Special Issue "Water and Sanitation as Human Rights: Have They Strengthened Marginalized Peoples’ Claim for Access?"

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 (18 October 2021) | Viewed by 8665

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. Daniel Brinks
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Government, University of Texas, Austin, TX, USA
2. The Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen, Norway
Interests: human rights; comparative courts; political development; comparative politics; Latin America
Arkaja Singh
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
The Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi, India
Interests: municipal government; informal settlements; land; water and sanitation; water and sanitation management

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In 2010, a United Nations General Assembly resolution declared the human rights to water and sanitation as stand-alone human rights, recognizing water as essential for all aspects of human life and the harmful impacts for populations excluded from access to sanitation and potable water. One implied goal of elevating these rights to human rights was to incentivize governments to prioritize policies to provide accessible, affordable, drinkable water to the more than 750 million people worldwide who lacked it and adequate sanitation to the more than 2.5 billion people who lacked it. This Special Issue invites contributions that investigate the impact and utility of the human rights to water and sanitation as tools to enhance access to water and sanitation, especially for the world’s most marginalized people.

This Special Issue is interdisciplinary and encourages methodological pluralism. We welcome research-based manuscript submissions from scholars and practitioners working in the social sciences, law, humanities, and natural sciences. We are especially interested in manuscripts that examine various impacts of the human rights to water and sanitation in the realization of access to water and sanitation on marginalized people.

Prof. Dr. Bruce M. Wilson
Prof. Dr. Daniel Brinks
Arkaja Singh
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 rights to water and sanitation
  • water, sanitation, and health
  • sustainable development goals
  • water access
  • water and sanitation management
  • accountability
  • politics
  • human rights realization
  • impact and efficacy of human rights

