Manual The Right(s) to Water: The Multi-Level Governance of a Unique Human Right

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As stated above, lessons learned from the s decade clearly argue in favor of a more comprehensive approach towards the challenge than declaring success on the number of people gaining access every year. A more integrative or comprehensive perspective can be increasingly identified Rahaman and Varis However, it remains to be seen if the human rights approach, exemplified here as part of the rule-making element, will be able to continuously generate all properties of its own for success.

In itself, a revitalized focus on this element is an answer to the missing or insufficient comprehensiveness of the MDG trajectory. The WCD effectively reframed the question around large dams as a need to better understand the full range of impacts and to resituate dam planning in larger considerations about water and energy for human development. The participation of both dam proponents and opponents in the process of bringing the commission together, and of launching its knowledge generation exercise, gave greater legitimacy and representativeness to these elements, and led to a quite comprehensive some would say exhaustive knowledge generation exercise that featured both expert and stakeholder input in a variety of forms.

These elements also benefited from strong leadership by the commission chair and secretariat. In contrast, the subsequent element of rule-making—which began with the WCD recommendations and was supposed to spin off into national dialogues and donor reforms—failed to attain the same degree of either representativeness or legitimacy Dingwerth The process suffered when the strong consensus within the commission did not translate into buy-in from all elements of the wider stakeholder community. The most important advances in the water and climate change trajectory have been in knowledge generation, which has grown increasingly comprehensive and has high legitimacy regarding the production of scientific knowledge.

This has been of particular importance for establishing a factual knowledge base on the influence of humans on climate change and its potential impacts on water resources. However, the assessment of the severity of the problem and appropriate response options requires legitimacy derived from a higher degree of representativeness. Such discourse has taken place mainly at the global water meetings World Water Forum, Stockholm Water Week , which have been subjected to severe criticism due to lack of representativeness Gleick and Lane Some argue that the World Water Forum has become an arena to promote economic interests of the powerful.

Despite strong leadership in the scientific community in the initial stage, water and climate change is lacking leadership in the formal policy process, which is required for effective rule-making e. A comprehensive approach is strongly promoted by emphasizing water security and the water-food-energy nexus. Again, however, without political will and leadership, it is questionable whether such reframing of policy will lead to tangible outcomes and enhanced water security in times of increasing climate change Pahl-Wostl and Thoonen Link Type II: Missing links between elements Another important aspect affecting the success of a policy process is the links between the various elements.

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Missing links lead to reduced effectiveness. The struggle to provide clean drinking water and basic sanitation over the past 30 years can be described as a sequence of different governance modes favoring different elements, as put forward in our functional model. The other elements, however, were missing or premature in order to guide action and to secure success. The programmatic swing of the s and the strengthening of the element of resource mobilization resulted again one decade later in the initially quite powerful MDG focus, which was little interested in rule-making.

Overall, access to water and sanitation is equipped with above average monitoring capabilities in the realm of water i. Although the sanitation crisis remains daunting, a more solid understanding of the situation, which is now in many cases in place at the country level, is a prerequisite for new attention and possibly action. In the dams case, the conflicts leading up to the WCD, and the work of the WCD itself, effectively reframed the debate about the costs and benefits of large dams and triggered a unique process of knowledge generation that demonstrated the highly uneven performance of large dams and the skewed distribution of costs and benefits.

By themselves, however, these elements were not sufficiently robust to translate into effective rule-making. Given this substantial gap between elements, the policy trajectory has arrived at a point of mixed results. It is certainly the case that better practices for dam planning, financing, and execution have been identified and are being put into practice in some cases.

In the case of the water and climate trajectory, there has been a strong emphasis on knowledge generation and policy framing. That can be related to the importance of well-established informal networks that support knowledge generation and could also integrate across levels. The author also examines the right at a conceptual level. After disproving some of the theoretical objections to the category of socio-economic rights generally and the concept of a right to water more specifically, the manuscript develops an innovative approach towards the interplay of different rights to water among different legal orders.

