[click figure above to go to download PDF from www.righttowater.info]

Equality and non-discrimination are the bedrock principles of human rights law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in article 1 that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and in article 2 that “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind. […].”

In order to achieve substantive equality, States have an obligation to prioritise individuals and groups particularly vulnerable to exclusion and discrimination. Depending on the circumstances, they may need to adopt targeted positive measures to redress existing discrimination. There are times when historical or deeply engrained discrimination will be so intractable that temporary special measures – often called “affirmative action” or “positive discrimination” – are required. Where barriers exist and persist, leading to the denial of rights to individuals and groups, positive measures are necessary to ensure the equal participation of all and the redistribution of power and resources to groups subordinated by discrimination (CEDAW, 2004).

Participatory processes will not automatically include everyone. When no specific measures are taken, men, majority ethnic groups, the wealthy, higher social status and more educated people and households tend to dominate participatory processes.

Identifying disadvantaged individuals and groups requires deliberate efforts because they are often invisible to policy makers. Processes to identify everyone concerned can be more successful by decentralising processes, by working together with a wide range of local NGOs and the national human rights institutions as well as others who can help identify the most marginalised individuals.

The Equality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion theme is the most recent within RWSN, having been established in 2012, and initially building on WaterAid’s work. Since then, particular strides have been made with respect to the Human Right to Water, (in collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation).

Topic: Realising the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water

Expected Outcome (2015-2017: RWSN members understand and start to implement the guidance set out in the Handbook on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation.

Activities (2015-2017):

  • Task force established to enable rural water supply practitioners and professionals to understand how to use the handbook. Develop and disseminate learning materials for the handbook. 
  • Link relevant sections of handbook with discussions on other RWSN topics.

Where to go next:


Related Resources

Proceedings of the 7th RWSN Forum

29 Nov - 2 Dec 2016, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

The 2016 Rural Water Supply Network Forum in Abidjan was the first global gathering to consider the practical challenge of how everyone worldwide can get access to safe, affordable water by 2030. It was also the first RWSN Forum to take place in a francophone country, in the 25 years since the creation of the network.
The Forum gathered 467 rural water sector practitioners from over 300 organisations from 64 countries in Africa, Asia, Americas, and Europe, in a bilingual (English/French) four day event. It was opened by the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, Mr Daniel Kaplan Duncan. We were joined by HE State Minster James Dengchol Tot, Minister of Water, Irrigation and Electricity of Ethiopia, as well as a delegation from AMCOW.

This Forum proceedings compiles all peer-reviewed materials. Separate downloads and links to the films can be found at: https://rwsn7.net/content/ | more information »

Rural Water Supply Network - Annual Report 2016

Enabling practitioners, professionals and ultimately water users to make informed decisions on how to improve and maintain access to safe water in rural areas.

The focus for the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) in 2016 was preparing for, and managing the 7th RWSN Forum in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 29th November to 2nd December with the title “Water for Everyone”. This was the first RWSN Forum to take place in a francophone country in the 25 years since the creation of the network.

Throughout 2016 specific in-country activities included a short-course on Procurement, Contract Management and Costing and Pricing in Zambia and a participative analysis of Manual Drilling in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Workshops organized by the World Bank in Bangkok and Lima on sustainable services drew together government agencies in both regions. Key lessons from both events fed into the RWSN Forum under the RWSN Theme “Sustainable Services”.

RWSN continued to work on strengthening the links between research and practice on groundwater by disseminating the outputs from UPGro (Unlocking the Potential of Groundwater for the Poor) research to the RWSN membership as well as fostering direct linkages between groundwater experts and water supply professionals. | more information »

Reducing Inequalities in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

A synthesis of experiences and lessons discussed in the RWSN Equality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion (ENDI) Group 2015