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Article
The Decentered Construction of Global Rights: Lessons from the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation
Water 2022, 14(11), 1795; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14111795 - 02 Jun 2022
Viewed by 516
Abstract
Families in Flint, Michigan, protesting lead in their water, indigenous groups in the Amazon asserting control over their rivers, slum dwellers in India worried about disconnection or demanding cities bring potable water to their neighborhoods, an entire city in South Africa worried about [...] Read more.
Families in Flint, Michigan, protesting lead in their water, indigenous groups in the Amazon asserting control over their rivers, slum dwellers in India worried about disconnection or demanding cities bring potable water to their neighborhoods, an entire city in South Africa worried about the day when they will run out of water altogether—all these and many more have claimed the human right to water as the vehicle to express their demands. Where does this right come from, and how is its meaning constructed? In this article, we show that, in sociolegal terms, the global right to water, as are many others, is constructed out of the myriad struggles and claims of people who feel the lack of something that is essential to a dignified existence, and who cannot obtain an adequate response from their immediate political and legal environment. They do so in loose conversation with, but relatively unconstrained by, the meanings that are being constructed by the international and domestic legal experts who work on formal legal texts. We draw on research carried out around the world by a team of scholars whose articles are included in this Special Issue of the journal to illustrate the decentered construction of the right to water. Full article
Article
The Evolution of the Right to Water in India
Water 2022, 14(3), 398; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14030398 - 28 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1024
Abstract
Water is indispensable to human life. From references to water in numerous international treaties to ultimately, the adoption of United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly resolutions emphasising separate recognition of the “right to water” in 2010, we now have a freestanding human right to [...] Read more.
Water is indispensable to human life. From references to water in numerous international treaties to ultimately, the adoption of United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly resolutions emphasising separate recognition of the “right to water” in 2010, we now have a freestanding human right to water. In this paper, I review the constitutional and legal framework underlying the right to water in India, and present a comprehensive analysis of judicial decisions that have enforced this right, based on insights from two original datasets. The first dataset is a compilation of all water laws, and the second is a compilation of all High Court and Supreme Court judicial decisions on the right to water. My review of the articulation of the “right to water” in India shows that this articulation has occurred largely oblivious of the international human rights movement on water. Apart from the mainstream articulation of the “right to water”, I also describe specific articulation of the right by two marginalised groups, namely Dalits and Adivasis. In so doing, I show how the articulation of the “right to water” has strengthened the claims of the former, but not those of the latter group. Full article
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Article
The Right to Water, Law and Municipal Practice: Case Studies from India
Water 2022, 14(1), 73; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14010073 - 01 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 667
Abstract
Recognition of the right to water in Indian courts has had little impact on the ground. This paper explores the seeming disjuncture between what happens in the court and the everyday reality of living with a less-than-perfect claim on city water services in [...] Read more.
Recognition of the right to water in Indian courts has had little impact on the ground. This paper explores the seeming disjuncture between what happens in the court and the everyday reality of living with a less-than-perfect claim on city water services in India’s urban slums. The paper seeks to understand and contextualise a court ruling which looks like it declares a right to water for people in urban slums, but in effect gives them little beyond what they already had. The paper also looks at the ‘everyday reality’ of municipal administration and the provision of drinking water in slums through in-house connections and community taps. In both case studies, the author looks to understand how the practice relates to frameworks of law and policy that shape the rationality and scope of action of the actors concerned, both judges and municipal officials. She found that the issue of land was the main stumbling block in both places, but it was conceptualized a little differently in each situation. These case studies underscore the critical importance of making the local interface between poor people and the state more empowering in order for rights to become local and meaningful. Full article
Article
Constitutionalising the Right to Water in Kenya and Slovenia: Domestic Drivers, Opportunity Structures, and Transnational Norm Entrepreneurs
Water 2021, 13(24), 3548; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13243548 - 11 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1014
Abstract
The international norm development that in 2010 culminated with the UN Resolution on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation changed international law. To what extent did this influence the parallel legal developments evident in many national constitutions across the globe? This article [...] Read more.
The international norm development that in 2010 culminated with the UN Resolution on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation changed international law. To what extent did this influence the parallel legal developments evident in many national constitutions across the globe? This article analyses the mobilisation for a constitutional right to water and sanitation in Kenya and Slovenia, identifying the main national and transnational actors involved and assessing their significance for the processes of constitutionalising the right. By analysing two very different cases, tracing their constitutionalisation processes through analysis of archival material, the article provides multifaceted insights into processes of norm diffusion from international norm entrepreneurs to the national level and the agency of domestic actors and their opportunity structures. We find that although the outcomes of the processes in Kenya and Slovenia are similar in that both constitutions contain articles securing the right to water, the framing of the right differs. Furthermore, we conclude that while there is involvement of international actors in both cases, domestic pro-water activists and their normative and political opportunity structures are more important for understanding the successful constitutionalisation of the right to water and differences in the framing of the right. Full article
Article
Between Confrontation and Cooperation: Right to Water Advocacy in the Courts, on the Streets, and at the Capitols in the United States
Water 2021, 13(24), 3541; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13243541 - 10 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 932
Abstract
Communities across the United States face a widespread water crisis including risks of contamination, rate increases, shut-offs for non-payment, and dilapidating infrastructure. Against this background, a right to water movement has emerged which has found its strength in coalition-building and collectivity. Activists demand [...] Read more.
Communities across the United States face a widespread water crisis including risks of contamination, rate increases, shut-offs for non-payment, and dilapidating infrastructure. Against this background, a right to water movement has emerged which has found its strength in coalition-building and collectivity. Activists demand change using the framing of “water is a human right”, socially constructing the right to water from below. Based on more than 25 semi-structured interviews with water advocates and activists, our article explores how movement participants used the human rights framework to advocate for clean and affordable water for all. We used political opportunity theory and conceptions of government “openness” and “closedness” to examine when and how advocates decided to use confrontational and cooperative approaches. We identified a push and pull of different strategies in three key spaces: in the courts, on the streets, and at the Capitols. Advocates used adversarial approaches including protests and civil disobedience, reliance on human rights mechanisms, and to a more limited extent litigation simultaneously with cooperative approaches such as engaging with legislators and the development of concrete proposals and plans for ensuring water affordability. This adaptiveness, persistence, and ability to identify opportunities likely explains the movement’s initial successes in addressing the water crisis. Full article
