The human rights to water and sanitation were formally recognised by the UN General Assembly in July 2010 and by the Human Rights Council in September 2010 by consensus. In 2013, and again in 2015, the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council reaffirmed recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation.

 All states have therefore accepted their obligation to respect, protect and fulfil these human rights for everyone, without discrimination. Recognising that many countries are currently at a very low level of access and it will take time to realise these rights, states have agreed that they must progressively realise the rights as quickly as possible, using the maximum available resources. Further information about the human rights to water and sanitation can be found on the website :

 In many countries the direct responsibility for ensuring everyone has access to safe water for drinking has been decentralised to the level of district and local government. But officials at this level have very little understanding of what the human rights to water and sanitation are, and how they are relevant to their roles and responsibilities.

 The RWSN theme Making rights real is working to make the content and principles of Human Rights relevant and practical for water supply at local and district levels.

 Work on this theme has already produced a set of handbooks specifically aimed at local government officials, and these will be further developed during this strategic period.


Aim by 2030 (end of SDG period): The Human Rights to water and sanitation will be widely understood in the sector and will be used to frame discussions about accountability, equality, and participation, and provide the basis for accountable and responsive services that reach the poorest.

Aim by 2023 (end of RWSN strategy period): The content of the 2016 Handbook on human rights to water and sanitation is understood by practitioners and helps to make local governments more accountable to poor rural communities.

Activities planned 2018-2020:

  • Knowledge sharing and networking:
    • Share materials and experience of use
    • E-discussion in RWSN community
    • Updates through Secretariat services
  • Inspiring and embedding:
    • In-country training (India, Burkina Faso, Ghana)
    • Online training course with CapNet


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