The human right to water revisited

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The right to clean water has been adopted by the United Nations as a basic human right. Yet how such universal calls for a right to water are understood, negotiated, experienced and struggled over remain key challenges. The Right to Water elucidates how universal calls for rights articulate with local historical geographical contexts, governance, politics and social struggles, thereby highlighting the challenges and the possibilities that exist. Bringing together a unique range of academics, policy-makers and activists, the book analyzes how struggles for the right to water have attempted to translate moral arguments over access to safe water into workable claims. This book is an intervention at a crucial moment into the shape and future direction of struggles for the right to water in a range of political, geographic and socio-economics contexts, seeking to be pro-active in defining what this struggle could mean and how it might be taken forward in a far broader transformative politics. The Right to Water engages with a range of approaches that focus on philosophical, legal and governance perspectives before seeking to apply these more abstract arguments to an array of concrete struggles and case studies. In so doing, the book builds on empirical examples from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the European Union.

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... As the human right to water is taken to the streets and enters into national legislation, scholars are examining the opportunities and challenges inherent in operationalizing it. On one hand, scholars point out that insofar as human rights are fundamentally state-centric, individualistic, and universalizing they are not a radical alternative to policies informed by market environmentalism (Bakker, 2007 andBakker, 2011;von Benda-Beckmann and von Benda-Beckmann, 2003;Goldman, 2007). On the other hand, others argue that despite its roots in liberal political philosophy a human right to water framework can generate openings for marginalized communities to become involved in previously inaccessible decision-making processes of water policy (Barlow, 2007;Mirosa and Harris, 2012;Perera, 2012;Sultana and Loftus, 2012). ...
This article examines the relationship between the human right to water and indigenous water rights as articulated in the legal strategies of indigenous Yaqui (Yoemem) leadership in Mexico, and in the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights System. Accelerated urban growth and climate change in the area of study are rekindling historical water conflicts between rural indigenous communities and state authorities encouraging urban development. This configuration is not unique to Northwestern Mexico and, thus, offers an instructive case for exploring contradictions and alignments between indigenous right claims and the human right to water. This article addresses the following questions: What role does the human right to water play in the competing claims of state authorities and indigenous Yaqui leadership in Mexico? To what extent can the human right to water be reconciled with the collective rights of indigenous peoples? And in particular, what can be learned from international jurisprudence in this regard? Through content analysis of legal documents and media sources I show that even when Yaqui claims over water are advanced in the arena of international human rights, the human right to water does not have a primary role in framing their demands. In fact, I show that the human right to water was primarily mobilized to uphold rural-to-urban water transfers and undermine indigenous opposition to large-scale infrastructure development. This article produces new empirical knowledge to contribute to scholarship examining what a human right to water means in practice. This line of research is particularly timely as the human right to water becomes institutionalized in the context of growing public debate and legal discussions on collective indigenous rights.
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