Implementing the human right to water and sanitation: a study of global and local discourses

Madeline Baer, Andrea Gerlak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article explores global and local discourses on how to implement the newly recognised human right to water and sanitation (HRtWS). We analyse the potential limitations of the human rights frame in the context of critiques that human rights are a liberal, Western discourse that does not reflect the lived experiences of non-Western countries. Through two case studies we find that there are two discourses emerging on how to implement the HRtWS. At the global level, as seen in the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the HRtWS, we find a hegemonic discourse that is state-centric and market-friendly. In Bolivia, a country currently implementing a human rights-based approach to water services, we find a counter-hegemonic discourse on implementation. We argue that the hegemonic discourse is incomplete and does not fully address barriers to fulfilment of the right, such as state corruption and the needs of peri-urban residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1527-1545
Number of pages19
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 3 2015


  • Bolivia
  • UN Special Rapporteur
  • hegemonic discourse
  • human right to water
  • human rights
  • water policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development


Dive into the research topics of 'Implementing the human right to water and sanitation: a study of global and local discourses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this