Mentioning the unmentionable: The right to sanitation in law and practice


Jump to: navigation, search
edit  ·  Toolkit Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) to Water Governance
UNDP Regional HRBA to Water Programme for Europe & CIS

Detailed documentation: Background | Regional aspects | Regional Programme | Methodology
PHASE 1: Checklist (Bosnia and Herzegovina | Georgia | Moldova | Tajikistan | Turkey | Ukraine)
PHASE 2: Country Sector Assessments and Proposed Projects (Bosnia and Herzegovina | Tajikistan | Kosovo | Serbia) | Bibliography

Legal Framework: The Rights to Water and Sanitation in International Law | Regional Law | National Law
WaterWiki-resources:Rights to Water and Sanitation: A Handbook for Activists | UN Human Rights Council Resolution on Water and Sanitation | UN Recognises Access to Clean Water as a Basic Human Right | Human Rights-Based Approach | Applying a HRBA to Water:A Case Study | Water-related Legislation and Conventions | The Right to Water - WHO Publication | A UN Convention on the Right to Water - An Idea Whose Time Has Come | International Conference on the Right to Water and Sanitation in Theory and Practice | Q&A: The Right to Water | General Comment 15 (2002) | Q&A: Water Governance | Water and Health | Equitable Access to Water and Human Rights | European Union Water Framework Directive | Essay: What exactly is “The Right to Water”? | Protocol on Water and Health | Protocol on Water and Health/Q&A | Lessons Learned From Rights-Based Approaches in the Asia-Pacific Region | Human Rights-Based Approach Strategies adopted by UNICEF Laos | Utility Privatisation through the Lens of Human Rights | The Right to Water - From Concept to Implementation | The Human Right to Water:Translating Theory into Practice | Report of the Seminar on Human Rights and MDGs, May 2009
External resources: HRBA and Water Governance Fast Facts - UNDP | Applying a HRBA to Developing Cooperation and Programming (UNDP, 2006) | COHRE Manual on the Right to Water and Sanitation | Protocol on Water and Health - Full Document) | COHRE Monitoring Implementation of the Right to Water: A Framework for Developing Indicators | Sub-commission guidelines for the realisation of the right to drinking water and sanitation (2005) | UNFPA - A HRBA to Programming, Practical Implementation Manual and Training Materials (2010) | Operational Guidelines for Implementing a Rights-Based Approach in Water and Sanitation Programming (CoHRE,2008) | COHRE Monitoring Implementation of the Right to Water: A Framework for Developing Indicators | FAQs on a HRBA to Development Cooperation | The Human Rights-Based Approach to Development - The Right to Water | UN Independent Expert Report on the issue of human rights obligations related to water and sanitation 2009 | UN Independent Expert Report on MDGs and right to water and sanitation 2010
Websites: The Rights to Water and Sanitation Information Portal | UN Independent Expert on Right to Water and Sanitation Webpage

Publication Title

Mentioning the unmentionable: the right to sanitation in law and practice

Publication Type


Malcolm Langford, Norwegian Centre on Human Rights, University of Oslo

Publication Date

27 Nov 2008


Publication URL




As few countries have made significant progress in providing adequate sanitation, the movement for prioritising sanitation in development and health policies has increasingly gained momentum. The designation of 2008 as the UN International Year of Sanitation and the creation of a dedicated global fund are emblematic of this drive but the stigma surrounding sanitation still renders it the poor cousin of water. Many development and human rights actors are now calling for recognition of sanitation as a human right which was notably omitted in General Comment No 15 on the Right to Water in 2002 although a number of articulated obligations included duties to provide adequate sanitation. This paper will set out to explore this movement and claims and what a right to sanitation may mean in practice. The introduction will examine sanitation in its historical and political context, including arguments over its instrumental benefits and the potential value in recognising and operationalising the right to sanitation. The second section will examine the legal and philosophical basis of the right to sanitation and whether the growing recognition of the right in international and domestic instruments leads to the creation of a new human right and/or a ‘co-right’ with water. A third section will analyse the content and obligations associated with the right to sanitation and seek to determine how its individual and collective dimensions fit within a largely individualist human rights framework.


See also


General Comment 15: The Right to Water (2002)


External Resources


3486 Rating: 2.1/5 (13 votes cast)