Strengthening the role of National Human Rights Institutions in water governance for the realisation of human rights

More than 100 countries currently have National Human Rights Institutions (“NHRIs”) charged with promoting and protecting human rights. Even though it is their role resulting from the unique powers conferred upon them in relation to human rights protection in general. In many cases, NHRIs do not have a history of working on human rights. But given their unique mandate, it may potentially be part of their role in relation to perform these functions.  A core function of NHRIs is to independently review the implementation of a nation’s human rights commitments and make recommendations for its improvement. Another role is to address grievances or complaints alleging violations of national law. Seen in this light, NHRIs can provide a core function in the promotion and protection of human rights linked to water and water governance and contribute to a human rights-based water governance.

This training manual is for the benefit of NHRIs and is part of the National Human Rights Institutions Water Initiative. Launched by the Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations (Hungarian NHRI) in cooperation with WaterLex in 2013, the NHRI Water Initiative envisages a more prominent role of NHRIs in water governance for the promotion and protection of water governance related human rights. The Danish Institute for Human Rights and The South African Human Rights Commission are partners in the Initiative.

This training manual is part of an online training platform that WaterLex and its partners will launch in March 2016.

The training manual consists of six sections:

  • Section 1 Water governance-related human rights
  • Section 2 Role of NHRIs in water governance
  • Section 3 Monitoring the right to water
  • Section 4 Protecting a human rights-based water governance
  • Section 5 Promoting a human rights-based water governance
  • Section 6 Advising Governments and Parliaments

The manual provides NHRIs with a deeper understanding of the legal content of the human right to water and sanitation, for them to better promote and protect water governance for the realisation of human rights. It provides tools, practices and activities that support the Initiative’s member NHRIs to build their capacity and strengthen their role in a human rights-based approach to water governance.

Access to the Manual and to the Platform for Training

As an NHRI Member of the Water Initiative, WaterLex will send your representatives an email in March for the launch of the secure online platform. WaterLex and its partners will launch the platform in March 2016, share how to use it, and explain the value of the materials included for training. Be on the lookout for that email!

For an NHRI to become a member of the Water Initiative, they must review and fill in this Letter of Intent, which expresses the willingness of the Applicant NHRI to support and join the National Human Rights Institutions Water Initiative.

For general questions about the NHRI Water Initiative, you may read the NHRI Water Initiative page.  To read the manual as a PDF, please click here.


With Special Thanks to:

The Danish Institute for Human Rights


The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) was established as a national human rights institution in 2002. Since the mid-1990s, the DIHR has worked to establish, develop and promote cooperation between NHRIs worldwide. In their long history, DIHR has offered expertise in relation to the execution of all major NHRI functions. This includes legislative analysis, research, cooperation with civil society, advocacy, human rights education, advice, and rights promotion. DIHR has also worked extensively with complaint-handling processes, particularly the coordination of NHRIs with existing avenues of administrative and judicial redress.


WaterLex wishes to express its sincere thanks to the following persons who contributed to the conceptualization and elaboration of this training material: Gábor Baranyai, Marie Villumsen (The Danish Institute for Human Rights), Mads Holst Jensen (The Danish Institute for Human Rights) and Viktoria Mohos Naray (WaterLex). WaterLex is grateful to the Danish Institute for Human Rights for its commitment and dedicated work throughout of the realisation of this project. In particular, WaterLex would like to thank Birgitte Feiring and Allan Lerberg Jørgensen for their continued support.

WaterLex would also like to thank all National Human Rights Institutions who kindly contributed to the compilation of the good practices of these institutions on water governance and human rights featured in this training material. In particular, the compilation of good practices project benefited from the generous assistance of the following persons: Leandro Garcia Silva (National Human Rights Institution of Argentina – Defensor del Pueblo de la Nación), Marie Villumsen and Mads Holst Jensen (The Danish Institute for Human Rights), Marcel Szabó and Kata Fodor (The Hungarian Ombudsman for Future Generations), John Robert Walters (Office of the Ombudsman of Namibia), Patricia Nduru (Human Rights Commission of Uganda), Shree Ram Adhikari (National Human Rights Commission of Nepal), Janet AndersonBidois (New Zealand Human Rights Commission), Karam Jeet Singh and Yuri Ramkissoon (South African Human Rights Commission), Caroline Novatus Shao and Limi Deo Bulugu (Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance of Tanzania), Saka Azimazi (Network of NHRIs in West Africa) and Yanira Cortez Estevez (National Human Rights Institution of El Salvador – Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos).

Finally, WaterLex is grateful to Head of Communications David Snow for editing and design supervision, to BrandLift for design and layout, and to Legal Desk Director Jan van de Venis and Legal Desk Officer Lenka Kruckova for content review.