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Resolving the crisis of access: a case for recognition of the human right to water

Clark, Cristy, Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW


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  • Title:
    Resolving the crisis of access: a case for recognition of the human right to water
  • Author/Creator/Curator: Clark, Cristy, Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW
  • Subjects: South Africa; Human right to water; Water; Manila; Mazibuko v City of Johannesburg; Phiri; Prepaid water meters; RIght to participation; Water governance
  • Resource type: Thesis
  • Type of thesis: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2013
  • Supervisor: Durbach, Andrea, Australian Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law, UNSW; Rayfuse, Rosemary, Faculty of Law, UNSW
  • Language: English
  • Additional Information: Thesis restricted until February 2015.
  • Print availability: T/2013/201 (Please speak to a staff member at the Library Help Zone)
  • Embargo Reason: I want to publish sections of the thesis.
  • Permissions: This work can be used in accordance with the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
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  • Description: The world is experiencing a water crisis. A fundamental aspect of this crisis is the lack of access to basic water services experienced by poor and marginalised communities in the Global South. At least 780 million people do not have access to safe water, while between three and four billion people (half the world’s population) lack a household water connection. The dominant response to this crisis has been framed within the good governance approach to development, largely reliant on market-based water governance reforms that focus on increasing the efficiency and financial sustainability of water utilities. However, in response to a growing recognition of the need to address the crisis of access and the systematic exclusion of the poor that underpins it, a human right to water has emerged in international law. In 2010 the existence of this right to water was recognised in Resolution 15/2010 of the Human Rights Council, which built on the 2010 resolution of the UNGA on the right to water and sanitation, and on General Comment No.15 of the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in 2002.This study examines how the recognition and implementation of the right to water could address the crisis of water access facing the urban poor in the Global South. Central to this question is an analysis of the tension between the right to water, with its focus on equity and participation, and the good governance approach to water reform, with its focus on efficiency and financial sustainability. This question is investigated by examining and comparing case studies of water governance reform in Manila, Philippines and Johannesburg, South Africa. The study concludes that the right to water can help to address the crisis of access by increasing the emphasis on service delivery for the poor, particularly by empowering them to participate in water governance. It is through this participation that poor and marginalised communities can help to develop and implement water policies that better respond to their needs and to their entitlement to safe and affordable water services.

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