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Handbook for implementing the human rights to water and sanitation: From policy to practice

Since 2010, when the UN General Assembly recognised the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and the Human Rights Council reaffirmed this recognition, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water has been receiving repeated requests to provide guidance from States (national and local), service providers, regulators and others, to clarify what this human right would imply for their work and activities. In fact this recognition has given an increased visibility to the WASH sector and many sector professionals see human rights as an opportunity to raise political support for these essential services.

The Special Rapporteur has been working closely with several organisations interested in understanding the meaning of the human right to water and sanitation and translating it into reality. This handbook for implementing the human rights to water and sanitation is a response to those – and possible future - requests. The planned date for publication is September 2014.

The Special Rapporteur is pursuing a collaborative approach to the development of this handbook, firstly in the identification of the key barriers, challenges and opportunities that stakeholders encounter in realising the rights to water and sanitation, and then further in the testing and verification of the checklists and recommendations to be featured in the handbook. This collaborative approach will ensure that the Handbook is relevant and helpful beyond the mandate of the current Special Rapporteur.

There will be several opportunities to engage with the Special Rapporteur on the development of the Handbook, through e-discussions and online consultations.

The first draft of the Handbook is now available for comment online on the righttowater.info website. Please visit the online consultation and have your say!

On January 27th, the online UN network of human rights practitioners, HuriTALK, will host a  six-week long e-discussion on non-discrimination, and how this human rights principle can be incorporated into laws, policies, regulations, budgeting, service provision and accountability systems. Please watch this space to learn how to join this discussion!

Previous consultations:

From 28 October to 15 November, the Rural Water Supply Network hosted an e-discussion focusing on sustainability, non-discrimination and the roles and responsibilities of local actor. You can find details of the discussion here: http://next.dgroups.org/RWSN/equity

In November, the UN Special Rapporteur held a regional expert consultation on the role of local authorities in realizing the rights to water and sanitation in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The report from this meeting will be posted here soon.

State submissions to, the Special Rapporteur sharing their experience on realising the human rights to water and sanitation can be found here.