Situation analysis Tool: IHRL Obligations

Objective:

The present checklist of international conventions aims at providing development partners with the international legal provisions, especially international human rights provisions, related to water and sanitation.

Process:

The current status of ratification of human rights treaties by your country can be found:

  • On the country webpage of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, accessible for each country from the OHCHR Country webpage
  • From the WaterLex Legal Database that provides direct access to the specific legal provisions related to water and sanitation

The international human rights obligations related to water and sanitation

Which human rights instruments is your Country a party to?
1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
1985 Convention No. 161 of 1985 on Occupational Health Services
1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
2007 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
1992 United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC)
1994 Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD)
1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses
1949 Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
1949 Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War
1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I)
1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II)
1949 Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War

Tick the treaty your country has ratified!

International Treaty Water and Sanitation-related provisions
1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  • Article 6

Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

  • Article 2

Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

  • Article 26

All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  • Article 12

All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.

  • Article 2
  1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and co-operation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.
  2. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the present Covenant will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
  • Article 11

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

  • Article 12
  1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
  2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:
    a) The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child.
    b) The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene.
1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • Article 12(2)

States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular shall ensure to women the right:

(h) To enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.

ILO Convention No. 161 of 1985 on Occupational Health Services
  • Article 5

Without prejudice to the responsibility of each employer for the health and safety of the workers in his employment, … occupational health services shall have such of the following functions …:
(b) Surveillance of the factors in the working environment and working practice which may affect workers’ health, including sanitary installations, …

1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  • Article 24
  1. States parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health …
  2. States parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures:

(c) To combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, (…) the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking water (…)

2007 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Article 28: Adequate standard of living and social protection

2. States parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to social protection and to the enjoyment of that right without discrimination on the basis of disability, and shall take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realization of this right, including measures:
(a) To ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to clean water services, and to ensure access to appropriate and affordable services, devices and other assistance for disability-related needs.

1992 United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  • Article 4: Commitments

1. All Parties, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and their specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, shall:

(e) Cooperate in preparing for adaptation  to the impacts of climate change; develop and elaborate appropriate and integrated plans for coastal zone management, water resources and agriculture, and for the protection and rehabilitation of areas, particularly in Africa, affected by drought and desertification, as well as floods

1994 Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD)
  • Article 2: Objective
  1. The objective of this Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, through effective action at all levels, supported by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, in the framework of an integrated approach which is consistent with Agenda 21, with a view to contributing to the achievement of sustainable development in affected areas.
  2. Achieving this objective will involve long-term integrated strategies that focus simultaneously, in affected areas, on improved productivity of land, and the rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable management of land and water resources, leading to improved living conditions, in particular at the community level.
  • Article 10: National Action Programmes

2. National action programmes shall specify the respective roles of government, local communities and land users and the resources available and needed. They shall, inter alia:
a) incorporate long-term strategies to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought
e) promote policies and strengthen institutional frameworks which develop cooperation and coordination between the donor community, governments at all levels, local populations and community groups, and facilitate access by local populations to appropriate information and technology
f) provide for effective participation at the local, national and regional levels of nongovernmental organizations and local populations, both women and men, particularly resource users, including farmers and pastoralists and their representative organizations, in policy planning, decision-making, and implementation and review of national action programmes

