Situation analysis – Before starting

1. Gaps and pitfalls in current practices

The most distinct difference between a conventional and a human rights-based approach lies in the problem definition, understood in terms of development challenge. Since the outcome of a program is to a large extent a consequence of the way a problem is defined, using a human rights lens when analyzing the water and sanitation situation is a critical step in the project cycle management.

Regular situation analyses rarely use a level of disaggregation that lays bare, which particular groups have no or inadequate access to water and sanitation. Apart from differences between rural and urban areas, disparities among, for example, minorities, indigenous populations or groups living in different degrees of poverty or in institutional facilities (e.g. refugee centers, hospitals, prisons, etc.) are often not presented. In addition, an analysis of the causes of these inequities is frequently absent. A situation analysis that uses a human rights lens explicitly investigates disparities and their root causes, thereby changing the definition of the problem.

Analyses of water and sanitation projects usually consider aspects such as the quantity or quality of the services, but do not usually systematically address all components of the human right to water and sanitation, like acceptability, accessibility, affordability, access to information and accountability.

2. Key points about a human rights-based situation analysis

1.1. Addressing equity gaps and structural causes

The ultimate objective of the situation analysis with a human rights approach is to draw evidence-based conclusions with regard to the disparities in accessing water and sanitation , the unfulfilled obligations of various actors and to identify root causes that impede the realization of the HRWS and what to do about them.

1.2. Taking into account all components of the HRWS

A human rights based analysis evaluates the data of the analysis in the light of the criteria that define the human right to water and sanitation (availability, quality, accessibility, acceptability and affordability) and the human rights principles (equality and non-discrimination, attention to vulnerable groups, access to information, participation, accountability and sustainability).

1.3. Compile relevant human rights information

Human rights protection mechanisms are a source of essential and useful information on the situation of human rights in a given country, and in particular on the situation of the right to water and sanitation, identifying problems and recommendations.

1.4. Ensuring public participation

A human rights-based situation analysis is conducted in an active, free and meaningful participatory manner, involving the most vulnerable and marginalized people.Public participation of the different stakeholders in the water and sanitation sector is necessary as a condition to the reliability of the situation analysis, the identification of strategic gaps and priorities; and the subsequent adoption of relevant and realistic targets.

Public participation is equally a condition for the different stakeholders to be partners in the implementation of the project. The ownership of the process by local actors is necessary to ensure the sustainability of the initiative.

1.5. Water as a transversal issue: the interdependence of human rights

Water is a key factor for various human rights, , like the right to food, the right to health and the right to an adequate standard of living. For instance improving access to safe water will have a key impact directly on the right to health and indirectly on the right to education in certain contexts where women are entrusted with water fetching. A situation analysis with a HRBA takes into account this interdependence, the impact that the lack of water and sanitation has on the realization of other human rights.

1.6. Securing a gender-based analysis

Based on the principle of non-discrimination, it is key to ensure that baseline information required to formulate water and sanitation services, programmes and projects is gender specific. In other words, every major demographic, socio-economic and cultural group data should be gathered, recorded and analyzed separately by sex. A gender focus is needed in every stage of the development process, to ensure that the interests, priorities and experiences of both men and women are taken into account, and assess how particular situations, activities, decisions or plans affect men and women differently.

1.7. Guaranteeing access to information and accountability

A good situation analysis offers a valuable source of information for all stakeholders. Any development practitioner should make the situation analysis widely and publicly available to all, starting with the host State and public authorities. This will allow complementary work and avoid duplication.

3. Compile the information you need

A human rights-based situation analysis requires compiling disaggregated data on the human right to water and sanitation components. Data is expected to be disaggregated mainly according to geographical, social and cultural, economic and gender.

Development partners must compile information with due diligence. This means that information made available at the international level by intergovernmental organizations, international financing mechanisms and human rights monitoring mechanisms must be compiled and analyzed. It also means that development partners must have a detailed understanding of access to water and sanitation that goes beyond reported information and is based on public consultation.

In many countries, the lack of consistent and/or disaggregated data may impede the completion of a human rights-based situation analysis, which may underscore the need for improvement and strengthening in institutions and statistics. Compiling the information you need may therefore means undertaking data collection after compiling existing information. Furthermore, the use of multiple sources of information reduces possible biases and provides a more comprehensive picture of the human rights situation as well as the particular areas that are being addressed by a programme.

