Publications Archive

UN Special Rapporteur

Glossary on the Rights to Water and Sanitation

An A-Z guide of some of the key terms used in discussions on the Right to Water and Sanitation

Frequently Asked Questions on the Rights to Water and Sanitation

The recognition of the rights to water and sanitation is a breakthrough that ends a long lasting discussion, but it is only a first step. Now it is crucial to implement these rights and turn them into a reality for everyone. This document covers the most frequently asked questions about implementing the rights to water and sanitation and what the rights require.
English / French / Spanish

Legal Obligations with Tangible Benefits on the Rights to Water and Sanitation

A conversation between the Special Rapporteur on the human right to water and sanitation and different stakeholders including state representatives, development practitioners, individuals and NGO representatives
English / French / Spanish

Eliminating Inequalities: Towards a Post-2015 Development Agenda

A one-page factsheet on how to achieve the post-2015 development agenda

Factsheet on the Right to Water

This document explains what the right to water is, illustrates what it means for specific individuals and groups, and then elaborates upon State obligations with respect to the right. It concludes with an overview of national, regional and international accountability and monitoring mechanisms.
Arabic / Chinese / English / French / Russian / Spanish

Book on Good Practices in the Realisation of the Rights to Water and Sanitation

“…offers solutions, ideas and pragmatic examples of legislation, policies, programmes, advocacy approaches and accountability mechanisms to demonstrate how the rights (of water and sanitation) are becoming a reality for the excluded, forgotten and voiceless.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
English / French / Spanish

Advocacy guides

A Human Rights Approach to Development: Some Practical Implications for WaterAid’s Work

The First WaterAid Lecture, City University, London – Julia Häusermann, President, Rights and Humanity, 10 September, 1999

Provides an analysis of a human rights based approach to development and an exploration of its benefits and practical implications.

Right to Water

World Health Organization, WaterAid and COHRE, 2003

Outlines the scope and content of the legal definition of the human right to water and its relationship to other rights. The document also examines what the right means for various communities affected by the right to water. Lastly, the document considers what contribution the right to water can and should make towards making drinking water a reality for all.

Advocacy – What’s it all about? A Guide to Advocacy Work in the Water and Sanitation Sector

WaterAid, September, 2007
A quick introduction to advocacy in all its forms. The Advocacy Sourcebook aims to educate and inform on all aspects of planning and carrying out actions that seek to change policy, attitudes and practice in favour of the poor.

Our Water, Our Waste, Our Town: Supporting Civil Society to Engage in Urban Water and Sanitation Reforms – A Gudance Manual

WaterAid, 2007

This manual is based on real-life case studies and the authors’ experiences of working with civil society organisations (CSOs) on urban water and sanitation reforms. It provides technical information alongside advocacy and policy guidance on selected urban water supply issues and discussions on urban sanitation.

Advocating for Change

WaterAid, 2009

A brief guide to the four cornerstones of advocacy: International Change, National Engagement, Regional Coordination and Community Action.

Budget Advocacy for the Water and Sanitation Sector in Nepal: A Primer for Civil Society Organisations

WaterAid, 2010
Intends to enhance the capacity of civil society groups to dig into the details of government budget and use their analyses to influence budgets in favour of the poor and marginalised. Takes an evidence-based approach to activism in order to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation across the world.

Country case studies

Africa AMCOW Snapshot 2012


A highly visual tool for understanding the progress made so far in achieving access to drinking water and sanitation in Africa
English / French / Arabic

JMP 2012 Snapshot for Sanitation and Water for All High Level Meeting


A visual representation of the progress made so far in the achieving access to Water and Sanitation across the world

A Snapshot of Sanitation in SACOSAN Countries 2011


A snapshot of the progress made so far in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Bhutan

A Snapshot of Drinking Water and Sanitation 2010


A visual representation of the progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) so far in the Arab states

Enforcing the Human Right to Water – Lessons Learnt from Working with the Conet Community in La Matanza, Argentina

COHRE and Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS)

A case study of the implementation of the right to water in La Matanza, Argentina

The Right to Water in Argentina

Rights and Humanity, Juan Miguel Picolotti of the Centre for Human Rights and the Environment, with the assistance of Lorena Gilli, Marta Juliá, and Andrea Mendyvil, 2003

This report focuses on the development of the right to water in Argentina and the progress made so far towards MDG.

