New Guidelines strengthen African’s Right to Water

New Guidelines to advance the right to water all over Africa adopted at the Extra-Ordinary session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) last year finally became public in July 2020.

The African Commission’s Guidelines emphasize that the realization of human rights of present and future generations depend on equitable access to water, and stress the interlinkage of the realization of the right to water with other human rights including the right to food.

“After the adoption of the Resolution on the Right to Food and Nutrition in Africa, the Guidelines on the Right to Water in Africa is another important instrument to support human rights struggles of many communities in Africa” comments Valentin Hategekimana, Africa Coordinator at FIAN International.

While the ACHPR is concerned about several human rights violations, it points out that:

  • An estimate of 300 million people in Africa live in a water-stressed environment; 
  • There is a growing trend of water grabbing by international institutions and transnational companies, the privatization of water supply and water resources management and the unequitable access to and control of water by rural and urban communities; 
  • extensive operations of mining and extractive companies in the African continent cause irreparable social and environmental damage, contaminating water sources and rivers and preventing communities from having equitable access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation; 
  • Many parts of Africa experience cycles of drought and flood and climate change can impose a significant impact on human populations, ecosystems and the physical environment, by inducing extreme weather events, as well as fluctuations in temperatures that affect evapotranspiration;
  • Many jurisdictions still work on the basis that the right to water is not justiciable; 

To become effective, the ACHPR has called upon State Parties to the African Charter to adopt all necessary measures to implement the provisions of the Guidelines in their national legislation. States shall establish mechanisms that proactively enable the participation of individuals and communities at all stages of planning, decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of water resources management.

The guidelines insist that communities affected by projects with grave impacts on their human rights have the right to request that these projects are disallowed or stopped at any stage before or during their implementation, and to get remedies, as expeditiously as possible in case they are suffering from water contamination.

Also, States shall adopt a regulatory framework mandating business enterprises to avoid causing or contributing to negative impacts on the right to water while ensuring accountability and effective remedy for human rights harms caused by climate change. Gender equality and the protection of women’ and girls’ rights shall receive particular attention in the water sector.

For more information, please contact: hategekimana(at)