1997 Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses
  • Article 5: Equitable and reasonable utilization and participation
  1. Watercourse States shall in their respective territories utilize an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner. In particular, an international watercourse shall be used and developed by watercourse States with a view to attaining optimal and sustainable utilization thereof and benefits there from, taking into account the interests of the watercourse States concerned, consistent with adequate protection of the watercourse.
  • Article 6: Factors relevant to equitable and reasonable utilization
  1. Utilization of an international watercourse in an equitable and reasonable manner within the meaning of Article 5 requires taking into account all relevant factors and circumstances, including:
    a) Geographic, hydrographic, hydrological, climatic, ecological and other factors of a natural character
    b) The social and economic needs of the watercourse States concerned
    c) The population dependent on the watercourse in each watercourse State
    d) The effects of the use or uses of the watercourses in one watercourse State on other watercourse States
    e) Existing and potential uses of the watercourse
    f) Conservation, protection, development and economy of use of the water resources of the watercourse and the costs of measures taken to that effect
    g) The availability of alternatives, of comparable value, to a particular planned or existing use.
  2. In the application of Article 5 or paragraph 1 of this Article, watercourse States concerned shall, when the need arises, enter into consultations in a spirit of cooperation.
  3. The weight to be given to each factor is to be determined by its importance in comparison with that of other relevant factors. In determining what is a reasonable and equitable use, all relevant factors are to be considered together and a conclusion reached on the basis of the whole. […]
  • Article 10: Relationship between different kinds of uses
  1. In the absence of agreement or custom to the contrary, no use of an international watercourse enjoys inherent priority over other uses.
  2. In the event of a conflict between uses of an international watercourse, it shall be resolved with reference to Articles 5 to 7, with special regard being given to the requirements of vital human needs.
1949 Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
  • Article 20

The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners of war who are being evacuated with sufficient food and potable water, and with the necessary clothing and medical attention.

  • Article 26

The basic daily food rations shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies. […] Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to prisoners of war […].

  • Article 29

The Detaining Power shall be bound to take all sanitary measures necessary to ensure the cleanliness and healthfulness of camps and to prevent epidemics. Prisoners of war shall have for their use, day and night, conveniences which conform to the rules of hygiene and are maintained in a constant state of cleanliness. In any camps in which women prisoners of war are accommodated, separate conveniences shall be provided for them. Also, apart from the baths and showers with which the camps shall be furnished, prisoners of war shall be provided with sufficient water and soap for their personal toilet and for washing their personal laundry; the necessary installations, facilities and time shall be granted them for that purpose.

  • Article 46

[…] The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners of war during transfer with sufficient food and drinking water to keep them in good health, likewise with the necessary clothing, shelter and medical attention

1949 Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War
  • Article 23

Each High Contracting Party […] shall likewise permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases.

  • Article 33

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

  • Article 36

Departures permitted under the foregoing Article [All protected persons who may desire to leave the territory at the outset of, or during a conflict, shall be entitled to do so, unless their departure is contrary to the national interests of the State] shall be carried out in satisfactory conditions as regards safety, hygiene, sanitation and food.

  • Article 49

[…] The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated […]

  • Article 55

To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate. The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory, except for use by the occupation forces and administration personnel, and then only if the requirements of the civilian population have been taken into account. […] The Protecting Power shall, at any time, be at liberty to verify the state of the food and medical supplies in occupied territories, except where temporary restrictions are made necessary by imperative military requirements.

  • Article 59

If the whole or part of the population of an occupied territory is inadequately supplied, the Occupying Power shall agree to relief schemes on behalf of the said population, and shall facilitate them by all the means at its disposal. Such schemes, which may be undertaken either by States or by impartial humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, shall consist, in particular, of the provision of consignments of foodstuffs, medical supplies and clothing. All Contracting Parties shall permit the free passage of these consignments and shall guarantee their protection.

  • Article 62

Subject to imperative reasons of security, protected persons in occupied territories shall be permitted to receive the individual relief consignments sent to them.

  • Article 76

Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein. They shall, if possible, be separated from other detainees and shall enjoy conditions of food and hygiene which will be sufficient to keep them in good health, and which will be at least equal to those obtaining in prisons in the occupied country.

  • Article 81

Parties to the conflict who intern protected persons shall be bound to provide free of charge for their maintenance, and to grant them also the medical attention required by their state of health.

