At the Swiss Water Parternship stand at WWW in Stockholm 2015, from left, Moez Allaoui, Dr. Tobias Schmitz, Jean-Benoit Charrin and Rose Osinde Alabaster.

At the Swiss Water Parternship stand at WWW in Stockholm 2015, from left, Moez Allaoui, Dr. Tobias Schmitz, Jean-Benoit Charrin and Rose Osinde Alabaster.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Capacity Development in Sustainable Water Management (UNDP Cap-Net), WaterLex and other partners have developed what is thought to be the first manual outlining a human-rights-based approach (HRBA) to integrated water resources management (IWRM), set for release at a special event at SIWI World Water Week in Stockholm 2015.

The publication’s launch, together with the release of a UNEP e-book on wastewater regulation practices developed with WaterLex, takes place on Tuesday, 25 August 2015, from 14:00 to 17:00 in the Swiss Water Partnership booth area where WaterLex will be an exhibitor (area C1). Limited printed copies will be available at the event; the main distribution will be via electronic version on USB keys.

“This is the first time that a human-rights-based approach to integrated water resources management is being described in detail,” said Dr. Tobias Schmitz, WaterLex Operations Desk director and one of the authors of the manual. He also oversees the WaterLex Programme on a Human Rights-Based Approach to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

During the drafting of the manual, Dr. Themba Gumbo, director of Cap-Net, underlined the value of the collaboration by the four partners initially involved, WaterLex, UNDP Water Governance Facility at SIWI , REDICA and Cap-Net UNDP. He praised them for “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.”

The need for the manual and its potential value are surmised in the following paragraphs from its introduction, by Schmitz:

Because water is so fundamental, a wide variety of institutions are involved in its management, and this creates challenges in the sphere of complementarity and coherence. This coherence is the subject matter of integrated water resources management (IWRM), which seeks to unify in one management system all the different human interventions in freshwater in a given river basin. At the same time, as the pressures on the world’s freshwater resources increase, many river basins are facing both increasing freshwater scarcity and increasing pollution: organizations with a responsibility for IWRM are facing increasing challenges. The many competing and sometimes conflicting demands on water resources give rise to questions of justice, such as, what could be considered as a “balanced” allocation of water over competing uses.

The human rights system offers an important point of entry for such questions of justice. Within the legal system, human rights law is not a silver bullet, but it does offer a broadly (almost universally) endorsed normative and legal framework that sets minimum standards for governance and defines the rights and obligations of different categories of institutions. Because water has been recognized as a human right, the human rights system offers opportunities to streamline water governance and provide coherence both in the sphere of environmental sustainability and in terms of human development. Therefore, introducing these minimum standards for justice into IWRM is an important starting point in securing a “just” allocation of scarce freshwater resources in society.

The manual drafting team consists of Schmitz, Dr. Lilliana Arrieta from Redica, Ivan Pavlevitch from Cap-Net, Dr. Jenny Grönwall from the Stockholm International Water Institute, and Nathalie Seguin of Freshwater Action Network (FAN). Layout and editing support came from Parvathy Chandrasekhar and David Snow of WaterLex.

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.

Go to the project page, which links to related news of past developments.

See WaterLex photos of the launch and other activities at WWW in Stockholm 2015.

For more information:

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

About WaterLex:

WaterLex is an international public interest development organization 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 85 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 15 staff members, a supervisory board of directors, and a large pool of members and expert advisors. It is an official member of the Global Water Partnership, UNDP Cap-Net, UNDP Global Water Solidarity, UNEP Global Wastewater, and the Swiss Water Partnership.