Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 833–848 | Cite as

Translating the Human Right to Water and Sanitation into Public Policy Reform

  • Benjamin Mason Meier
  • Georgia Lyn Kayser
  • Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum
  • Urooj Quezon Amjad
  • Fernanda Dalcanale
  • Jamie Bartram
Article

Abstract

The development of a human right to water and sanitation under international law has created an imperative to implement human rights in water and sanitation policy. Through forty-three interviews with informants in international institutions, national governments, and non-governmental organizations, this research examines interpretations of this new human right in global governance, national policy, and local practice. Exploring obstacles to the implementation of rights-based water and sanitation policy, the authors analyze the limitations of translating international human rights into local water and sanitation practice, concluding that system operators, utilities, and management boards remain largely unaffected by the changing public policy landscape for human rights realization. To understand the relevance of human rights standards to water and sanitation practitioners, this article frames a research agenda to ensure that human rights aspirations lead to public policy reforms and public health outcomes.

Keywords

Human rights Water and sanitation International law Public policy Water governance Public health 

References

  1. Baillat, A., Schmitz, T., & Szabó, M. (2013). Towards a human rights based water governance: Challenges for the post 2015 thematic consultations on water. Geneva: WaterLex.Google Scholar
  2. Bakker, K. (2007). The “Commons” versus the “Commodity”: Alter-globalization, anti-privatization and the human right to water in the global south. Antipode, 39, 430–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barlow, M. (2009). Blue covenant: The global water crisis and the coming battle for the right to water. New York: New Press.Google Scholar
  4. Briscoe, J. (2011). Invited opinion interview: Two decades at the center of world water policy. Water Policy, 13, 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cavallo, G. A. (2012). The human right to water and sanitation: From political commitments to customary rule? Pace International L. Review Online Companion, 3, 136.Google Scholar
  6. COHRE, AAAS, SDC, & UN-HABITAT. (2007). Manual on the right to water and sanitation. Geneva: UN-HABITAT.Google Scholar
  7. Cullen, P. (2011). Water law in a globalised world: The need for a new conceptual framework. Journal of Environmental Law, 23, 233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cullet, P. (2013). Right to water in India—plugging conceptual and practical gaps. International Journal of Human Rights, 17, 56–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de Albuquerque, C. (2009). Report of the independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. A/HRC/12/2. New York, NY: United Nations.Google Scholar
  10. de Albuquerque, C. (2010). Report of the independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. UNGA Doc. No. 65/254.Google Scholar
  11. de Albuquerque, C., & Roaf, V. (2012). On the right track: Good practices in realising the rights to water and sanitation. UN Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Water/BookonGoodPractices_en.pdf.
  12. de Albuquerque, C. (2011a). Presentation. International conference on water and health: Where science meets policy. Water Institute and the Environment Institute University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, October 3–7, 2011.Google Scholar
  13. de Albuquerque, C. (2011b). Report of the special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, 66th session of the General Assembly, Third Committee, Item 69(b), 3 August 2011.Google Scholar
  14. Donnelly, J. (2003). Universal human rights in theory and practice (pp. 20–21). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Felner, E. (2009). Closing the ‘escape hatch’: A toolkit to monitor the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights. Journal of Human Rights Practice, I(3), 402–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fernández, N., & Cisneros, R. B. (2012). The right to water and sanitation in Ecuador: Progress, limitations, and challenges. Environmental Justice, 5(2), 77–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. George, A. L., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gerring, J. (2004). What is a case study and what is it good for? American Political Science Review, 98, 341–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guendel, L. (2012). Evaluation, public policies, and human rights. In S. Kushner & E. Rotondo (Eds.), Evaluation voices from Latin America. New directions for evaluation, (Vol. 134, pp. 29–37).Google Scholar
  20. Gupta, J., Ahlers, R., & Ahmed, L. (2010). The human right to water: Moving towards consensus in a fragmented world. Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, 19(3), 294–305.Google Scholar
  21. Haglund, L., & Aggarwal, R. (2011). Test of our progress: The translation of economic and social rights norms into practice. Journal of Human Rights, 10, 494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hukka, J. J., Castro, J. E., & Pietilä, P. E. (2010). Water, policy and governance. Environment and History, 16(2), 235–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jeffords, C. (2013). Constitutional environmental human rights: A descriptive analysis of 142 national constitutions. In L. Minkler (Ed.), The state of economic and social human rights: A global overview. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kindornay, S., et al. (2012). Rights-based approaches to development: Implications for NGOs. Human Rights Quarterly, 34, 472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Langford, M., Bartram, J., & Roaf, V. (in press). The human right to sanitation. In M. Langford & A. Russell (Eds.), The right to water: Theory, practice and prospects. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. London, L. (2008). What is a human rights-based approach and does it matter? Health and Human Rights, 10, 65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Luh, J., Baum, R., & Bartram, J. (2013). Equity in water and sanitation: Developing an index to measure progressive realization of the human right. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, 216, 662–671.Google Scholar
  28. McGraw, G. S. (2011). Defining and defending the right to water and its minimum core: Legal construction and the role of national jurisprudence. Loyola University Chicago International Law Review, 8, 127.Google Scholar
  29. McIntyre, O. (2012). The human right to water as a creature of global administrative law. Water International, 37, 654–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Meier, B. M., Kayser, G. L., Amjad, U. Q., & Bartram, J. (2013). Implementing an evolving human right through water and sanitation policy. Water Policy, 15, 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Meier, B. M., Kayser, G. L., Amjad, U. Q., Kestenbaum, J. G., & Bartram, J. (in press). Examining the practice of developing human rights indicators to facilitate accountability for the human right to water and sanitation. Journal of Human Rights Practice, 6.Google Scholar