Between October and November 2015 the Rural Water Supply Network’s Equality, Non-discrimination and Inclusion (ENDI) theme enjoyed lively e-discussions on Reducing Inequalities in WASH. This covered practical approaches to improve participation of everyone; inclusive infrastructure designs and information, guidance and support that exist on these. Two webinars were held on these topics, with presentations from World Vision, Messiah College, WaterAid, FCG International, and the University of Technology – Sydney . Disability, gender, menstrual hygiene management, rights to water and sanitation and school WASH from Mali, Niger, Tanzania, Nepal, Ghana, Timor-Leste and Vietnam were covered. During the e-discussions independent consultants and staff from the Church of Uganda, TEDDO, WaterAid, WEDC, Mzuzu University, the Honduran Association of Management Boards of Water Systems, Concern Worldwide, Auguaconsult, the University of Denver, the World Bank, Amref Health, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Messiah College and World Vision shared experiences. These were drawn from their or their organisation’s work in Uganda, Vietnam, Mali, Madagascar, Zambia, Nepal, Chad, Timor Leste, Tanzania, Niger, Honduras and Pakistan. Throughout the e-discussions and webinars the primary scope was rural water supply, but sanitation and hygiene were considered when relevant.

This report synthesises the online discussions, draws on relevant content from the webinars and highlights experiences and lessons learnt. It is not an extensive literature review, but does draw on existing literature beyond what was discussed during the e-discussions. | more information »

Water and Sanitation Services: Achieving Sustainable Outcomes with Indigenous Peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean

World Bank Toolkit, Report No: AUS11215

The objective of this Toolkit is to provide practical guidance and operational tools to promote the inclusive delivery of sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) services to Indigenous peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). | more information »

Effective Joint Sector Reviews for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

A Study and Guidance - 2016

This is the first consolidated and referenced multicountry study of Water or Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Joint Sector Reviews (JSRs). The study report and associated Learning Note and Poster provide an understanding of JSR processes and practical guidance on how to introduce and improve them. The study sets out a methodology in the form of visual checklists to reflect and take stock of WASH JSR processes. This could also form the foundation for subsequent cross-country comparisons of the JSR process.

The publications provide an analysis of JSRs as well as practical guidance on how to introduce and effectively manage them. The initial focus of the work was on JSRs in fragile states. However, the contested definitions of a fragile state, arbitrary thresholds as well as the realization that there are common issues with respect to JSRs in nonfragile countries led to a widening of the scope of countries studied. Notably, all countries included are considerably donor dependant for WASH. The study considered 25 countries, and found that between 2001 and 2015, WASH JSRs had taken place in 19 of them.

Note that these documents are review copies. | more information »

Review of Self-supply and its support services in African countries

Synthesis Report

Over the past decades, in many countries, significant progress has been achieved in improving access to rural water supplies. However, it will be almost impossible to reach universal access by using community supply models alone, as this approach will simply be too costly. For achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and ensuring universal access to water for all, new approaches and a shift in mindset and policies are needed. Supported Self-supply is a very cost effective service delivery approach which is complementary to communal supplies, is aligned with Human Rights principles, supports equity and inclusiveness and achieving several SDGs.
This Synthesis report summarises the results of a UNICEF funded review of supported Self-supply in Zambia and in Zimbabwe which was conducted in 2015 and reflects on findings from discussions at national workshops in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi and from a webinar on supported Self-supply and Human Rights to Water organized by the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN). | more information »

Human rights to water and Self-Supply – Potential and challenges

RWSN webinar on 24th November 2015 – Key messages and generic findings

Summary of generic messages:
1. The Human Right to water does not favour or exclude any management model for provision of safe water to all. The important objective is that eventually all people have universal access, that core principles are adhered to and that there is no difference in quality and access no matter which supply approach is used.
2. Self-supply is aligned and compatible with the concept of progressive realisation of the Human Right to Water.
3. Government’s role in Self-supply is to identify where and when Self-supply is an appropriate option to provide access to safe water. Additionally government should provide technical support, monitoring, financial support (e.g. subsidies), establish an enabling environment and recognize Self-supply as one viable option to achieving the Human Right to Water.
4. In Self-supply, like in other approaches, challenges might occur around affordability, water quality, monitoring, and long term sustainability. The Government must support people moving up the water ladder but also take preventive measures to avoid negative impacts from Self-supply.
5. To further scale up Self-supply subsidies might be an adequate means to allow poor people to move up the water ladder in incremental steps. Subsidies need to be designed and provided in a smart way, without distortion of the local economy. If subsidies are provided there is need to find sustainable funding sources.
6. As Self-supply will not be an option in all regions, and because the cost of using the community managed approach alone will be far too high, a blended approach using boreholes, piped schemes and Self-supply sources (using different technologies) might be the best way to go for achieving universal access in rural areas. | more information »

