Over the last two years, the right to water has received considerable attention both within the United Nations human rights system as well as within the work of non-governmental organizations. On the whole, the debate surrounding the content of obligations derived from the right to water is still in its early stages. Nevertheless, important progress has been made.
The committee on economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights derives the right to water as much from the right to food as from the right to health. The normative content of the rights is described by several elements: the right to water primarily encompasses the right to access of every person to a system of water and to protection against interference through disconnection of water supplies. Available water should not be contaminated. Every person has the right to a functioning water system. Water systems and facilities should be organized and managed to ensure that access to water is guaranteed to be continuous. According to the committee on ESC rights, access to water refers to water that each person needs for personal and domestic use.
This article traces the development of this debate in four steps. Part one briefly introduces water as an issue in international law. Part two introduces the current interpretation of the right to water as a human right, according to a General Comment on the Right to Water, adopted by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). In part three, the work of FIAN-International on this issue is presented.