This article discusses needs, rights and responsibilities with regard to water, drawing on global discourses and cases from South Africa.
Taking the New Delhi and Dublin Statements as a point of departure, it describes the prevalent global discourses and sets of dichotomies that have characterised much of the water governance debates, such as human right/economic good, public/private, formal/informal, etc. It explores the boundaries of responsibilities between actors, and argues that, rather than an ‘either/or’ approach, new constellations of governance arrangements need to be sought in urban and rural settings, that acknowledge the differential needs of people and communities. While water is a public, justiciable socioeconomic good, the provision of which should lie ultimately with the government, there are myriad constellations across the spectrum of public to private provision that can meet the challenges. The dichotomies, and in particular the idea of ‘public’ and ‘private’, are only useful to a limited extent, as there are many ‘publics’ and many ‘privates’. The question is not so much who offers the service, but how it is offered or organised, how and by whom needs are defined and contested, to what extent needs are met or not, and how clear lines of accountability are established.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 43.2 (2012) Needs, Rights and Responsibilities in Water Governance: Some Reflections