This year marks the tenth anniversary of the UN General Assembly resolution that declared water and sanitation stand-alone human rights. Yet, the politics of the human right to water is much older. It stretches back to at least the 1970s, when development actors first secured international recognition of the right; the 1990s, when both anti-privatization movements and multinational water corporations embraced it for their opposing campaigns; or the early 2000s, when lawyers and local communities invoked General Comment No. 15 on the Human Right to Water to improve affordable access. Today, the human right to water is the subject of diverse political struggles that seek to address the challenge that 750 million people do not have access to clean water—a lack that has been highlighted by the rapid spread of COVID-19.

This Special Issue of the journal Water invites contributions on the politics of human rights: its origins, its uses, and its effects. We are interested in papers that trace the emergence of the right in political discourse and legal documents, its use by different actors for diverse political goals, and/or its impact in practice—whether in improving access or affecting underlying politics. This Special Issue is interdisciplinary, and we encourage submissions from scholars and practitioners working in the social sciences, law, humanities, and natural sciences.

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