  32. Murthy, S. L., Williams, M., & Baskin, E. (2012). The human right to water in Israel: A case study of the unrecognised bedouin villages in the Negev. Israel Law Review, 46, 25–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Murthy, S. L. (2013). The human right(s) to water and sanitation: history, meaning and the controversy over privatization. Berkeley Journal of International Law, 31, 89–147.Google Scholar
  34. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). (2007). Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the scope and content of the relevant human rights obligations related to equitable access to safe drinking water and sanitation under international human rights instruments. Geneva, New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  35. Onda, K., Crocker, J., Kayser, G. L., & Bartram, J. (2013). County clustering applied to the water & sanitation sector: A new tool with potential applications in research & policy. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health,. doi:10.1016/j.ijheh.2013.07.017.Google Scholar
  36. Prasad, N. (2007). Social policies and water sector reform. UN Research Institute for Social Development. Markets, Business and Regulation Programme Paper, Number 3. Geneva: UNRISD.Google Scholar
  37. Riedel, E. (2006). The human right to water and General Comment No. 15 of the CESCR. In E. Riedel & P. Rothen (Eds.), The human right to water (pp. 19–36). Berlin: BWV, Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag.Google Scholar
  38. Roaf, V., Khalfan, A., & Langford, M. (2005). Monitoring implementation of the right to water: A framework for developing indicators. Global Issues Papers, 14, 64.Google Scholar
  39. Russell, A. F. S. (2010). International organizations and human rights: Realizing, resisting or repackaging the right to water? Journal of Human Rights, 9, 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Salman, S. M. A., & McInerney-Lankford, S. (2004). The human right to water: Legal and policy dimensions. Washington: World Bank.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sikkink, K. (1998). Transnational politics, international relations theory, and human rights. Political Science and Politics, 31, 516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Singh, N. (2013). Translating human right to water and sanitation into reality: A practical framework for analysis. Water Policy, 15, 943–960.Google Scholar
  43. Smets, H. (2006). The right to water in national legislations. Paris: Agence Française de Développement.Google Scholar
  44. Staddon, C., Appleby, T., & Grant, E. (2012). A right to water? Geographico-legal perspectives. In F. Sultana & A. Loftus (Eds.), Right to water: Politics, governance and social struggles. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Steiner, H. J., Alston, P., & Goodman, R. (2008). International human rights in context: Law, politics, morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  46. United Nations. (1977). Report of the United Nations water conference, Mar del Plata 14–25 March 1977, UN Pub. EE77 II A 12. http://www.ielrc.org/content/e7701.pdf.
  47. United Nations. (2010). Resolution on human right to water and sanitation. UN General Assembly Resolution. A/64/292.Google Scholar
  48. United Nations. (2011). New York, 27 July 2011—Secretary-general’s remarks at general assembly plenary meeting on the human right to water and sanitation. Available at http://www.un.org/sg/statements/?nid=5440.
  49. United Nations. (2012). United Nations conference on sustainable development (Rio + 20) outcome. UN Doc. A/CONF.216/L.1.Google Scholar
  50. United Nations Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR). (2002). General comment 15. UN Doc. E/C.12/2010.Google Scholar
  51. United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (UN CESCR). (2010). Statement on the right to sanitation. Google Scholar
  52. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (2006). Human development report 2006: Beyond scarcity: Power, poverty and the global water crisis. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  53. UN Human Rights Council. (2006). Human Rights and Access to Water. Decision 2/104.Google Scholar
  54. UN Human Rights Council. (2008). Resolution 7/22: Human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Geneva: United Nations.Google Scholar
  55. UN Human Rights Council. (2010a). Report of the council on its fifteenth session. A/HRC/15/60. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  56. UN Human Rights Council. (2010b). Resolution on human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation (A/HRC/15/L.14, 24 September 2010). New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  57. UN Human Rights Council. (2010c). Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/RES/15/22, 6 October 2010). New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  58. WASH United, Freshwater Action Network and WaterLex. (2012). The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in law and policya sourcebook.Google Scholar
  59. Water Aid. (2009). Our water, our waste, our town: Supporting civil society to engage in urban water and sanitation reforms. www.wateraid.org/urbanreform.
  60. WaterLex. (2012). WaterLex legal database on the human right to water and sanitation. http://www.waterlex.org/waterlex-legal-database/.
  61. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2011). Report of the first consultation on post-2015 monitoring of drinking-water and sanitation. Berlin: WHO/UNICEF.Google Scholar
  62. WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. (2013). Equity and non-discrimination (END) working group. http://www.wssinfo.org/post-2015-monitoring/working-groups/equity-and-non-discrimination/.
  63. WHO. (2003). The right to water. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  64. Winkler, I. (2012). The human right to water: Significance, legal status and implications for water allocation. Oxford: Hart.Google Scholar
  65. Winpenny, J. (2003). OECD global forum on sustainable development: Financing water and environmental infrastructure for all. Paris: Michel Camdessus Panel.Google Scholar
  66. Zurn, M., & Stephen, M. (2010). The view of old and new powers on the legitimacy of international institutions. Politics, 30, 91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Mason Meier
    • 1
  • Georgia Lyn Kayser
    • 5
  • Jocelyn Getgen Kestenbaum
    • 3
  • Urooj Quezon Amjad
    • 4
  • Fernanda Dalcanale
    • 2
  • Jamie Bartram
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Public PolicyUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.The Water Institute, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, The Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Human Rights and Genocide Clinic, Cardozo Law SchoolYeshiva UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.The Water Institute, and Global Research InstituteUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Department of Public Policy and The Water Institute, Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, The Gillings School of Global Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations