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Selected International Legal Instruments Related to Water and Sanitation


Even though there had been previous international meetings where water-related issues had been discussed -most notably the 1977 Mar del Plata UN Conference on Water- the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development heralded a new stage in the growing global concern over freshwater scarcity. Throughout the text of Agenda 21 - released among the final documents of said event discussing the consequences on human well-being of environmental degradation in general - the concept of 'sustainable development' was tackled from a variety of angles. Chapter 18 dealt specifically with water issues. It correctly underlined the complications that arise when addressing a subject matter with as many dimensions as water, calling for integrated water resources planning and management, and raising awareness towards the many aspects - such as economic, social, environmental and sanitary - that a comprehensive plan for domestic water administration should take care of.

International gatherings having water as a focal point have ever since followed the trend set at the Rio Conference, acknowledging the multiple layers of the issue and gradually developing through their work the concept of 'integrated water resources management'. The World Water Forums, which have taken place since 1997 under the auspices of the UN and World Water Council, are a perfect example of the holistic approach that the debate on water requires, linking it to welfare, development and the environment, among other domains. The final documents of these fora are evidence of the global concern over water scarcity, a topic that has dominated the international agenda for the last decade. The challenge is to see the proposals for change included in them be translated to domestic policies and legislation and to the practice of international organizations and institutions.

The sum of instruments included in the selection below establish a framework of State obligations and of individual rights that the international community is called to honour and fulfil, respectively.

For international instruments concerning the human right to water, please follow this link

Note: The use of this page and the documents contained therein is free but acknowledgment of the source ( – International Environmental Law Research Centre) is compulsory.

SACOSAN VI, The Dhaka Declaration (2016)

text   194 [KB]

United Nations General Assembly Resolution – International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development”, 2018–2028 (2016)

text   376 [KB]

United Nations General Assembly Resolution – The Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (2015)

text   377 [KB]

UN General Assembly Resolution - Sanitation for All (2013)

text   77 [KB]

SACOSAN V, The Kathmandu Declaration (2013)

text   216 [KB]

Indus Waters Kishenganga Arbitration, 2013 (Final Award)

text   513 [KB]

United Nations General Assembly Resolution – The Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation (2013)

text   163 [KB]

World Water Forum VI – Marseilles Ministerial Declaration (2012)

text   704 [KB]

WHO Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (4th ed., 2011)

text   5322 [KB]

SACOSAN IV, The Colombo Declaration (2011)

text   1007 [KB]

World Health Assembly Resolution, Drinking-Water, Sanitation and Health (2011)

text   65 [KB]

United Nations General Assembly Resolution – The Human Right to Water and Sanitation, 2010

text   139 [KB]

Agreement on the Guarani Aquifer, 2010

text   156 [KB]

World Water Forum V – Istanbul Ministerial Statement (2009)

text   939 [KB]

SACOSAN III, The Delhi Declaration (2008)

text   172 [KB]

WHO Guidelines for Drinking-Water Quality (3rd ed. 2008)

text   3263 [KB]

African Union Assembly, Sharm El-Sheikh Water and Sanitation Commitments (2008)

text   68 [KB]

ILC Draft articles on the Law of Transboundary Aquifers, 2008

text   214 [KB]

Baglihar - Neutral Expert Determination, 2007 (Executive Summary)

text   165 [KB]

World Water Forum IV – Ministerial Declaration (2006)

text   173 [KB]

World Bank's Water Sector Strategy (2004)

text   5263 [KB]

United Nations-Water [Terms of Reference] (2003)

text   67 [KB]

GA Res. 58/217 declaring 2005-2015 the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Life' (2003)

text   35 [KB]

World Water Forum III – Ministerial Declaration (2003)

text   55 [KB]

Joint Statement to the III World Water Forum by the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health under the Commission on Human Rights (2003).

text   23 [KB]

Water for All – World Panel's Report on financing Water Infrastructure (2003)

text   261 [KB]

Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development ­ Report (including Plan of Implementation) (2002)

text   1018 [KB]

Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development – Declaration on Sustainable Development (2002)

text   78 [KB]

Bonn International Conference on Freshwater Recommendations for Action (2001)

text   1024 [KB]

Bonn International Conference on Freshwater Ministerial Declaration (2001)

text   156 [KB]

UN General Assembly Resolution 55/196 declaring 2003 the International Year of Freshwater (2000)

text   145 [KB]

World Water Forum II – Ministerial Declaration on Water Security in the 21st Century (2000)

text   23 [KB]

Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, 1999

text   107 [KB]

World Water Forum – Marrakech Declaration (1997)

text   16 [KB]

Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses, 1997

text   376 [KB]

Mahakali River Treaty (India/Nepal), 1996

text   3103 [KB]

Farakka Treaty (India/Bangladesh), 1996

text   1951 [KB]

World Bank 1993 Policy Paper on Water Resources Management

text   10024 [KB]

Chapter 18 (Freshwater) Agenda 21 (1992)

text   1015 [KB]

Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, 1992

text   98 [KB]

International Conference on Water and the Environment: Report of the Conference (1992)

text   8005 [KB]

Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development, 1992

text   84 [KB]

New Delhi Statement, Global Consultation on Safe Water and Sanitation, 1990

text   447 [KB]

United Nations Water Conference, Mar del Plata, Resolutions, 1977

text   72 [KB]

The Indus Waters Treaty, 1960

text   4533 [KB]