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The no significant harm principle and the human right to water

Abstract

Access to water has been recognized as an international human right at least since 2010, when both the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council adopted resolutions to this effect. The no significant harm principle can be found in the UN Watercourses Convention, and in numerous other global, regional, and watercourse-specific treaties. This paper provides an explanation of how the no significant harm principle and the human right to water supplement each other, by jointly protecting both the State and the individual from significant harm done, by another State, to a watercourse on which they depend. The dispute between Chile and Bolivia relating to the status and use of the Silala waters is used as a case study, to illustrate the way in which these two international legal regimes (international water law and international human rights law) supplement each other.

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Abbreviations

CEDAW:

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

CESCR:

Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

CRC:

Convention on the Rights of the Child

CRPD:

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

FCAB:

Ferrocarril de Antofagasta a Bolivia

HRC:

Human Rights Council

ICCPR:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

ICESCR:

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

ICJ:

International Court of Justice

ILA:

International Law Association

ILC:

International Law Commission

UDHR:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UN:

United Nations

UNGA:

United Nations General Assembly

WCC:

Watercourses Convention

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Correspondence to Otto Spijkers.

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Spijkers, O. The no significant harm principle and the human right to water. Int Environ Agreements 20, 699–712 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-020-09506-3

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Keywords

  • Chile
  • Bolivia
  • Silala
  • Human right to water
  • No significant harm
  • International water law
  • Human rights