From Communities’ Hands to MNCs’ BOOTs: A Case Study from India on Right to Water

Rights and Humanity, Ruchi Pant, Policy Analyst, Ecoserve, India, 2003

This case study discusses the specific legal and cultural boundaries to the formal recognition of the rights to water and sanitation in India.

Hostage to Politics – The Impact of Sanctions and the Blockade on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in Gaza

COHRE, 2008

The Gaza Strip is currently undergoing a humanitarian crisis, which includes the widespread denial of economic, social and cultural rights. This paper describes violations of the human right to water and sanitation in Gaza that have been caused or exacerbated by the sanctions and blockade in the period from January 2006 to the time of writing in 2008.

Case Studies on Efforts to Implement the Right to Water and Sanitation in Urban Areas (Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and South Africa)

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) Working paper for UN-HABITAT 2008

Documents and evaluates attempts to implement the right to water and sanitation in urban water and sanitation services in Brazil, Kenya, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Each case study includes a description of national and municipal legislation, policies and institutions that have been put in place to implement the right to water and sanitation in urban areas; and an evaluation of the results of such initiatives, together with lessons learnt.

Rapid Assessment Report of the Water and Sanitation Situation within Informal Settlements in Nairobi

Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), 2008

Details the particular impacts the post election crisis of 2008 had on access to water and sanitation for the population living within informal settlements by analysing monitoring forms completed by 53 active community members and leaders from settlements throughout Nairobi.

The human rights-based approach to water and sanitation

The Right to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene and the Human Rights Based Approach to Development

Belinda Calguas, WaterAid, 1999

This paper looks into the human rights-based approach to development, its specific relevance to water, sanitation and hygiene, and the implication of this approach to the water and sanitation sector.

Evaluation of Costs and Benefits of Water and Sanitation Improvements at the Global Level

World Health Organisation, 2004

A study into the economic costs and benefits of a range of selected interventions to improve water and sanitation services, with results presented for 17 World Health Organisation sub-regions and at the global level

Applying a Human Rights Based Approach to Development Cooperation and Programming: A UNDP Capacity Development Resource

UNDP, 2006

Chapters include: An introduction to water as a human right, a general comment on the right to water, who is affected by the right, government’s responsibilities and implications for other stakeholders.

Manual on the Right to Water and Sanitation

COHRE, Geneva, 2008

This tool assists policy makers and practitioners in developing strategies for implementing the human right to water and sanitation. The manual distinguishes between the challenges facing urban and rural areas, and proposes policy approaches for each that address their different circumstances.

Sanitation: A Human Rights Imperative

COHRE, SDC, UN-HABITAT and WaterAid, 2008

Focuses on the right to sanitation and how a rights based-approach to advocacy can bring about change in policy. Discusses the obligations of government and priority actions for civil society and international organisations.

The right to water in national legislation

The Right to Water in National Legislation

The French Water Academy, Henri Smets, 2006

This report by Henri Smets aims to show the legal ramifications of acknowledging the right to water in domestic law through an examination of State’s practices in this field.
English & French

The Right to Water at the World Water Forum, Mexico 2006

The French Water Academy, Henri Smets, 2006

Describes how the 4th World Water Forum dealt with the right to water, a topic hotly debated but not referred to in the Ministerial Declaration. However, all other groups represented in Mexico expressed themselves in favour of such a fundamental right. An insight into the political landscape around the right to water and sanitation prior to them being formally recognised in 2010.

The Right to Water: From Concept to Implementation

World Water Council, 2006
Acts as an example of the emerging global support for the recognition of the rights of water and sanitation in 2006.

Legal resources

The African regional human rights system

PWESCR (Programme on Women’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights)

The publication includes the background and origins of the regional human rights mechanisms. It elaborates the normative framework and rights recognised in the regional human rights treaties in the Africa. It also focuses on how to use these monitoring and enforcement mechanisms and some of the challenges faced in doing so. This is a learning tool for human rights Foreword vii defenders, especially trainers interested in conducting training on African regional mechanisms. With a focuses also on civil society engagement in the African regional human rights system, the publication provides useful insights at a practical level.

Recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation by UN Member States at international level

Amnesty International and WASH United, 2015

All UN Member States have recognised that the human right to water and the human right to sanitation are part of binding international law. This publication gives an overview of the most important resolutions and declarations, including the positions countries have taken.

