assessment
- provide a framework to assess governance frameworks, geographic disparities, access for vulnerable and marginalized groups, and water and sanitation affordability

Please see for more information.

(Posted by Roslyn)]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Fri, 06 Dec 2013 13:39:54 +0100
UNGA Approves Text on Human Right to Water and Sanitation - by: secretariat Human Right to Water and Sanitation.

This draft focuses on ensuring the "human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in a non-discriminatory manner, while eliminating inequalities in access, with a focus on the most disadvantaged and marginalized" while keeping the status of the human right to water and sanitation in discussions and monitoring.

Please follow the link for more information on the draft, as well as the national-level criticisms on the content and intent of the draft:

(Posted by Roslyn)]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Fri, 06 Dec 2013 13:29:02 +0100
How to overcome the land tenure problems in low income urban areas to gradually realise human rights to water and sanitation - by: JKMakowka ).

Ultimately I think the only solution to the current urban housing (and thus sanitation) issues are large scale government built social housing projects. This is how it was solved in Europe around 1900 (when the situation there was quite similar) and this is how China and pretty much every other country that is taking the issue seriously is doing it.
As these tend to be a bit out of the city center, a proper public transportation system has to come with it.

Here in Kampala, there is a somewhat half serious attempt at it right now, but it is meeting a lot of local resistance by those to be evicted (there is basically no free land that isn't so far out that the current very bad public transportation system could handle it). Ultimately the problem seems to be that the current residents don't trust the urban authorities that the resulting houses will be made available for them, and (quite rightfully) expect the houses to be either never materialize (or be of such bad quality that they are uninhabitable) or be rather sold to more middle class families.

Ultimately I suspect quite a few government technocrats (here and elsewhere) would rather keep the situation in the cities quite bad as to not further incentivize people moving to the cities. But I think that is a very short sighted view and will not prevent further urbanization at all.]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Mon, 18 Nov 2013 05:37:11 +0100
Initiative européenne sur le droit à l'eau (In French) [European initiative on the right to water] - by: Florian

cecile wrote: Pour prendre un exemple en assainissement, le droit à faire construire un filtre planté de roseaux pour eaux grises s'il l'on a des toilettes sèches est différent selon le lieu géographique de son habitation. Si l'on dépend d'une gestion privée, ce droit est refusé, si l'on dépend d'une régie publique, les dérogations sont possibles ...

Bonjour Cecile,

Dans ton exemple, on peut bien consider un problème que les particuliers n'ont pas le droit de choisir le type de leur assainissement. Mais poutant cela n'a rien avoir avec le droit humain à l'assainissement, qui postule que chacun a le droit d'access à un niveau basique d'assainissement. En Europe centrale, presque tout le monde a cet access, sauf quelques groupes defavorisés (les sans-abris, les gens dans les camps temporaires des Roma, etc.). Si l'ont parle du droit human à l'eau et assainissment en Europe, la question est comment l'etat peut assurer l'access de ces groupes là.

Alors ton exemple confirme un peu mon impression initiale sur cette campagne: il me semble que la discussion recente et importante sur le droit humain à l'eau et assainissement est utilisé comme nouveau argument pour revivre la lutte un peu daté contre la privatisation. C'est justement pour cela que j'ai fait la remarque initale et cité CdA.

Salutations, Florian]]>
Human right to water and sanitation Tue, 22 Jan 2013 09:09:01 +0100