Safeguarding the right to water for basic human needs in the context of transboundary watercourses: analysis of the combined use of two legal regimes: international water law and international human rights law

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Gruyaert, Laura
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Globally one in six people lack access to clean and safe water. In most cases a lack of water for survival and human dignity is not solely the result of physical water scarcity, but rather a problem of water management and allocation. The issue of relative priority of water uses and guaranteeing access to water in adequate quantity and safe quality also occurs in a transboundary context. One state’s water scarcity might be the direct result of a lack of sound management of the waters of an international watercourse. International water law deals with the management of international watercourses and forms the legal starting point to consider whether access to water for vital human needs of riparian states’ population is considered sufficiently. The analysis of international water law illustrated that this legal regime not adequately guarantees access to water for basic human needs in the process of balancing competing water interests and uses of riparian states. Therefore a corrective is needed, a human rights approach to water management. This thesis determines which direct international water law obligations derive from human rights law, more specifically the right to water. The thesis argues that states have to consider three principles in the management of international watercourses in order to realize the human right to water: priority of water for survival and human dignity, individual empowerment through the right to information and participation, and access to justice and (legal) remedies. Key words: water scarcity - International Water Law – human right to water – transboundary watercourses
Second semester University: Universite de Montpellier
boundaries, human rights, international law, water resources