Human-Rights Based Approach in Water Supply and Sanitation

BiH meetingSeveral Joint Programmes have supported awareness-raising campaigns regarding citizens' rights to services, tied to their obligations to pay for them. Thus, through its work in the area of Democratic Economic Governance, the MDG-F focused on rights, obligations and inequalities.

To share the important work of the Joint Programmes on Human Rights Based Approaches, the DEG-KM  facilitated the exchange of experiences at its workshops, organised presentations at international conferences and documented innovative strategies, with a specific attention to some programmes' work to improve user-provider relationships.

What is a Human Rights-Based Approach?

The Human Rights-Based Approach aims to ensure that all development activities further the realisation of human rights, which involves strengthening the capacities of right-holders and duty bearers. In the area of water services, the rights-holders are the citizens that use water and the duty-bearers the states, represented by their governments.

Mutual understanding of rights and obligations

With support from the Joint Programme, the Water Regulatory Authority of Albania initiated a consultative process to enhance the fairness and legality of the relationship between water consumers and water utilities. Through negotiations between Consumer Protection Associations and producer organisations; a model service contract for water supply and sewerage was developed.

In the Philippines, a Human Rights-Based Local Water Governance Toolbox has been produced to strengthen the capacities of Local Government Units, water service providers and communities to address water development gaps, using a governance and human rights lens.

The programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina helped municipalities apply a Human Rights- Based Approach to social protection assessments, action planning, as well as monitoring and evaluation. The Ecuadorian programme has supported the integration of a Human Rights- Based perspective through-out the policy cycle in the government’s guide to how to develop sector policies.

This programme is a partnership with Cooperacion Española, MDG-F

Lessons learnt

  • The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation give moral weight to ensuring of sufficient, safe, acceptable, accessible, and affordable services for each and every citizen.
  • The fostering of a mutual understanding of rights and obligations between providers and users is one way of furthering the realisation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.
  • Whereas the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation do not entitle citizens to free services, the issues of affordability and sustainability of services are not easily resolved.
  • Monetary contributions from users can be highly contentious but is often needed to ensure regular service delivery, particularly for “modern” water and sanitation systems.
  • Many Joint Programmes emphasise that “You pay for services – not for water!” as a way to motivate payments to sustain services.