المقررة الخاصة للأمم المتحدة المعنية بحق الإنسان في الحصول على مياه الشرب المأمونة وخدمات الصرف الصح

This Handbook is the product of six years of work by the first UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation. It explains the meaning and legal obligations that arise from these rights, translating the often complex technical and legal language into accessible information.

This Handbook clarifies the meaning of the human rights to water and sanitation, explains the obligations that arise from these rights and provides guidance on implementing the human rights to water and sanitation. It also shares some examples of good practice, shows how these rights are being implemented and explores how States can be held to account for delivering on their obligations. Finally, the handbook provides a series of checklists, so that readers can assess how far they are complying with the human rights to water and sanitation.

The Handbook is primarily for governments at all levels, donors and national regulatory bodies. It provides information that will also be useful to other local, regional and international stakeholders, including civil society, service providers and human rights organisations.

The Handbook is presented in nine booklets, each of which addresses a particular area of activity:
1: Introduction
2: Frameworks (Legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks)
3: Financing (Financing, budgeting and budget-tracking)
4: Services (Planning processes, service providers, service levels and settlements)
5: Monitoring
6: Justice (Access to justice)
7: Principles (Non-discrimination, equality, information, participation, sustainability)
8: Checklists
9: Sources (Glossary, Bibliography, Index)

Booklets 2-7 contain checklists for the State and other actors to assess whether the State is complying with the requirements of the human rights to water and sanitation. | more information »

Realising the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: A Handbook

This Handbook is the product of six years of work by the first UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to water and sanitation. It explains the meaning and legal obligations that arise from these rights, translating the often complex technical and legal language into accessible information.

This Handbook clarifies the meaning of the human rights to water and sanitation, explains the obligations that arise from these rights and provides guidance on implementing the human rights to water and sanitation. It also shares some examples of good practice, shows how these rights are being implemented and explores how States can be held to account for delivering on their obligations. Finally, the handbook provides a series of checklists, so that readers can assess how far they are complying with the human rights to water and sanitation.

The Handbook is primarily for governments at all levels, donors and national regulatory bodies. It provides information that will also be useful to other local, regional and international stakeholders, including civil society, service providers and human rights organisations.

The Handbook is presented in nine booklets, each of which addresses a particular area of activity:
1: Introduction
2: Frameworks (Legislative, regulatory and policy frameworks)
3: Financing (Financing, budgeting and budget-tracking)
4: Services (Planning processes, service providers, service levels and settlements)
5: Monitoring
6: Justice (Access to justice)
7: Principles (Non-discrimination, equality, information, participation, sustainability)
8: Checklists
9: Sources (Glossary, Bibliography, Index)

Booklets 2-7 contain checklists for the State and other actors to assess whether the State is complying with the requirements of the human rights to water and sanitation. | more information »

RWSN Webinar Series 2015

Presenters from more than 25 different organisations, working in over 20 countries share their practical experiences and research findings. Participants have the opportunity to ask questions, and meet others with similar interests at the events. Topic covered include:
- radio for rural water supplies, drawing on practical experiences from Kenya and Tanzania.
- Self-supply in emergency and development contexts, and we shall be hearing from Sierra Leone as well as Ethiopia, and on the costs and quality of self-supply as well as government roles.
- a series of webinars on groundwater.
- experiences about dealing with gender, violence and access to WASH
- rainwater harvesting
- etc.

All of the presentations and links to the recordings will be posted here within two to three days of each webinar. | more information »