The book argues for an approach to human rights — including the right to water — as international minimum standards, using the right to water as a model case to demonstrate how multilevel human rights protection can function effectively. The book also addresses a crucial last question: how does one make an international right to water meaningful in practice? The manuscript identifies three crucial criteria in order to strengthen such a composite derived right in practice: independent monitoring; enforcement towards the private sector; and international realization.

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The author examines to what extent these criteria are currently adhered to, and suggests practical ways of how they could be better met in the future. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser.

The epistemic community: realizing the transformative potential of knowledge. The framing of an issue is crucial to how it is communicated and hence perceived by the target audience. In most instances, environmentalists offer analyses steeped in data and information, which people do not easily identify with.

The Right(s) to Water: The Multi-Level Governance of a Unique Human Right

When the issue is presented in terms of its impact on human populace such as displacement due to development projects, popular mobilization becomes possible. A good example of repackaging an old cause would be the case of the Amazon forests, in which the crusade for local land rights proved ineffective. However, the campaign shot into prominence when it was framed in terms of widespread deforestation Keck and Sikkink, While in this instance, a human rights campaign was reinterpreted as an environmental issue, there are other instances in which an environmental concern won more support when it was seen as a social justice cause.

The contested nature of science comes to the fore when opinion is divided over the nature and magnitude of a particular environmental crisis. For instance, scientists differ sharply on whether glacial melt is occurring at a worrying enough rate to warrant urgent concerted action on the part of the international community.

In such a scenario, what counts for credible evidence becomes significant, and a presumably 'scientific' issue is now open to interpretation, thereby becoming a controversy. Irwin takes the British case in the early s of the carcinogenic substance 2,4,5-T used as a pesticide. When the pesticide's toxic properties became public, the risk perceptions of stakeholders differed on the basis of how much credence was attached to the cited evidence.

Being the most vulnerable section of society, the farming community found the evidence credible enough to demand a ban on the substance. On the other hand, the expert committee the Advisory Committee on Pesticides ruled that until more reliable evidence was presented before its panel, proving conclusively its toxic properties, the pesticide should not be banned.

Another good example of this heterogeneity in action would be the phenomenon of acid rain, which can only be addressed with expertise from disciplines such as chemistry, meteorology, and agriculture, to name a few. Such an intellectual amalgam then runs into several social uncertainties about whether prescribed solutions can be implemented in a manner that is satisfactory to policy makers, environmentalists, and local rights groups.

Locating the scientific community within the social context thus lowers science from the high pedestal on which the conventional developmental model had placed it and instead highlights its negotiated and restrained nature Irwin, A crucial step in this regard would be the establishment of science shops that would act as intermediate entities between the citizenry and the scientific community, making socially useful technical information available to the public.

Transnational networks: forging webs of connectedness. Demarcation is often presumed to delineate self-contained and bounded actors whose interactions are characterized by orderly conduct. In reality, as actors that are concurrently involved in domestic and international politics, transnational networks are one among many means through which the porosity of actors and institutions is reinforced. Transnational networks are an uneasy phenomenon that eludes ready categorizations. Keck and Sikkink describe transnational advocacy networks, which thrive in the interstices between functionally and spatially demarcated entities.

The phenomenal growth of environmental NGOs can be expressed in numbers. A close-knit web of intensive information sharing characterizes these networks.

Information becomes a potent tool in two key ways: it can be wielded to counter ambiguity on certain issues or used to frame an existing issue as a new concern. These networks are distinct because of their unique characteristics that include above all the prominence of core values that become the rallying point for the mobilization of support.

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The significance attributed to certain principles and values enables networks to assume a moral stance on issues. From information transmission to the movement of specialized manpower within the network, transnational networks straddle the domestic and international spheres in their processes and resource management. In addition, transnational networks establish linkages with actors located within the state apparatus, civil society, and international organizations through which access paths are amplified, both internationally and domestically.

