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Analysis of experience using human rights to accelerate WASH access in four countries


Human rights to water and sanitation have been widely recognised in legal instruments at the international, regional, and national levels of governance. More awareness of states’ obligations has provided additional impetus to promote human rights in policy advocacy. The international non-governmental organisation WaterAid, as a non-state actor specialising in the water, sanitation, and hygiene services (WASH) sector, adopts a human rights-based approach (HRBA) to WASH programming. This paper draws on the experiences from WaterAid WASH projects in four countries – Nepal, Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso, to evaluate the practical impacts of the HRBA to ensure that governments fulfil their responsibility to realise universal access to water and sanitation services in different contexts. The outcomes highlight that three important contributions of the HRBA: (1) generates greater awareness among rightsholders and duty bearers about responsibilities and entitlements over safe drinking water and sanitation; (2) promotes constructive engagement between the government and rightsholders; and (3) equips people with the motivation, skills, and agency which are critical dimensions to work on sustainable WASH. The WASH sector should, therefore, embrace the power of human rights and invest in the specific activities and frameworks to integrate human rights into systems strengthening the WASH sector, while continuing to analyse and learn how to adapt and improve the approach in different contexts.

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Journal Article
Gosling L
Rai T
Obani P
Traore MA
Ouangre L
Aliu F
Shah SK