Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Realizing the rights to water and sanitation

The rights to water and sanitation is the most important theme for the network and from the early days of its inception FAN has been lobbying for governments to recognize water and sanitation as a human rights.

After many years of promoting the rights to water and sanitation, in 2010 FAN celebrated the recognition of the rights by both the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council. In December 2011, FAN Global developed its advocacy strategy on the human rights to water and sanitation:


Objective: Countries develop roadmap for adopting human right based national action plan on water and sanitation (following 2010 global recognition of the human right to water and sanitation by the UN General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council).
Key opportunities: World Water Forum 6 2012; Rio + 20 2012; UN General Assembly Sept 2012; Regional conferences (AfricaSan, SACOSAN, LatinoSan and Africa Water Week), MDG Review Summit 2013; human right to water and sanitation on ‘Post 2015’ framework

Plan of action:

  • Raise awareness and expand networking base (environment, lawyers, academics, human rights organisations) to various stakeholders to increase mass support
  • Organise CSO forum at WWF6 to understand critical issues implementation issues
  • Develop indicators on realisation of national action plans as CSO contributions to current global dialogue on development of WASH rights indicators.
  • National level mobilization, training and capacity building programmes
  • Engage CSO WASH networks in UN Universal Periodic Review processes

Key resources


At the 6th World Water Forum in Marseille, WASH United, Freshwater Action Network and WaterLex launched a resource, The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in law and policy - a sourcebook, detailing laws and policies guaranteeing the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation at national, regional and international levels. 


Rights to water and sanitation; a handbook for activists

FAn Global has produced this handbook for community groups, human rights NGOs, rights-based development practitioners and aid workers to adopt or improve their human rights-based approach to advocacy on water and sanitation. It provides innovative and practical suggestions for promoting and protecting the rights to water and sanitation.

Download the handbook: 

English (PDF 1.1Mb), French (PDF 3Mb) and Spanish (PDF 765Kb)



Information portal on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. 


Good Practices towards Realizing the Rights of Human Beings to Water and Sanitation

Compiled by Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, this resource covers all aspects of the rights to water and sanitation. Practices presented in the book encompass legal and policy frameworks as well as implementation and accountability mechanisms. It is currently available in English and French, and will shortly also be available in Spanish.

Download the a pdf of the resource but please note their large file sizes: English (PDF 2.5Mb) French (PDF 2.5Mb)

WaterAid discussion paper: Rights-based approaches to increasing access to water and sanitation
This discussion paper is intended to serve as an introduction to the concepts, theories and legal frameworks behind the evolving understanding of rights-based approaches to water and sanitation.

Download the discussion paper (PDF 1Mb)

In the regions

There are lots of activities taking place in the regions, replace out more in the regional sections:


Asia - Monitoring South Asian governments’ commitments

The South Asian network FANSA is monitoring South Asian government commitments following their recent advocacy success which saw south asian governments recognise water and sanitation as rights at the third South Asian Conference on Water and Sanitation. 

Find out more on FANSA's pages


Africa - Right to water and sanitation workshops

In Africa, ANEW have held a number of workshops on the right to water and sanitation and how it can be used as an advocacy tool.


Latin America

Networks in Mexico and Central America 

On their websites: FAN Mexico and FAN Central America