Water Justice Programme

The Water Justice Programme (WaJuP) is part of the KNOTS Team at IDS. WaJuP critically examines the politics and pathways of water and sanitation policy and practice through interdisciplinary research on access, rights and control over these key resources. Through this research we ask how future global action on water and sanitation and water resources management can centralise the needs of the poor and most marginalised.

Water and sanitation for all provided in an equitable and sustainable way is central to global justice for poor women and men. Despite successive global declarations and efforts, hundreds of millions still suffer from lack of access. Simplistic portrayals of water and sanitation 'crises' have often led to misunderstandings on the nature of the problem and how to address it. The result has been a failure to centralise the needs and interests of the poor and marginalised within different solutions. Our research works in the following areas to seek sustainable and equitable solutions:

Rights and global politics

Even though water and sanitation are recognised as global rights, we ask:

  • Why is there such a gap between rights talk and rights practice?
  • How can questions of accountability, duties, responsibilities and financial arrangements be adequately addressed to make rights a reality for poor women and men? 
  • How do different rights jurisdictions interact with each other, and how can the rights of those most at risk be protected and strengthened?

Risk, sustainability and equity

Sanitation and water supply and water resources management need to become more equitable and sustainable in order to ensure future global poverty reduction, we ask:

  • How, given growing uncertainties, including rapid urbanisation and climate change policy can be constructed that more adequately responds to issues of risk and vulnerability?
  • Given that sustainability will always be contested, how can we ensure that we balance the right to water with other rights, including environmental justice and environmental flows to sustain ecosystems?

Growth and development

Water resources management and water and sanitation services are central to achieving equitable economic growth, we ask:

  • How can we ensure that policy instruments avoid harm and ensure fair entitlements for poor and marginalised communities?
  • How can managers and users be enabled to balance demands between sectors and between urban and rural areas more effectively in order to ensure greater human security?

Flows and Practices: The Politics of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Africa

This research seeks to link ideas of IWRM as constructed at the global and European level to their translation into narratives and practices in eastern and southern Africa. It will critically examine the interpretations and challenges of IWRM, hopefully contributing to improving water policies and practices and making them locally appropriate. More details

Going to Scale? The Potential of Community-Led Total Sanitation

Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a participatory approach that started in Bangladesh and has been spread to varying degrees in India, Cambodia, Indonesia, China, Nepal. To a limited degree, it has also been trialled in some African countries. More details

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IDS publications on international development research

The Global Politics of Water Grabbing

The contestation and appropriation of water is not new, but recent global debates on land grabbing are bringing increased attention to a water perspective in these discussions. Water grabbing takes place in a field that is plural-legal, both locally and globally. Formal law has been fostering grabs, both in land and water. More details

This is the image for IDS Policy Briefing 38, 'Ensuring Women and Girls’ Rights to Water and Sanitation Post-2015'.

Ensuring Women and Girls’ Rights to Water and Sanitation Post-2015

This policy briefing, part of the special MDG series, examines how a post 2015 framework can help ensure women and girls rights to water and sanitation. More details

Voices From the Source

Voices from the source: Struggles with local water security in Ethiopia

This assessment explores local water security in two very different sites in rural Ethiopia – a pastoral district in the eastern Somali region (Shinile), and a somewhat remote agricultural district in the south (Konso). More details

IDS publications on international development research

Introduction to the Special Issue: Water Grabbing? Focus on the (Re)Appropriation of Finite Water Resources

Recent large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural production (including biofuels), popularly known as 'land grabbing', have attracted headline attention. Water as both a target and driver of this phenomenon has been largely ignored despite the interconnectedness of water and land. More details

This is the cover for IDS Bulletin 43.2 ' ‘Some for All?’ Politics and Pathways in Water and Sanitation'.

'Some for All?' Politics and Pathways in Water and Sanitation

This IDS Bulletin looks back at the legacy of the UN’s New Delhi 1990 global consultation and the Dublin Conference that followed, assessing their meaning and significance, and challenging the wider global water and sanitation community to rethink approaches and emphases, shifting from targets and pronouncement to sustainability and local knowledge. More details

This is the image for The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation.

The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation

Scarcity is considered a ubiquitous feature of the human condition. It underpins much of modern economics and is widely used as an explanation for social organisation, social conflict and the resource crunch confronting humanity's survival on the planet. More details

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