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TitleConflict and cooperation over water
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Table of Contents
Executive summary
	Scope and focus
	Approach, methodology and outline
Overview of human rights law applicable to water conflicts
	The human right to water
	Other relevant human rights
	Human rights principles
	The transboundary dimension of human rights
Understanding conflicts over water
	Increasing competition over water
	Typologies of conflicts over water
		Level of conflict
		Scale of conflict
		Basis of conflict
		Actors involved in the conflict
		Impact of conflict
		Focus of this study
	Drivers of conflict
	A question of governance
Impact on the realisation of human rights
	Illustrative examples of conflicts and their impact of human rights
		Conflicts between different sectors neglecting basic human needs
		Inequalities in the context of household use
		Conflicts affecting the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and communities
		Conflicts over contamination and disproportionate affects on disadvantaged
		Gender inequalities
		Lack of participation in decision-making
	Risk of human rights violations
	Transboundary water conflicts and human rights
Overview of applicable international and regional law and its
reflection of human rights
	International and regional water law
	Humanitarian law
	EU law
Current policy initiatives at the international and EU level and their
	Initiatives at the international level
		Initiatives in the context of human rights
		Other initiatives
	Initiatives at the EU level
		Human rights
		Foreign affairs and water diplomacy
		Humanitarian aid
	Impact of these initiatives and the integration of human rights
Implications of Human Rights for addressing conflicts over water
	Prioritise basic human requirements
	Ensure non-discrimination and equality
	Devise adequate legal frameworks, policies and regulation in line
	with human rights
	Responsibilities of companies
	Enable participation
	Human rights impact assessments
	Accountability and access to justice
Policy recommendations for the EU and the European Parliament
	Recommendations for EU-internal processes
	Recommendations for engagement with partner countries
	Recommendations for engagement in international fora
	Specific recommendations for the European Parliament
Document Text Contents
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EP/EXPO/B/DROI/FWC/2013-08/Lot8/04 EN
July 2015 -PE549.056 © European Union, 2015


Conflict and cooperation over water -
The role of the EU in ensuring the

realisation of human rights


The human right to water has been firmly established and its implications for policy-
making have been discussed in many fields. Thus far, this has hardly been the case for
conflicts over water. This study discusses what it means to integrate human rights in
the context of governing water and addressing conflicts over water. A human rights
perspective on conflicts over water will help formulating equitable water governance
strategies. To support such developments, the EU should integrate human rights in
policies and other measures to address water conflicts at all levels. The EU’s activities
should be guided by the human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality;
participation and access to information; accountability and access to justice; and a
priority for water uses as far as they are necessary for the realisation of human rights.
This relates to internal legislation and policies, development cooperation,
engagement in transboundary basins, political dialogues with partner countries,
international fora such as the UN Human Rights Council, and the negotiations on the
post-2015 development agenda. The European Parliament, specifically, should
support such initiatives with resolutions, engagement in UN and inter-parliamentary
fora, and enhancement of public awareness.

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Policy Department DG External Policies


well-off households continued to be supplied with large amounts of water (Stephens 1996: 25). The
situation in Delhi during the summer season is similar where the better-off benefit from continued
supply, while water services are discontinued in poorer areas (see generally Janakarajan, Llorente and
Zérah, 2006).

Inequalities in water allocation for domestic purposes between different population groups: UN
human rights bodies have repeatedly raised concerns about water shortages affecting Palestinians. In
2010, the Human Rights Committee stated that is was ‘concerned at water shortages affecting
disproportionately the Palestinian population of the West Bank, due to prevention of construction and
maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as the prohibition of construction of wells’
(Human Rights Committee 2010: para. 18). It linked its concerns to Art. 6 and Art. 26 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to life and non-discrimination, respectively. In 2014,
the Human Rights Committee raised concerns regarding Palestinians in the Gaza strip as well as Bedouins
in the Negev and their access to water (Human Rights Committee, 2014: para. 9, 12). The Committee on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
voiced similar concerns (CESCR, 2011: para. 29; CERD, 2012: para. 24-25).

Exclusion from access to drinking water: In many other parts of the world, disadvantaged,
marginalised and discriminated against groups are also excluded from access to water on an equal basis.
The Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation explained how Dalits
are often unable to collect water from shared wells, have been forced into separate lines to wait for
collection, and have faced physical attacks and other forms of violence when seeking to access facilities
(SR WatSan, 2012: para. 36).

Tensions between long-term residents and refugees: For instance in Jordan, tensions exist between
the existing population and Syrian refugees (USAID, 2014: 25). The Special Rapporteur on the human
right to safe drinking water and sanitation reported that water supply per person per day has dropped
from 80 litres to below 30 litres in some areas of Jordan upon the arrival on Syrian refugees, who mostly
reside outside of refugee camps (SR WatSan, 2014b: para. 48). At the same time, many refugees struggle
to secure access to water supplied by tankers or cannot afford services (SR WatSan, 2014b: para. 55, 57).