Access here is implied by the availability of both information and resources, be it in terms of material reinforcements or simply the logistical ease that a local campaign partner would bring to it. These networks are what Keck and Sikkink call 'communicative structures,' which seek to connect with other agencies in the field 3. Indeed, one of the key ingredients of a successful campaign is the effective amalgamation of actors seeking to achieve different objectives around the same issue.

Keck and Sikkink refer to the 'boomerang effect' to explain how the network operates from its origins in domestic politics The lack of communication between domestic organizations and the state leads to an inability to exert influence on policy making. In such a scenario, domestic organizations may circumvent state channels and mobilize international partners to exert external influence on the state.

This impact on the rebound is possible through the strategic deployment of information, as many human rights campaigns demonstrate. However, it must be added that advocacy for sustainable development does not automatically translate into consensus among the different participating actors, who sometimes end up working at cross purposes with one another.


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As the campaign against timber logging in Sarawak, Malaysia demonstrates, the research community attempted to pitch the case on the basis of scientific information and reasoned arguments. NGO networks, on the other hand, politicized the campaign by not only redefining what makes information credible the inclusion of testimonies, for instance but also sought to enhance its clout by drawing more actors into the negotiation process.


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Even when the source of a transnational threat is easily established, extraneous factors cause states at both ends of an environmental disaster to play down its consequences. A good example would the Southeast Asian haze that affected the region in the mid s. The haze was caused by the practice of forest burning in Indonesia to clear land for cultivation, and it gradually extended to the neighboring countries of Singapore and Malaysia. Despite its failure to enforce an existing ban on the burning of forestland by plantation owners, the Indonesian government blamed poor farmers for the pollution.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian government did not divulge information on the magnitude of the damage caused by the haze for fear of an adverse impact on tourism Goetz and Jenkins, ; Keck and Sikkink, Industry: observing sustainable practices. The discourse of sustainable development is incomplete without taking into consideration the role of the private sector, both in terms of the business lobbies that operate transnationally and the sub-national and local business actors. Private sector players, by dint of their trade ties, are well-networked entities not only within their community but also within policy-making circles.

Given that industry plays a key role in production and service delivery coupled with the political influence it wields which varies according to the area of operation and economic capacity , it becomes a significant player whose cooperation is vital for the success of any paradigm for sustainable development.

That industry matters is demonstrated by the fact that large scale unsustainable environmental practices water pollution or excessive logging and mining, for instance are to a great extent responsible for the environmental stress we see around us today. Of course, states share the blame in no small measure for their complicity in providing permissive regulatory structures and lax enforcement of quality standards. However, the point worth noting is that eliciting industry's cooperation is vital in stemming the damage wrought by unregulated development. In this regard, the notion of corporate social responsibility CSR , which is predicated on the assumption that business interests and social ethics are not mutually antithetical, is central to the development discourse.

CSR implies that corporate actors assume responsibility for the larger social impacts of their actions. It also requires them to proactively undertake measures that make their association with the rest of the society and the environment sustainable in the long run. Despite its wide acceptance, the concept is not yet fully developed within national discourses on development. For instance, in India, CSR still largely remains an arena for self-regulation. This is largely due to the lack of concerted pressure from the civil society to develop credible co-regulatory mechanisms involving multiple stakeholders.

The Ten Principles of the UNGC include undertaking initiatives that foster environmental responsibility and facilitate the diffusion of eco-friendly technologies. For details, see www. However, one of the key challenges facing the UNGC is the broad representation and effective participation of industry players. The initiative has also seen poor representation of other stakeholders such as labour organizations.

This trend is reflective of the bigger concern that CSR in general has seen only low representation from industry. The business entities engaged in CSR initiatives constitute a small proportion of the 61, multinational corporations that dominate global business today. The number drops even further if the value chain of commodity production as a whole is taken into account Chahoud et al.

This brings us to the larger issue of accountability within given formulations of international and multilevel governance structures.