Mainstreaming Human Rights

Human Rights Based Approach and Water Governance
Water governance is about the political, social, economic and administrative systems that determine who gets what water when and how. A human rights based approach (HRBA) emphasizes both development outcomes and the process by which rights are realized. It focuses on the relationships of obligations and rights, and on improving the capacity of those with responsibilities to respect, protect and fulfill rights (duty bearers) to meet their obligations, and on improving the capacity of those that have rights (rights holders) to claim them. The HRBA focus on process and its foundation in the core principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, and accountability offer one concrete way to work with improving water governance.

The Right to Water and Sanitation
The human right to water and sanitation provides the procedural principles – notably equality and non-discrimination, participation and accountability, and substantive standards - availability, safety, acceptability, accessibility and affordability, to guide the realization of access to water and sanitation for all. Applying an HRBA in supporting the implementation of the right to water and sanitation advances the process (“how”) and the substantive standards (“what”) of the right. It also furthers other substantive rights, such as the right to education and health, and procedural rights per se such as the right to non-discrimination and participation.

UNDP's Response
UNDP supports the practical implementation of a human rights based approach in water supply and sanitation, water resources management and water governance by:

  • Developing experience, lessons learned and guidance
  • Improving the capacity of water professionals and development practitioners to integrate a human rights based approach in policies and programmes
  • Developing tools and approaches to strengthen water integrity and sector reform
  • Exploring synergies with Integrated Water Resources Management to improve the equity of water resources allocation
  • Supporting the work of the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

How we work

  • Bondo villagers preserve water as a human right

In Kenya, UNDP’s Water Governance Facility supports capacity building to enable right holders and duty bearers to participate effectively in water sector reform and utilize anti-corruption and complaint redress tools. Villagers in the Nyanza region put an end to vandalism of water pipelines and started benefit-sharing discussions with water providers. They also report mismanagement practices to a national body tasked with tackling corruption issues. Read the full story here.

  • Boznia and Herzegovina – participative awareness campaign

Through the design and implementation of a participative awareness campaign, UNDP’s Water Governance Facility supports a project in Boznia and Herzegovina to assist selected local municipalities to meet their responsibilities for the provision of safe and reliable water services. This will entail a review of the relevant regulatory environment for the target municipalities, an assessment of the ownership and management structures of drinking water suppliers, and a constraints analysis for public water utilities.

  • Bridging the gap between theory and practice – a Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) to improve water governance

The overall aim of this UNDP programme is to define new areas of opportunities in Europe and the CIS region for the development of new projects in the cross-cutting field of human rights and water governance, with the ultimate goal to bridge the gap between theory and practice with regard to the right to water. In short, the right to water means having access to sufficient, affordable water of drinking water quality.