3.1. Compile existing information

  • Identify Human Rights-Based sources of information

The human right to water and sanitation is at the interface between key “sectors” that overlap as presented in the diagram below. For each of these sectors, some monitoring mechanisms been long time consolidated, while others are of recent creation. A list of potential sources of quantitative and qualitative information about the water and sanitation situation in the country is provided in the Tools section (Tool 1 “Compile the information you need”). In addition to this information, development practitioners using a HRBA should seek for human rights information on the country, at the international, regional and national levels.

In this sense, human rights protection mechanisms are an essential source of information on the situation of human rights in the country, based on the legal obligations of states. Indeed, since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the UN has developed a wide range of international human rights standards and mechanisms to promote and protect them. Among them:

  • The Human Rights Council:
    The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. It has a number of procedures, mechanisms and structures to accomplish its goals, most notably the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), as well as the Special Procedures.
  • The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review:
    The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a peer-review mechanism through which the UN Human Rights Council (composed of States) periodically reviews the fulfillment by each of the 193 UN Member States of their human rights obligations and commitments. The UPR takes place every four and a half years years and is based on the information provided by the State being examined, by the United Nations and by other stakeholders, including NGOs.
  • The Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures:
    The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. Amongst them, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, currently Ms Catarina de Albuquerque, carries out thematic research, collects good practices, issues country reports and works with relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the rights to water and sanitation.
  • Treaty Bodies:
    The right to water and sanitation is protected by a number of international treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Each treaty creates an international committee of independent experts in charge with monitoring international human rights treaties. In their “concluding observations/ comments”, they highlight human rights concerns and provide recommendations to States for the progressive implementation of the rights recognized in the respective treaty they monitor.In the Tools section you may access the International Legal Framework in Relation to the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, where human rights treaties and their provisions relating to water and sanitation are presented.

    Recommended data sources that provide access to the recommendations of the human rights monitoring mechanisms:

    • The website of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation provides all thematic and country reports, as well as promotional material and a compilation of best pratices of the mandate instrumental in the interpretation and monitoring of the human right to water and sanitation.
    • The OHCHR – country webpage provides information on the treaties that the country has ratified, and the recommendations of the Treaty Bodies and the Special Procedures.
    • The Universal Human Rights Index provides access to country-specific human rights information emanating from the Treaty Bodies, the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Index is a database searchable by country, treaty body and key word.
    • The WaterLex legal database provides access to the international human rights treaties related to water and sanitation, national constitutions and national water and sanitation laws and policies. The database is searchable by country, world region, and human rights criteria and principles.
    3.2 Compile new information

    Look for the best information available!
    Best information is encompassed in national legal and policy documents and monitoring reports (primary sources). Most of the documents are available at the country level, though more and more databases exist that compile national instruments in the different sectors. For instance, the WaterLex legal database gives direct access to national legislation and policies in the water andsanitation sector.

    Often, additional information to that available will be necessary in order to count with significant data concerning the situation of the human right to water and sanitation data information. To gather this new information different methods may be employed, including:

    • Existing reports of NGOs
    • Inquiries
    • Qualitative studies based on vital records
    • Feedback from participants
    • ’Case studies
    • Participatory Learning and Action (PLA)

    Often, existing information from censuses, demographic surveys and samples is not as detailed, targeted and disaggregated as would be required for a thorough assessment based on human rights.
    From a HRBA is important that these processes searching for new information contrast official information through participatory processes and actively seek information that takes into account all elements of the human right to water and sanitation.

    Efforts are taking place to ensure that human rights are integrated in data compilation processes. For instance, the Nicaraguan association, La Cuculmeca, the Spanish NGO ONGAWA, and the Polytechnic Universities of Madrid and Catalonia, Spain, have collaborated in Nicaragua, to gather relevant human rights-based information by:
    – Further integrating the HRWS criteria and principles into household surveys in order to respond in particular to the lack of inclusion of human right principles in the home surveys conducted by the Nicaraguan public institutions; and
    – Extending the actors surveyed to include not only right-holders but also duty-bearers: municipalities, Water and Sanitation Committees (CAPS) and public institutions related to water and sanitation. This way, information may be crossed by all actors.

    This tool provides a comparative analysis of the different data compilation techniques from a list of criteria complying with the human rights-based approach.