Article
Comparing Experiences of Constitutional Reforms to Enshrine the Right to Water in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru: Opportunities and Limitations
Water 2021, 13(24), 3519; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13243519 - 09 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1276
Abstract
In this paper we compare recent efforts towards the constitutionalization of the right to water in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru to understand the opportunities and limitations related to the attempts to enhance access to piped water to the highest normative level. Peru passed [...] Read more.
In this paper we compare recent efforts towards the constitutionalization of the right to water in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru to understand the opportunities and limitations related to the attempts to enhance access to piped water to the highest normative level. Peru passed a constitutional amendment in 2017 while Brazil and Colombia have seen much right-to-water activism but have not succeeded in passing such reforms. We explore the role of the existing domestic legal frameworks on drinkable water provision and water management towards the approval of constitutional amendments. We find that all three countries have specialized laws, water governing institutions, and constitutional jurisprudence connecting access to water with rights, but the legal opportunity structures to enforce socio-economic rights vary; they are stronger in Colombia and Brazil, and weaker in Peru. We argue that legal opportunity structures build legal environments that influence constitutional reform success. Legal opportunity structures act as incentives both for social movements to push for reforms and for actors with legislative power to accept or reject them. Our findings also show that in some contexts political cost is a key element of constitutional reforms that enshrine the right to water; therefore, this is an element that should be considered when analyzing these processes. Full article
Article
The Human Right to Water and Sanitation: Using Natural Language Processing to Uncover Patterns in Academic Publishing
Water 2021, 13(24), 3501; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13243501 - 08 Dec 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 973
Abstract
After years of advocacy and international negotiation, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to officially recognize a stand-alone human right to water and sanitation on 28 July 2010. Since, academic scholarship has continued to grow in an effort to understand the [...] Read more.
After years of advocacy and international negotiation, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to officially recognize a stand-alone human right to water and sanitation on 28 July 2010. Since, academic scholarship has continued to grow in an effort to understand the implications of the codification of this human right. Yet, with this growth, it has become impractical if not impossible for scholars to keep up with the advancement of academic knowledge or to make sense of it in a systematic way. In short, to date, we know very little about the trends in the literature as they have unfolded over the past thirty years and the topics to which scholars have devoted significant attention within the broader field, particularly over time. This is an important area of inquiry, as developing a comprehensive understanding of where prior literature has focused and where it appears to be going offers scholars an opportunity to identify areas in need of refinement and/or increased attention. Given the practicalities of reading thousands of research papers each year, this project utilizes natural language processing (NLP) to identify topics and trends in academic literature on the human right to water and sanitation (HRtWS). NLP provides the opportunity to digest large quantities of text data through machine learning, culminating with descriptive information on trends and topics in the field since 1990. The results of this exercise show that the research related to the human right to water and sanitation has grown exponentially, particularly over the last decade, illustrates the multidisciplinary nature of the literature, and demonstrates the diversity of topics in the field. Full article
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Article
Right to Water and Courts in Brazil: How Do Brazilian Courts Rule When They Frame Water as a Right?
Water 2021, 13(23), 3362; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13233362 - 27 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 713
Abstract
The international protection given to the right to water has increased over the last decades, with two United Nations’ resolutions establishing a freestanding right to water in 2010. Several countries have a right to water enshrined in their constitutions, while in other countries, [...] Read more.
The international protection given to the right to water has increased over the last decades, with two United Nations’ resolutions establishing a freestanding right to water in 2010. Several countries have a right to water enshrined in their constitutions, while in other countries, this right has been recognised by the courts. This study aims to assess whether and how Brazilian courts are deciding water-related conflicts using the “right to water” frame, what the content given to this right is, and whose rights are protected. We created a comprehensive database of decisions issued by Brazilian courts at different levels containing the expression “right to water”. Our main findings are that the great majority of decisions are from lower courts and were issued on individual cases related to water supply. Further, we have seen that courts are frequently prohibiting the disconnection of water supply services when extreme vulnerability is argued. The same has been seen in other Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Colombia, and Costa Rica, with the one main difference that in these countries, the right to water has been carved out by the Constitutional Courts. The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, which has the last word on the interpretation of the constitution, has not issued any decisions establishing a right to water, but there is legal mobilisation aiming for this and using UN resolutions as a key argument. Full article
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Article
Water Rights in a Time of Fragility: An Exploration of Contestation and Discourse around Cape Town’s “Day Zero” Water Crisis
Water 2021, 13(22), 3247; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13223247 - 16 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 660
Abstract
South Africa is an interesting case study on the right to water. It is an upper-middle income country with a history and current reality of extreme racialised inequality, including the water services sphere. It is water scarce, and during 2018, Cape Town was [...] Read more.
South Africa is an interesting case study on the right to water. It is an upper-middle income country with a history and current reality of extreme racialised inequality, including the water services sphere. It is water scarce, and during 2018, Cape Town was expected to be the first major metropolitan city in the world to run out of water. South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, which incorporated socio-economic rights including the right to water as explicitly justiciable long before the international right to water was recognised. However, despite clear water-security and water-equity fault lines on the one hand and conducive legal frameworks on the other hand, there has been relatively little water rights contestation in post-apartheid South Africa. It is this paradox and, in particular, how it played out in the clear case of water insecurity in Cape Town’s “Day Zero” crisis that are the subjects of examination in this article. Aiming to make an original contribution to the scholarship on the “Day Zero” crisis by exploring it from the perspective of interlocutors and those affected by it, this article also hopes to contribute towards a better understanding of the nature and application of water rights more broadly. Full article
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