What is a human right? What is the human right to water?

Human rights are those rights you enjoy simply by being human. They are universal, inalienable and all fundamentally related. Human rights are also intuitive – they’re the way you instinctively expect to be treated as a person.

More than that, human rights constitute legal requirements. Human rights define the basic nature of the relationship between you and your government. When fully recognized, they are often “enshrined” (or written down) as legal tools used to ensure you are treated in a way that recognizes your fundamental human dignity.

Human rights still exist, however, even when not fully recognized by governments. That’s because they originate in the natural law – a common understanding of what it takes to live a truly free and happy life.

There are many human rights, and the right to water is one of the most vital to health and dignity.


What is the human right to water?

Kofi Annan said it best: “access to safe water is a fundamental need and therefore a basic human right.”

The human right to water is a concept that recognizes – first and foremost – that all people require basic access to clean water and sanitation in order to live healthy, dignified lives.

The concept itself is a powerful one.

When we embrace the link between basic water access and human dignity, we begin to rethink the way we use water… challenging pollution, over-consumption, unsustainable use, potential conflict – even transforming the way we help people get access to water for the first time.

DIGDEEP plans projects that defend the human right to water and create measurable change. We call this the Human Rights Based Approach >

Human rights are most powerful when recognized by the laws that protect and govern us (both domestic and international). That’s because human rights laws define the basic relationship between the stakeholder (that’s you!) and your government.

The human right to water and sanitation exists in international law. In 2010 the United Nations General Assembly (representing every country in the world) unanimously recognized the right to water and sanitation derived from the right to an adequate standard of living (from article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a binding treaty). Even before this landmark resolution in 2010, every country in the world had voiced its support for the right to water at least once, through public statement, international declaration, resolution, law or policy. For international law geeks, the basic content of the right to water had been previously outlined in 2001 by the UN organ ECOSOC in its General Comment 15 (GC15).

The human right to water is also recognized and protected in national law. In countries that have signed the ICESCR and enshrined it in national law (like India), in countries that have adopted a constitutional protection for right to water (like Mexico, Uganda and South Africa) or in countries with legislation or policies that explicitly or implicitly support the right (like Sri Lanka, Brazil or France).

DIGDEEP is working to improve recognition and protection of the human right to water. It’s an essential step toward defending the right for all people, everywhere. We believe that every human being has a right to the clean water they need to live with dignity. If you believe that too, join us by donating, sharing DIGDEEP’s works with your network and registering for updates >

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