  • Article 85

The Detaining Power is bound to take all necessary and possible measures to ensure that protected persons shall, from the outset of their internment, be accommodated in buildings or quarters which afford every possible safeguard as regards hygiene and health, and provide efficient protection against the rigours of the climate and the effects of the war. In no case shall permanent places of internment be situated in unhealthy areas or in districts the climate of which is injurious to the internees. In all cases where the district, in which a protected person is temporarily interned, is in an unhealthy area or has a climate which is harmful to his health, he shall be removed to a more suitable place of internment as rapidly as circumstances permit. […] Internees shall have for their use, day and night, sanitary conveniences which conform to the rules of hygiene and are constantly maintained in a state of cleanliness. They shall be provided with sufficient water and soap for their daily personal toilet and for washing their personal laundry; installations and facilities necessary for this purpose shall be granted to them. Showers or baths shall also be available. The necessary time shall be set aside for washing and for cleaning. Whenever it is necessary, as an exceptional and temporary measure, to accommodate women internees who are not members of a family unit in the same place of internment as men, the provision of separate sleeping quarters and sanitary conveniences for the use of such women internees shall be obligatory.

  • Article 89

Daily food rations for internees shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep internees in a good state of health and prevent the development of nutritional deficiencies. Account shall also be taken of the customary diet of the internees […] Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to internees […] Internees who work shall receive additional rations in proportion to the kind of labour which they perform. Expectant and nursing mothers and children under fifteen years of age, shall be given additional food, in proportion to their physiological needs.

  • Article 91

Every place of internment shall have an adequate infirmary, under the direction of a qualified doctor, where internees may have the attention they require, as well as an appropriate diet.

  • Article 127

[…] The Detaining Power shall supply internees during transfer with drinking water and food sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to maintain them in good health, and also with the necessary clothing, adequate shelter and the necessary medical attention.

1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I)
  • Article 54: Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population
    1. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.
    2. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.
    3. The prohibitions in paragraph 2 shall not apply to such of the objects covered by it as are used by an adverse Party:
      a) as sustenance solely for the members of its armed forces
      b) if not as sustenance, then in direct support of military action, provided, however, that in no event shall actions against these objects be taken which may be expected to leave the civilian population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its starvation or force its movement.
    4. These objects shall not be made the object of reprisals.
  • Article 55: Protection of the natural environment
  1. Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population.
  2. Attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are prohibited.
  • Article 69: Basic needs in occupied territories
  1. In addition to the duties specified in Article 55 of the Fourth Convention concerning food and medical supplies, the Occupying Power shall, to the fullest extent of the means available to it and without any adverse distinction, also ensure the provision of clothing, bedding, means of shelter, other supplies essential to the survival of the civilian population of the occupied territory and objects necessary for religious worship.
  • Article 70: Relief actions

[…] 2. The Parties to the conflict and each High Contracting Party shall allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel provided in accordance with this Section, even if such assistance is destined for the civilian population of the adverse Party.

1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (Protocol II)
  • Article 14 Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population

Starvation of civilians as a method of combat is prohibited. It is therefore prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless for that purpose, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works.

  • Article 18 Relief societies and relief actions

[…] 2. If the civilian population is suffering undue hardship owing to a lack of the supplies essential for its survival, such as foodstuffs and medical supplies, relief actions for the civilian population which are of an exclusively humanitarian and impartial nature and which are conducted without any adverse distinction shall be undertaken subject to the consent of the High Contracting Party concerned.

1949 Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
  • Article 20

The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners of war who are being evacuated with sufficient food and potable water, and with the necessary clothing and medical attention

  • Article 26

The basic daily food rations shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies. […] Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied to prisoners of war […]

  • Article 29

The Detaining Power shall be bound to take all sanitary measures necessary to ensure the cleanliness and healthfulness of camps and to prevent epidemics. Prisoners of war shall have for their use, day and night, conveniences which conform to the rules of hygiene and are maintained in a constant state of cleanliness. In any camps in which women prisoners of war are accommodated, separate conveniences shall be provided for them. Also, apart from the baths and showers with which the camps shall be furnished, prisoners of war shall be provided with sufficient water and soap for their personal toilet and for washing their personal laundry; the necessary installations, facilities and time shall be granted them for that purpose.

  • Article 46

[…] The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners of war during transfer with sufficient food and drinking water to keep them in good health, likewise with the necessary clothing, shelter and medical attention

You may access the printable versions, which include, respectively, the African and European Regional Frameworks. The Latin American Regional Framewor is available in the Spanish Toolkit for the >Realization of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.