Third World Centre for Water Management

Journals

Volume 23, Issue 2

Special Issue: Water as a Human Right for the Middle East and North Africa

ONLINE ACCESS TO THIS ISSUE

FOREWORD


WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT IN THE MENA REGION: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES (pp. 209-225)

Asit K. Biswas, Third World Centre for Water Management, Atizapán, Mexico

E-mail: akbiswas@thirdworldcentre.org

Abstract: Even though hundreds of millions of people do not have access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation, these issues only entered the global political agenda around the mid-1970s. The period 1981–90 was declared as the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, with the objective that everyone would have access to clean water and sanitation by its end The Decade did not meet its objective. The issue was then chosen as a Millennium Development Goal, with the objective that by 2015 the number of people not having access to clean water can be reduced by half. By 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of the United Nations reinterpreted Articles 11 and 12 of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and concluded that water is a human right under this agreement. Several governments have opposed the concept that new rights can be derived by reinterpreting existing treaties. The paper analyses the developments leading to the recommendation that water is a human right, and then assesses the implications of this new development and its implementation potential in the developing world, especially for the Middle East and North African region. It identifies seven priority areas where research is now needed.


HUMAN RIGHTS TO WATER IN NORTH AFRICA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: WHAT IS NEW AND WHAT IS NOT; WHAT IS IMPORTANT AND WHAT IS NOT (pp. 227-241)

David B. Brooks, Friends of the Earth Canada, Ottawa, Canada

E-mail: dbrooks@foecanada.org

Abstract: Given the long history and the multiple interpretations of water rights in the Middle East and North Africa, it is difficult to say anything new without being provocative. The danger is that, in the effort to be provocative, it is easy to become frivolous. Fortunately, it is not possible to deal with any aspect of water, and certainly not human rights to water, without at least passing attention to hydrology and geography, and to economics and political science. Although none of these disciplines gives exact answers, taken together they do impose boundaries to any commentary. Even so, the comments below are tentative. They should be taken in the context of a ‘think piece’, designed to stimulate thinking rather than to provide final answers.


RIGHT TO WATER: THE MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS AND WATER IN THE MENA REGION (pp. 243-266)

Olli Varis, Helsinki University of Technology, Water Resources Laboratory, Espoo, Finland

E-mail: olli.varis@hut.fi

Abstract: It is difficult to imagine a more basic human need than water. Still, around one billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Among these, 15 million are in North Africa and 23 million in West Asia. Whether these people should have the right to water seems to be a cumbersome discussion that has lasted decades. This paper analyses the current situation in water services in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), by reviewing the status of achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Although one Target (10) implicitly mentions water supply services, it is crucial to appreciate that water is related to almost ail other Targets too. On average, the region is making relatively good progress in meeting Target 10. But the discrepancies between countries and between rural and urban areas are vast. Many countries have huge coverage shortcomings and show very little, if any, progress. The other Millennium Development Goals and Targets complicate the picture as they bring further, often massive strains to the water sector. The future outlook is somewhat cloudy since the MENA region has witnessed an economic and social development in the past decades which is far below the world’s average, and this tendency may not change much in the near future. Therefore, the right to water seems to remain a distant dream to several tens of millions of people in the MENA countries in coming years.


THE RIGHT TO WATER (pp. 267-283)

Antonio Embid Irujo, Faculty of Law, University of Zaragoza, Spain

E-mail: aembid@unizar.es

Abstract: The intellectual origins of the term ‘the right to water’ can be traced to some of the proclamations of international conferences, and it gained currency from the interpretation of an international treaty. Currently, the right to water has become part of the common parlance on water issues, and not only among jurists. From a legal point of view, clarification is required in order to describe the right’s content, those who are obliged to grant it, and the mechanisms by which it can be claimed when denied; equally, it has to be differentiated from certain of the contents of traditional water law, such as the communal use of water, that are conceptually distinct. Proposals are taking place to incorporate the right to water into Spanish law in the knowledge, however, that the concept is most applicable in Third World countries that will inevitably require international cooperation in order to comply with it.


WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT: THE PALESTINIAN OCCUPIED TERRITORIES AS AN EXAMPLE (pp. 285-301)

Abdallah Abu-Eid, International Law and Relations, Bethlehem University, Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine

Abstract: This paper deals with water as a human right. It examines several international agreements which refer to water as a human right to review whether these agreements are legally binding to states that signed them and/or became members to them, and whether water is considered in these instruments as a ‘human right’. These documents pertain to both branches of international law, in time of peace and in time of war. The paper then examines the ‘status of water’ in the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel since 1967 in order to evaluate Israel’s attitude towards water in these territories and whether it respected the right of the Palestinian population to their water rights.


WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT: THE UNDERSTANDING OF WATER RIGHTS IN PALESTINE (pp. 303-327)

Simone Klawitter, Water Sanitation Livelihoods and Institution Building, Berlin, Germany

E-mail: mail@klawitter-berlin.com

Abstract: The international community has affirmed the human right to water in a number of international treaties, declarations and other documents. Most notably, in November 2002 the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water, setting out general standards and obligations related to the right to water. This paper analyses if and to what extent the UN concept is acknowledged in Palestine while focusing (a) on water rights allocation between Palestine and its neighbour Israel, taking the commonly shared Mountain Aquifer as an example; and (b) the governmental obligations with regard to the human right to water which broadly are to be categorized in obligations to respect, protect and fulfil this right. The paper analyses whether the institutional setting within the Palestinian water sector is appropriate to meet the challenge of the UN concept. The main obstacles and challenges facing strategic and coordinated governmental action towards the UN concept are discussed. While outlining the most important characteristics of the Palestinian water sector, the criteria of the UN concepts are evaluated. Finally, the paper discusses the precondition for the implementation of the human right to water in Palestine.


WATER AS A HUMAN RIGHT: TOWARDS CIVIL SOCIETY GLOBALIZATION (pp. 329-339)

Odeh Al Jayyousi, IUCN West Asia, Central Asia and North Africa (WESCANA)

E-mail: odeh.al.jayyousi@iucn.org

Abstract: This paper aims to shed some light on the meaning and implications of the notion of water as a human right. The transformations of how water was viewed and acknowledged in the 20th century are addressed in light of globalization and the emergence of the concept of water as a social good with an economic value. The relevance of ‘water as a human right’ to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be discussed. Water governance and its implications on human rights are discussed to demonstrate the necessity for strengthening water governance models and set-ups to ensure the appropriate implementation of water as a human right. Conclusions and recommendations are outlined with an emphasis on the value of seeing the synergies in the three-global visions which are water for people, food and nature.


ACTUALIZING THE RIGHT TO WATER: AN EGYPTIAN PERSPECTIVE FOR AN ACTION PLAN (pp. 341-354)

Shaden Abdel-Gawad, National Water Research Center, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Cairo, Egypt

E-mail: shaden@nwrc-eg.org

Abstract: Increasing access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation services and improving water resources management are central to the basic right of every human being. Egypt has set an ambitious water agenda in response to the many challenges facing the country and the people. It has successfully met the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) water targets by developing and implementing a national integrated water resources management plan during the post 2017-period. Egypt has also taken several measures to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets for drinking water and sanitation. It has successfully proceeded in supplying nearly the whole population with access to drinking water, whereas sanitation coverage heavily favours urban areas and only a small fraction of rural areas. This paper aims to shed some light on the efforts exerted by the government of Egypt for equitable and sustainable management of its water resources that benefit both individuals and the society at large.


ACCOUNTABILITY AND RIGHTS IN RIGHT-BASED APPROACHES FOR LOCAL WATER GOVERNANCE (pp. 355-367)

Peter Laban, IUCN WESCANA, Amman, Jordan

E-mail: peter.laban@iucn.org

Abstract: This paper explores local rights and accountability in local water resource management. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government agencies have an important role and responsibility to create an environment in which people can assume accountability and have a greater chance to get their rights to water fulfilled. A framework of research questions is proposed within a Right-based Approaches (RBA) framework. Answers to these questions could contribute to the policy responses necessary to ensure that rights of the underprivileged groups in particular in local communities are fulfilled and that they can assume their own share of accountability for the good use of available water resources.


TOWARDS A HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH TO WATER IN LEBANON: IMPLEMENTATION BEYOND ‘REFORM’ (pp. 369-390)

Karim Makdisi, Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, The American University of Beirut (AUB), Beirut, Lebanon

E-mail: km18@aub.edu.lb

Abstract: This paper examines what it means for Lebanon to adopt a human rights approach to water. Experts agree that there is a crisis in the water sector, with the poor suffering disproportionately in terms of access to, availability and quality of water. The paper details the gap between Lebanon’s political acceptance of water as a human right, and its implementation. It suggests that the civil war, Israeli occupation and mismanagement reduced Lebanon’s capacity to ensure an adequate water and sanitation services to its citizens. A lack of political will due to clientalist and sectarian considerations in public policy, ineffective public participation and tension over transboundary water resources have further intensified this problem and has led to the continued dominance of traditional security considerations in water policy. The paper asserts that the main goals set by the current reform process of the water sector address important capacity issues, such as efficiency gains and cost recovery, but do not signal a political shift towards a human rights-based approach.

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