Special Issue "The Politics of the Human Right to Water"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2021) | Viewed by 10955

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Bruce M. Wilson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA
2. The Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway
Interests: human rights; comparative judicial politics; Latin American politics
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Malcolm Langford
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Oslo & Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway
Interests: human rights; international investment; comparative constitutional law; international development; judicial politics; law and technology
Dr. Rebecca Schiel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida & Chr. Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway
Interests: human rights; political development; comparative politics; civil military relations

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution that declared water and sanitation stand-alone human rights. Yet, the politics of the human right to water is much older. It stretches back to at least the 1970s, when development actors first secured international recognition of the right; the 1990s, when both anti-privatization movements and multinational water corporations embraced it for their opposing campaigns; or the early 2000s, when lawyers and local communities invoked General Comment No. 15 on the Human Right to Water to improve affordable access. Today, the human right to water is the subject of diverse political struggles that seek to address the challenge that 750 million people do not have access to clean water—a lack that has been highlighted by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

This Special Issue invites contributions on the politics of human rights: its origins, its uses, and its effects. We are interested in papers that trace the emergence of the right in political discourse and legal documents, its use by different actors for diverse political goals, and/or its impact in practice—whether in improving access or affecting underlying politics. This Special Issue is interdisciplinary, and we encourage submissions from scholars and practitioners working in the social sciences, law, humanities, and natural sciences.

Prof. Dr. Bruce M. Wilson
Prof. Dr. Malcolm Langford
Dr. Rebecca Schiel
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • human right to water
  • human rights
  • politics
  • water and sanitation
  • United Nations
  • rights realization
  • impact
  • accountability

