In early-June meetings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, WaterLex and representatives from the UN Development Programme’s Capacity Development in Sustainable Water Management (UNDP Cap-Net) and partner organizations developed a draft of what is thought to be the first manual outlining a human-rights-based approach (HRBA) to integrated water resources management (IWRM).

“This is the first time that a human-rights-based approach to integrated water resources management is being described in detail,” said WaterLex Operations Desk Director Tobias Schmitz. “We made substantial progress in further defining the content of the manual, and I am quite proud to say that we have developed the first step-by-step tool for the implementation of a HRBA to IWRM.”

The outcomes of the three-day meeting, 4-6 June 2014, were the finalisation of the main content and structure of the manual and facilitator guideline, the design of tools for implementing HRBA to IWRM, and planning of upcoming “training of trainers” in order to strengthen and enrich the utility of the material, according to Dr. Themba Gumbo, director of Cap-Net.

“In this way, the organisations involved are ready to give positive contributions in generating capacities to all the networks, organisations and key actors interested in this cross-cutting topic,” Gumbo said.

Gumbo underlined the meeting’s importance in strengthening the collaboration of the four partners involved, WaterLex, UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI , REDICA and Cap-Net UNDP, by “creating contributions to capacity development in a topic that has not been technically elaborated yet in the field, but that has impacts on sustainable water management and has also been demanded by several clients recently.”

Schmitz echoed the point that demand for such tools has grown. “There is already quite substantial demand for training of the manual coming from the African continent — from the stakeholders in the Congo River Basin, from the University of Zimbabwe, and from other stakeholders in Dar es Salaam and Malawi,” he said.

WaterLex first partnered with UNDP Cap-Net in November 2013. Cap-Net hosts a training platform in IWRM, which is a river-basin-management method balancing needs for water among users and interested parties, such as settlements, domestic uses, agriculture, mining, industry, tourism and recreation, and environmental conservation.

The goal of the partnership is to develop, test and roll out capacity-building materials on a human-rights-based approach to water governance. The partnership engages relevant work of other Cap-Net partners (e.g., the Stockholm International Water Institute, or SIWI, and Red Centroamericana de Instituciones de Ingeniería, or REDICA) to create training modules and handbooks. The manual developed in Rio, as well as a French-language version of WaterLex’s Toolkit on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, are particular goals of the project. The manual drafting team meets next in Costa Rica in November 2014.

In 2014, Schmitz said, planning is ongoing for training sessions on the tools described above for water policy makers and practitioners in the nine countries of the Congo River Basin, as well as local training sessions in Harare, Zimbabwe; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Lilongwe, Malawi.

Go to the project page.

For more information:

WaterLex International Secretariat
Tel: +41 22 907 36 46
Email: info (at)

Photo above: From left, Jenny Gronwall (Stockholm International Water Institute), Tobias Schmitz (WaterLex), Ivan Pavlevitch (CapNet), Indika Gunawardana (CapNet), and Lilliana Arrieta (REDICA).

From left, Themba Gumbo, director of CapNet; Tobias Schmitz, operations director for WaterLex; Ivan Pavlevitch (CapNet); Lilliana Arrieta (REDICA); Indika Gunawardana (CapNet); and Jenny Gronwall (SIWI).

From left, Themba Gumbo, director of CapNet; Tobias Schmitz, operations director for WaterLex; Ivan Pavlevitch (CapNet); Lilliana Arrieta (REDICA); Indika Gunawardana (CapNet); and Jenny Gronwall (SIWI).

About WaterLex:

WaterLex is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) and membership association based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is a UN-Water Partner with UN ECOSOC special consultative status. Its mission is to develop sustainable solutions based on human rights to improve water governance worldwide, particularly in regard to consistent water law and policy frameworks. It works with an alliance of interested parties to improve water-governance frameworks, bringing them in line with country obligations under international human rights law. The interested parties are individuals and groups working in government (diplomatic missions), academia (professors of law, researchers), bilateral cooperation (water management advisors), the judiciary (high/supreme courts judges), the UN system (UN-Water family members), and civil society (NGOs that work on water issues). WaterLex works in partnership with 13 universities to continuously enrich the content of the WaterLex Legal Database. The organisation is funded by grants and project financing from public agencies, foundations, private gifts, and in-kind contributions. Established in 2010, when the human right to water was recognised by the UN, the organisation has a secretariat in Geneva with seven staff members, a supervisory board of directors, and a large pool of members and expert advisors. It is an official partner of the Global Water Partnership, UNDP Cap-Net, UNDP GWS, and UNECE, and a member of the board of the Swiss Water Partnership.