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Review of "The human right to water. Theory, practice and prospects". Cambridge University Press, 2017, edited by M. Langford and A.F.S. Russell, Water Alternatives

Lookup NU author(s): Emeritus Professor Esteban CastroORCiD



This is the final published version of a review published in its final definitive form in 2020. For re-use rights please refer to the publishers terms and conditions.


This collection is a useful addition to ongoing debates about the meaning, legitimacy, practicality, extent of implementation, impacts, obstacles and prospects of the Human Right to Water (HRW), focusing primarily on [I]law[/I], [I]policy[/I], and [I]practice[/I].The editors identify three main themes connecting the diversity of topics covered in the 20 chapters: a) the [I]legitimacy[/I] of the HRW, addressing the philosophical and legal controversies surrounding its status as a 'right', including the cultural relativism characterizing the dominant interpretation of the HRW, particularly in relation to sanitation, and the implications of the unsolved contradictions between individualistic and holistic understandings of 'rights' for the incorporation of the HRW in international human rights law, in policy, and practice; b) problems of conceptual and legal [I]determinacy[/I] affecting the HRW concerning the difficulties in defining universally valid levels of provision, in the allocation of responsibilities for its compliance, and in the weak justiciability of the HRW and social rights more generally, as well as in the [I]feasibility[/I] of the HRW given the high economic costs and the complexity involved in its practical implementation; c) the [I]politics of practice[/I], focused on the factors that could help overcome political barriers to the implementation of the HRW, including to what extent invoking the HRW could be a facilitating factor itself.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Castro JE

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water Alternatives

Year: 2020

Online publication date: 28/02/2020

Acceptance date: 17/02/2020

ISSN (electronic): 1965-0175