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Human Right to Water and the Management of Indonesia’s Water Resources

Monday, December 13, 2010

I recently uploaded my World Water Week presentation’s background paper to the SSRN. The title of the paper is “The Potential Role of the Human Right to Water in the Management of Indonesia’s Water Resources”. In the paper, I argued that:
“…there are gaps in the Indonesian legal framework in securing transparency, access to information, participation, access to justice and the procedure in recognizing customary rights in water resources management. Without adequate access to these procedural rights, vulnerable, marginalized and financially weaker groups will be left out from water resources management and will not be able to secure their entitlements. The Human Right to Water has potentials for filling such gap by reforming the implementing regulation of the Water Resources Law and enhancing the possibility to obtain legal recourse”.

Colleague Hugo Tremblay reviewed this paper in his blog and commentedReading the paper, it sometimes feels like the human right to water is constituted of a bundle of ‘substantive’ and ‘procedural’ rights (ex: see p.4 last §, as well as subsection 5.b on Right(s) to participation, transparency and access to information). Are these rights constituent human rights included under a human right to water? Are they considered as autonomous human rights? Is this an illustration of the doctrine of indivisible, inter-related and inter-dependent human rights?”

While the right to receive and impart information is recognized as a form human rights (Article 19 of the UDHR), the conflation of this right into ‘Freedom of Information’ has sometimes been contested. Although many argued that freedom of information is a human rights (see for example, this article from Toby Mendel), some skeptic may argue that the original intent of Article 19 of the UDHR is to protect free speech and not to provide specific access to governmental information.

Furthermore, the concepts of transparency, participation and access to justice is often mingled with ‘good governance’. A presentation from Susanne Schmidt of the UNDP asked a question: “Is IWRM an HRBA?” The present state of research appears to acknowledge that the two are ‘mutually reinforcing’ with the latter (HRBA) focusing on the equity aspect of governance. A joint working paper of several organisations even consider HRBA as a specific kind of ‘governance’.

I acknowledge that the concept of HRBA still needs further clarification. That, I will not deal in this post. I will reserve it for another day :)