Law, Justice, and Development

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The Law, Justice, and Development series is offered by the Legal Vice Presidency of the World Bank to provide insights into aspects of law and justice that are relevant to the development process. Works in the series present new legal and judicial reform activities related to the World Bank’s work, as well as analyses of domestic and international law. The series is intended to be accessible to a broad audience as well as to legal practitioners.

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The Human Right to Water : Legal and Policy Dimensions

2004, Salman, Salman M.A., McInerney-Lankford, Siobhán

The evolution of the right to water can be traced to the developments of the early 1970s. This Study analyzes the resolutions and declarations of the various conferences and forums that have been held since that time, and the ways in which they have confronted the issue of the right to water. The Study then discusses the evolution of the international legal regime for the protection and promotion of human rights, and pays particular attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The role of each of the committees established to oversee the implementation of the two Covenants is considered in some detail. Particular attention is given to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, its evolution, and its strengthening, and the practice of issuing General Comments. The last two parts of the Study are devoted to General Comment No. 15, which recognizes the human right to water. These parts analyze the extent to which the Comment recognizes a legal right to water, and highlights some policy aspects that are related to, and may affect, this right. The core thesis of this book is that there exists, within the legal framework of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a human right to water because it is a right that inheres in several other rights, and a right without which key provisions of the Covenant would be rendered ineffectual. This conclusion is buttressed also by the interpretative authority that lies with the Committee having evolved from its initial form as a Working Group, to what is now undeniably, a fully-fledged entity, with significant formal authority and legitimacy. Although this conclusion acknowledges that General Comments do not create new rights, it recognizes that General Comment No. 15 extrapolates the normative and practical bases of a human right to water within the fabric of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Together with a number of General Assembly resolutions on the issue, including the Millennium Development Goal related to water, as well as the voluminous body of soft law provisions, the General Comment arguably provides further evidence that there is an incipient right to water evolving in public international law today. Moreover, the Comment has offered a new momentum to efforts aimed at translating those soft law commitments into substantive, precise, and legally binding obligations.