Sunday, May 20, 2012

WaterLex Online Legal Database

WaterLex, through its legal expertise, supports the harmonization and strengthening of international law asserting the trumping value of human rights commitments over any other international commitments. In this context, WaterLex also promotes and assists civil society initiatives aiming at strengthening the accountability of all actors who impact water governance.

Welcome to the WaterLex Online Legal Database! You can search here for International and National Legal Sources complying with the human right to water and sanitation.



The origins of the HRWS Online Database are written publications compiling legal sources in one specific field. For over 40 years, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been gathering legislation on food and agriculture, and publishing it in a document entitled Food and Agricultural Legislation.

In the field of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, a similar process has been undertaken by the Geneva based non-profit organization, Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) and its publication entitled Sources 8: Legal Resources for the Right to Water.(1) The first version of the later has been issued in 2003, a revised version has been published in 2008.(2)

Following the recognition of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation, by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010, WaterLex considered it a key priority to make such legal sources available to all stakeholders interested in contributing to the realization of this fundamental human right.

Between 2010 and early 2012, WaterLex in partnership with Freshwater Action Network and WASH-United, compiled excerpts from a variety of legal sources, namely international conventions and declaration, national laws, policies and strategies. The selection of excerpts was based on their alignment with the Human Right to Water and Sanitation content as defined under International Human Rights Law. The initial compilation was published as a book.(3)

Further, the initial countries excerpts presented at the 6th World Water Forum were also influenced by the capacity of three initial partners to access laws and policies in general (cf. translation challenges). This limitation is expected to be bridged through a strong increase in project partners over 2012 to ensure the exhaustivity and sustainability of the project. 

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the WaterLex’ Online Legal Database?

The WaterLex Online Legal Database is a worldwide unique multi-stakeholder initiative pursuing the objective to gather all laws and policies at international and national level which are aligned and contribute to the realization of the human right to water and sanitation (as defined under international human rights law). The database provides also links to all original sources and case law references.

Note: This database should not be mixed up with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), database linked to FAO-Lex labeled ‘Waterlex’(link)


What is the purpose of the Online Database?

In the framework of the United Nations, States recognized the Human Right to Water and Sanitation as legally binding (Cf. UN GA, Human Rights Council, and WHO Resolutions). Implementation of such new international commitment requires alignment and harmonization of national laws and policies. The HRWS Online Database therefore serves several purposes.
Firstly it can be used by Parliamentarians and Law Commissions who wish to see how other countries in the worlds already developed their legislation or policies in the field of the HRWS. Secondly, it can also be used by Civil Society Organizations and Politicians who wish to assert gaps and suggest amendments in legislation and policies. Thirdly and most commonly, it can be used for all legal practitioners as a worldwide reliable source of law, policies and case law related to water governance.


Who updates the files in the Database?

Any legal form, public administration or NGO may submit updates for the Online Database. All supports will be acknowledged on the website.
The legal sources and excerpts submitted are reviewed by the Excerpts Reviewing Committee (ERC) consisting of the University of Essex – Human Rights Clinic, University of Dundee – UNESCO Center for Water Law, Swiss Federal Center for Comparative Law and WaterLex. This steering committee may be broaden in the years to come to additional academic institutions.

For the launch of the initiative at the 6th World Water Forum, the initial compilation of excerpts have been submitted by WaterLex, FAN-Global and WASH-United. This initial compilation is also available in printed format (Link).


Interest joining the project?

All organizations wishing to join the project either as a content submitter or as a sponsor, are warmly invited to make their interest known via the contact form to Dr. Helene Boussard. Online Legal Database

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