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Article
The Determinants of Access to Sanitation: The Role of Human Rights and the Challenges of Measurement
Water 2021, 13(12), 1676; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13121676 - 17 Jun 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1013
Abstract
Ten years after the United Nation’s recognition of the human right to water and sanitation (HRtWS), little is understood about how these right impacts access to sanitation. There is limited identification of the mechanisms responsible for improvements in sanitation, including the international and [...] Read more.
Ten years after the United Nation’s recognition of the human right to water and sanitation (HRtWS), little is understood about how these right impacts access to sanitation. There is limited identification of the mechanisms responsible for improvements in sanitation, including the international and constitutional recognition of rights to sanitation and water. We examine a core reason for the lack of progress in this field: data quality. Examining data availability and quality on measures of access to sanitation, we arrive at three findings: (1) where data are widely available, measures are not in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, revealing little about changes in sanitation access; (2) data concerning safe sanitation are missing in more country-year observations than not; and (3) data are missing in the largest proportions from the poorest states and those most in need of progress on sanitation. Nonetheless, we present two regression analyses to determine what effect rights recognition has on improvements in sanitation access. First, the available data are too limited to analyze progress toward meeting SDGs related to sanitation globally, and especially in regions most urgently needing improvements. Second, utilizing more widely available data, we find that rights seem to have little impact on access. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
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Article
Indigenous Water Ontologies, Hydro-Development and the Human/More-Than-Human Right to Water: A Call for Critical Engagement with Plurilegal Water Realities
Water 2021, 13(12), 1660; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13121660 - 14 Jun 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2039
Abstract
Water conflicts across the world are bringing to the fore fundamental challenges to the anthropocentric boundaries of the human rights paradigm. Engaging with the multi-layered legal ethnographic setting of the Xalalá dam project in Maya Q’eqchi’ territory in Guatemala, I will critically and [...] Read more.
Water conflicts across the world are bringing to the fore fundamental challenges to the anthropocentric boundaries of the human rights paradigm. Engaging with the multi-layered legal ethnographic setting of the Xalalá dam project in Maya Q’eqchi’ territory in Guatemala, I will critically and empirically unpack not only the anthropocentric boundaries of the hegemonic human rights paradigm, but also the ontological differences between indigenous and Euro-Western legal conceptualizations of human-water-life. I argue that it is necessary to pave the way for urgent rethinking of the human right to water and, more broadly, human rights beyond the modern divide of nature-culture. International law and human rights scholars should therefore not be afraid of plurilegal water realities and should start engaging with these ontologically different concepts and practices. Embarking on a bottom-up co-theorizing about human and beyond-the-human water rights will be imperative to avoid recolonization of indigenous knowledges-ontologies by non-indigenous scholarships and public policy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
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Article
Channeling Water Conflicts through the Legislative Branch in Colombia
Water 2021, 13(9), 1214; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13091214 - 28 Apr 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 961
Abstract
This paper answers the question: has the Colombian Congress been effective at addressing relevant water conflicts and making them visible? While courts and social movements have been key for the advancement of social rights in Latin America, the role of legislators remains unclear. [...] Read more.
This paper answers the question: has the Colombian Congress been effective at addressing relevant water conflicts and making them visible? While courts and social movements have been key for the advancement of social rights in Latin America, the role of legislators remains unclear. We conduct content analysis of all water-related bills, proposed bills, and constitutional amendments filed in Colombia from 1991 to 2020; we also analyzed Congress hearings of political control related to water, and the statutes of political parties who hold majority of seats in Congress; we also conducted interviews with key actors on water governance in Colombia. We find that only three bills have passed in the 30-year time frame and that relevant water conflicts have not been addressed by Colombian legislators. We find that water conflicts are not reaching the political agenda of Congress, yet through political control hearings, it has given some late visibility to critical territorial conflicts in which water is a key element. We analyze our data in light of literature on legislative politics and legal mobilization in Latin America. This study adds to global research on the role of legislators in advancing the human right to water, particularly in Latin America. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
Article
Water ‘Apartheid’ and the Significance of Human Rights Principles of Affirmative Action in South Africa
Water 2021, 13(8), 1104; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13081104 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1307
Abstract
Water is an essential necessity for human beings; however, South Africa has a long history of inequalities dating back to apartheid politics and legislation which denied access to water to disadvantaged black populations mostly residing in rural areas. Although apartheid has officially ended, [...] Read more.
Water is an essential necessity for human beings; however, South Africa has a long history of inequalities dating back to apartheid politics and legislation which denied access to water to disadvantaged black populations mostly residing in rural areas. Although apartheid has officially ended, whether the lack of access to water by such populations who still cannot afford it exists and aligns with international human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination merits an examination. To redress the injustices of the apartheid regime, the right to have access to sufficient water is entrenched in section 27(1)(b) of the 1996 South African Constitution. In addition to embracing equality and non-discrimination, the Constitution informs other instruments and measures such as free basic water policy and pre-paid meters meant to ensure access to water. However, the plight of these populations persists in post-apartheid South Africa, but it is rarely a subject of academic scrutiny how the notion of affirmative action as grounded in the principles of equality and non-discrimination under human rights law can be deployed as a response. Using a doctrinal research approach, this article argues that the continuing struggle of disadvantaged communities with access to water does not only constitute water apartheid, it negates the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination. The principle of affirmative action is useful in responding to inadequate access to sufficient water by disadvantaged populations in post-apartheid South Africa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
Article
Challenges to Water Management in Ecuador: Legal Authorization, Quality Parameters, and Socio-Political Responses
Water 2021, 13(8), 1017; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13081017 - 08 Apr 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2005
Abstract
Ecuador has historically had a unique experience with water law, management, and policy as a result of its constitutional declaration of water access as a human right. In this paper, the legal, environmental, economic, and social aspects related to water management in Ecuador [...] Read more.
Ecuador has historically had a unique experience with water law, management, and policy as a result of its constitutional declaration of water access as a human right. In this paper, the legal, environmental, economic, and social aspects related to water management in Ecuador are analyzed. In doing so, the incorporation of local governance structures such as water users’ associations (WUAs) are characterized within a national model of authorization under SENAGUA, Ecuador’s former water agency, highlighting the importance of integrated management for meeting the country’s geographically and environmentally diverse needs. Additionally, the role of anthropogenic activities such as crude oil production, artisanal and small-scale gold (ASGM) mining, agriculture, sewage discharge, and domestic practices are evaluated in the context of policy implementation and environmental quality concerns. Finally, individual and community-level responses are explored, highlighting the importance of geographically specific perceptions of water rights and quality in the adoption of coping strategies. In these ways, a multi-faceted analysis of Ecuadorian water policy shaped by community-level engagement, geographic diversity, and influential economic sectors is developed. This study highlights the need for increased financial and legislative support around extractive and polluting industries such as agriculture, ASGM, and sewage treatment for long-term safety and sustainability of water access in Ecuador. Additionally, increased efforts to educate industry-specific workers, local management boards, and individuals about potential solutions to water-related challenges will help improve the efficiency of current legislation. Finally, this study underscores a need for additional research related to water quality and sustainability in Ecuador, as well as for the social, economic, and environmentally specific factors that influence water security outcomes in the country. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
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Article
Equity vs. Efficiency and the Human Right to Water
Water 2021, 13(3), 278; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030278 - 24 Jan 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1123
Abstract
One of the most crucial discussions within water resource management is the debate between those who defend the concept of economic efficiency and those who privilege notions of social equity. This tension is located at the core of binary categories that currently constitute [...] Read more.
One of the most crucial discussions within water resource management is the debate between those who defend the concept of economic efficiency and those who privilege notions of social equity. This tension is located at the core of binary categories that currently constitute the public debate within comparative water law and policy. These categories are commodity/human right, private property/common property, free-market/state regulation, and market value/community value. This paper explores this tension by studying how neoclassical economics understands efficiency and tracing its rise as a key hegemonic principle for water resource management. I also present equity as a conceptual opposition to efficiency and describe its institutionalization through the human-right-to-water frame. A problematization of both the equity approach and the human-right-to-water frame follows. Finally, I propose a political ecology approach to better understand the tension between efficiency and equity and offer recommendations for informing the water research agenda on efficiency/equity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
Article
The Human Rights to Water and Sanitation in Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Analysis of Brazilian States
Water 2021, 13(2), 228; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13020228 - 19 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1227
Abstract
The outbreak of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) led to an unprecedented number of policy responses from public institutions involved in the health and economic sectors. Nonetheless, the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector remained in the background of this decision-making arena. The [...] Read more.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) led to an unprecedented number of policy responses from public institutions involved in the health and economic sectors. Nonetheless, the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector remained in the background of this decision-making arena. The objective of the study presented herein was to observe and discuss political responses to the new coronavirus pandemic in the context of WASH during the first 40 days of the outbreak, using as cases the five Brazilian states most affected by the pandemic. We addressed this issue with a quali-quantitative exploratory study using content analysis to discuss the direction (for whom and how?) of those policy responses, through the framework of the human rights to water and sanitation. The paper also introduces a timeline to map the reactivity and proactivity of the studied institutions. We identified two major priorities in policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic: population protection and financial and economic sustainability of service providers. In regard to population protection, the findings show that it often did not contemplate all of the population, and that equality and non-discriminations were partially ignored in the laws and regulations. In addition, institutions more attached to service providers were more committed to the provider’s economic and financial sustainability than to measures to directly protect the population. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of the Human Right to Water)
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