The human rights to water and sanitation in courts worldwide

WASH United and WaterLex, 2015

This publication is a useful tool for judges, lawyers and those advocating for these rights. It should prove essential for crafting legal complaints that better ensure accountability for violations of the rights to water and sanitation and achieving effective remedies for those suffering such violations.

The Right To Water: A Tool for Individuals, Groups and Organisations Advancing the Human Right to Water

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, 2007

This bibliography is a useful resource for individuals, groups, organisations, and scholars researching, promoting, or protecting the human right to water anywhere in the world. It is particularly useful for nongovernmental organisations working to advance the right to water and that desire to use the instrument of the law for that purpose.

Protect, Respect and Remedy: A Framework for Business and Human Rights, Special Representative of the Secretary General on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises

John Ruggie, UN, 2008

Presents a conceptual and policy framework to anchor the human rights debate, and to help guide all relevant actors. The framework comprises of three core principles: the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights; and the need for more effective access to remedies. The three principles form a complementary whole in that each supports the others in achieving sustainable progress.

Water in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Beyond 2015, 2013, Civil Society Position Paper

This Beyond 2015 position paper addresses the three dimensions of the UN thematic consultation on water, namely Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); Water Resources Management; and Wastewater and Water Quality. This Beyond 2015 paper focuses on setting out the importance of these topics for the overall post-2015 development agenda. It argues that the agreed overarching focus on poverty reduction for the post-2015 agenda cannot be achieved unless these three dimensions of water are addressed holistically.

The Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation in Law and Policy – A Sourcebook

WASH United, Freshwater Action Network and WaterLex, 2012

This sourcebook provides a broad overview of laws and policies guranteeing the human rights to water and sanitation at the national, regional and international level.

Progress on providing universal access

Keeping the Promise: A Forward-looking Review to Promote and Agreed Action Agenda to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Report to the Secretary General

United Nations General Assembly, 2010

This report, reviews the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). It consists of four main sections; an introduction, which explains the importance of the MDG, a review of the progress towards MDG, a summary of the lessons so far and finally a list of recommendations for future action.

The MDG Target on Water and Sanitation Reader

UN – Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC), 2010

Produced by the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication (UNW-DPAC) this reader is intended for all hose interested in getting familiar with issues related to achievement of target 7c of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The reader provides basic references for easy reading and United Nations publications on issues related to the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals as they relate to water and sanitation.

UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS), Targeting Resources Better

World Health Organisation, 2010

This report brings together survey data from 42 countries and 27 external support agencies and overlays this information, together with information from other databases to create a comprehensive study of the progress being made in the recognition of the rights to water and sanitation.

The Millennium Development Goals Report

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), 2009

A goal-by-goal look at the UN Millennium Development Goals including the progress that had been made up until the time of writing in 2009 and the progress still required

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water, Special Focus on Sanitation 2008

World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), 2008

In recognition of the large sanitation deficit present by 2008 this Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water report has a special focus on sanitation. It opens with a review of the status of sanitation in 2008 and an assessment of progress towards the sanitation target included in the MDGs. The report also provides a new perspective on progress with country, regional and global estimates, taking into account specific obstacles including population growth and how they may effect progress towards MDGs.

Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water 2013

World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), 2013

The most current World Health Organisation and UNICEF report on the progress on sanitation and drinking water as we near the 2015 Millennial Development Goal deadline.

HDR Beyond Water Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis

UNDP, 2006

The 2006 Human Development Report which focused on the rights of water and sanitation and how the recognition of access to these facilities would allow people to lead a life that they value and realise their potential as human beings. Chapters include: Ending the crisis in water and sanitation, Water for human consumption, The vast deficit in sanitation, Water scarcity, risk and vulnerability, Water competition in agriculture and Managing transboundary waters.

Other resources

Taking the Bloody Linen Out of the Closet: Menstrual Hygiene as a Priority for Achieving Gender Equality

Inga Winkler and Virginia Roaf, Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender Vol. 21, Issue 1 (Spring 2015)

This article explores challenges for menstrual hygiene at the practical and policy level. It examines how menstrual hygiene is situated in the human rights framework, in particular gender equality; how menstrual hygiene can be defined in human rights terms; and how using the framework of human rights and substantive equality may contribute to giving menstrual hygiene greater visibility and prioritising the development of appropriate strategies and solutions.