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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Press statement on the publication of the Guidelines on the Right to Water in Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) is pleased to announce the publication of the Guidelines on the Right to Water in Africa (the Guidelines) adopted at its 26th Extraordinary Session held from 16 to 31 July 2019 in Banjul, The Gambia.

The Guidelines were developed by the Commission’s Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa chaired by Honourable Commissioner Jamesina E. L. King.

Although the right to water is not expressly provided for under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter), its existence can be construed from the combination of Articles 16, 21, 22 and 24; and the right to water as enshrined in Article 15 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women (the Maputo Protocol).

As water is life and an essential resource for human survival, it was crucial to dedicate a soft law instrument to guiding States Parties in discharging their obligation to ensure satisfactory water supply to everyone, including vulnerable and marginalized groups and those with special water needs.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of the right to water for everyone without discrimination as an emergency preventive measure, requiring States to take steps to immediately and without delay guarantee this right. In that regard, this soft law instrument can guide States in realizing their obligation to ensure sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water supply to all with a human rights-based approach under normal circumstances and in the midst of a public health crisis such as the one at hand.

The Commission therefore urges States Parties to the African Charter to adopt and implement these Guidelines at the national level through legislation, policies and budgetary measures, and report on compliance to the Commission.

The Commission calls on other stakeholders such as National Human Rights Institutions and Civil Society Organisations to popularise the Guidelines across the Continent and also report on the status of realisation of the right to water in States’ Parties.


Done in Banjul, The Gambia, 1 July 2020