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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: March 2019

Chapter 5 - Enhancing the Human Right to Water. Finding Inspiration from the Concept of Sustainable Development


‘The manner of the realization of the right to water must also be sustainable, ensuring that the right can be realized for present and future generations.’


The previous chapters have set the stage for answering the (main) research question: how can a sustainable human right to water be formulated for the enjoyment of vulnerable groups? This study finds the answer by supplementing the human right to water with elements from the concept of sustainable development. Elements discussed in previous chapters can support the implementation and further development of the human right to water for vulnerable groups. Chapter 2 explains which individuals can be considered vulnerable and focusses especially on those who are currently unserved or underserved. These individuals are not only at risk of having their human right to water infringed due to financial or social constraints. Vulnerable groups experience an additional risk when they are unable to depend on their natural surroundings to meet their water needs due to, for instance, drought or pollution. For this reason, connecting environmental vulnerability to social vulnerability can provide a more effective approach in safeguarding the human right to water for all individuals and groups at risk.

Chapter 3 provided a detailed overview of the content of the human right to water and states’ obligations. It was also explained that access to water originated from environmental law and policy and developed into a human right. However, along the way it has lost elements which take environmental factors into account. These environmental factors are however highly relevant for the effective realisation of the human right to water. Taking environmental factors into account will allow the right to be effectively implemented in the natural context where it is supposed to function.

For this reason, this study seeks inspiration from the concept of sustainable development which was explained in Chapter 4. Here the content and its connected principles were analysed. The current chapter builds on the previous chapters and argues for the inclusion of elements of sustainable development and its alignment with human rights. These approaches add to the human right to water as they can be used to facilitate sustainable water management which is necessary for the human right to water to function in today's water-scarce context. This chapter therefore focusses on how sustainable development can assist in implementing and realising the human right to water.

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