No. Human rights demand that water and sanitation services are affordable to everyone, including for people who may not be able to pay very much or anything at all. This is the same for all types of human rights. Consider for example:
Consider also discussions about ability to pay & full cost recovery: A balance must be found between affordable payment (tariffs) for services. Costs that cannot be covered from those tariffs must be covered through other means, commonly public funds (taxes).
Human rights don’t favour any one service delivery model over another. They demand that the state sets up a system within which service delivery can take place – by state owned or private service providers.
For any such system, regulation and enforcement is crucial to ensure accountability: To what standards do service providers have to work? Who is responsible for what? Are standards really enforced (against any type of service provider)?
“The private sector” also means many different things: Large private sector service providers are quite rare, but small scale private sector providers are almost always involved in service delivery, especially in rural areas: Drillers, builders, sludge collectors, mechanics, etc.
Another example that shows the importance of regulation and enforcement by the state: Renters. The landlord is usually responsible for building the WASH infrastructure INTO the house. This needs building regulations that need to be checked and enforced. And clear roles and responsibilities if something inside the house breaks down: Is it the responsibility of the tenant or the landlord?
In case of private sector actors violating rights (e.g. extractives, beverage companies): The state must protect people’s human rights from violations by private sector actors. Again through laws, regulations and enforcement. For instance, BEFORE any private sector actor starts anything that might impact people’s ability to enjoy services, the impact should be carefully checked, people should have the ability to participate/be consulted, etc. and if the enjoyment of their rights deteriorates (the aquifer runs dry, sources are polluted), they should have a way to seek redress.
Human rights rarely mean that anything in particular needs to be delivered to rights holders by the government: People produce or go and buy their own food – government does not deliver food to the door.
The role of government is to create a system that ensures that everyone will have sanitation. Think about a system to ensure sanitation from scratch:
In all of these examples, government has a crucial role to ensure that step by step, everyone will enjoy their right to sanitation.
No. It means that every single person, no matter who they are, has the same right to have water and sanitation services that fulfil certain standards. That is the aim: a service that fulfils a certain standard for everyone.
As we all know, not everybody is the same: People live in different environments, have different needs, different abilities, etc. So in order to reach equality in the enjoyment of rights, we have to differentiate! Examples:
So: Teeth need to be created at the national level and accountability needs to run throughout the entire system of service provision. If you would like to know more about these aspects, you can refer to the following resources:
International human rights law does not demand the impossible. Related to water, sanitation, health, education (all the rights related to services and “development”), states have to do the following based on international human rights law:
So by signing up to human rights, a state commits to realising these rights and to do so as fast as possible. Human rights law also gives states a ‘how to’ guide, even if financial and other resources are really limited.
The Making Rights Real approach is a ‘how to’ guide that aims to inspire local government, using human rights. Guidance for states at more central levels of government is contained in the [Handbook] on the realisation of the human rights to water and sanitation.
International human rights law sees international technical and economic assistance and cooperation as part of the solution. This goes both ways: A state that has no or very limited resources should seek assistance to realise human rights. A state that has a lot of resources should offer assistance to states who need it.
This then extends to the HOW of development cooperation: How can development partners best support the realisation of human rights. Most commonly, this is referred to as a human rights based approach to development cooperation.
For further information, refer to
The SDGs and international human rights law complement each other. Consider the following:
So the idea is: Use the human rights obligations and make the thinking contained in it PRACTICAL, so that the political commitment contained in the SDGs will be achieved.
Sunday, 25 August | 16.00-17.30pm | Room M6
You will hear experiences with MRR implementation from Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Bhutan.
We look forward to seeing you there!