4.1.3 Conflicts affecting the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and communities
Similar to the context of household use, communities and small-scale farmers also face disadvantages in
the context of conflict over water that may threaten their livelihoods. A few short case studies illustrate
their marginalisation:

Impacts of export-oriented agriculture: Agriculture is not a homogenous sector and many conflicts
exist between large-scale agriculture (often of cash crops targeted for export) and the livelihoods of local
small-scale or subsistence farmers. One example is Kenya, which produces millions of tons of flowers for
the European, American and Japanese market, which has an impact on water availability for local farmers
and their livelihoods (Wuppertal Institut, 2005: 111).

Impacts of water grabbing: Such conflicts related to export-oriented water use have become more
pronounced in recent years in the context of water grabbing. Water grabbing can be understood as the
appropriation of water ‘and the control of [its] associated uses and benefits, with or without the transfer
of ownership, usually from poor and marginalised to powerful actors’ (Mehta, Veldwisch and Franco,
2012). It has significant implications for control over water resources, with communities often losing
access to water for irrigation (Mehta, Veldwisch and Franco, 2012: 202). An example from Morocco
illustrates how water grabbing in the context of a public-private partnership for a pipeline from a
mountain region to plantations in the Souss Valley has marginalised small-scale farmers and their
livelihoods. The growth of lucrative fruit is export-oriented and most benefits the economic elite and
reinforces their control over water and political control more generally (Houdret, 2012).

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Conflict and cooperation over water - the role of the EU in ensuring the realisation of human rights


Over-exploitation by industrial water users: Some bottling plants, for instance in India, have faced
resistance by communities over the use of groundwater that resulted in water shortages for communities
due to depleting water tables. In some instances, licences were not renewed or companies chose to
discontinue their operations (Chopra, 2010: 20-21; Winkler, 2012: 32).

4.1.4 Conflicts over contamination and disproportionate affects on disadvantaged

Conflicts not only exist over the availability and quantity of water, but also stem from pollution of
available water resources as demonstrated by these short case studies:

Disadvantaged communities affected by contamination through sewage: Exposure to wastewater is
typically greater for marginalised populations (Corcoran et al., 2010: 23). Informal settlements are located
on riverbanks in many cities, and residents often rely on rivers for water supply and are exposed to
wastewater discharge from upstream parts of the city. For example, a community in Argentina called
Chacras de Merced was affected by an upstream sewage treatment plant with insufficient capacity that
resulted in raw sewage being dumped into the river, polluting the river and the groundwater in the
locality (SR WatSan 2013: para. 77).

Disadvantaged communities affected by agricultural contamination: Nitrate contamination due to
agricultural production is widespread in the San Joaquin Valley in California. A recent study revealed that
disadvantaged communities with relatively high proportions of minority Latino residents are more likely
to rely on water that is high in nitrates than other communities (Balasz et al., 2011).

Extractive industries affecting the rights of indigenous peoples: Extractive industries are often set up
in remote areas or regions where predominantly indigenous communities live. While providing valuable
natural resources to economies, such industries are often accompanied by tremendous water pollution
challenges, endangering the human rights of local communities and local livelihoods. Indigenous
peoples often bear the brunt of such pollution. Negative impacts include health problems, but also the
disruption of traditional livelihood activities and cultures (SR Indigenous, 2011: 9-10).

4.1.5 Gender inequalities
In many instances, processes of marginalisation have a gendered dimension. Women and girls often bear
the burden of water collection for domestic use (JMP 2011: 28), and where conflicts over water result in
less water being available for domestic use, their burden increases, for instance by having to walk farther
distances to collect water. Moreover, intra-household inequalities often negatively affect women (Winkler
et al., 2014). In the context of agriculture, women often lack access to water rights, irrigation, and
decision-making processes. However, the gendered dimensions of water conflicts are very difficult to
assess due to a lack of data. Even the in-depth study on local water conflicts mentioned above did not
consider private water conflicts such as conflicts between wife and husband over the use of water
(Ravnborg et al., 2012: 341).

4.1.6 Lack of participation in decision-making
The marginalisation in conflicts over water at the level of access often goes hand in hand with a lack of
participation in decision-making on water governance. Subsistence farmers, including female farmers,
might not be recognised as legitimate stakeholders in decisions on water management (WGF, 2012: 8).
Similarly, indigenous peoples often experience that their right to free, prior and informed consent is not
adequately ensured in practice (see e.g. SR Indigenous, 2011: 12). Such a lack of participation makes it
difficult to challenge existing marginalisation, as such reinforcing and entrenching patterns of
inequalities and exclusion even further.

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Policy Department DG External Policies


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