Human Rigth to Water and Social Justice Working Group

Contact Person: Dolors Frigola

The Human Rigth to Water

Water is a limited natural resource and a public good fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for a decent life making it a precondition to achieving other human rights. It is both an individual right and a right to be provided with access to water. The latter means that people are entitled to demand access to water and sanitation to the public administration.

The Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Committee of the United Nations establishes in the General Comment no. 15 that human right to water as “the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses”. To ensure compliance with the right to water and sanitation, the following factors must be considered:

  • Availability. Water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses.
  • Quality. Water needed for each personal or domestic use must be safe therefore free from micro-organisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person’s health.
  • Physically accessible. Water, water facilities and services must be physically available for all the population sectors.
  • Economically accessible. Water, water facilities and services must be available for all. Costs, direct and indirect charges associated with water supply must be affordable without compromising or endangering the exercise of the other recognized rights.
  • Non-discriminatory. Water, water facilities and services must be accessible for all in fact and right, even to the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors of the population, without any discrimination.
  • Access to information. Accessibility means having the right to request, receiving and disseminating water related information.

Within the legal frame of reference in Catalonia, the conditions for applying the human right to water are defined by the 24/2015 law issued on the 29 th of July. In this law, urgent measures were defined to face the national housing and energy poverty emergency. Local administrations were enabled to add assumptions to the law contents, but non-restrictive ones to avoid neglects and rights violation.

Article no. 6 on measures to avoid energetic poverty, establishes in section 1 that “public administrations must guarantee the right to access the basic supply of water, gas and electricity for people and families in risk of residential exclusion, while the situation lasts”.

Who we are

The Human Right to Water and Social Justice Working Group (GDHA, Catalan acronym) is a work space based in social participation and all interested entities, collectives and individual citizens can be part of the proposed debates, reflections and tasks development.

The GDHA counts with the collaboration of the social groups for the defense of human and social rights, specifically the right to housing and energetic justice. The Council of Entities for Citizen Action, Space for Rights, Alliance against Energy Poverty (APE, Catalan Acronym) and the Affected by Mortgage Platform (PAH, Catalan Acronym). The rest of Working Groups in the OAT, the Plenary and the Permanent Commission also collaborate with the GDHA.

What we aim

The general goal of the group is to grant the human right to water in the city through:

  1. Work on the diagnosis and compliance with the precepts of the human right to water in the city, and of Law 24/2015 on housing and energy poverty.
  2. Review and adapt the administration’s action protocols in relation to the human right to water.
  3. Guarantee the appropriate procedures in order to ensure the right to information of the population.
  4. Specify the indicators to be used to make the human right to water effective.
  5. Conduct studies on the grade of extension of energy poverty in the city and on the situation of the people affected. Develop proposals to improve the situation.
  6. Build complicity networks with the people affected and the social groups working in these issues.
  7. Build collaborative work dynamics with the Administration in order to advance in the improvement and the fulfillment of these objectives. Also to make proposals and questioning possible dysfunctions to move forward.


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