The “Human Right to Water” in Public Policy Choices

The concept of the human right to water and sanitation in general raises a number of difficult public policy issues regardless of the country of consideration. Certainly, many legal questions must be addressed regarding roles and responsibilities for providing drinking water and sanitation.

Brown C, Neves-Silva P, Heller L. The human right to water and sanitation: a new perspective for public policies. 2016 Mar;21(3):661-70. doi: 10.1590/1413-81232015213.20142015.

The recognition of the human right to water and sanitation (HRtWS) by the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council in 2010 constituted a significant political measure whose direct consequences are still being assessed. Previous to this date, the HRtWS and its link to a healthy life and adequate standard of living had been recognised in diverse legal and judicial spheres worldwide, in some cases under the pressure of the initiatives of strong social movements. However, while the HRtWS is recognised by the UN State Members, it constitutes a concept in construction that has not been approached and interpreted in consensual ways by all concerned stakeholders. The present article presents a formal definition of this right with a base in human rights regulation. It attempts to dialogue with the different existing perspectives regarding the impact of its international recognition as a human right. It then elucidates the progressive development of the HRtWS in law and jurisprudence. Finally, it considers the urgency and challenge of monitoring the HRtWS and discusses important implications for public policies.

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