Book Review – Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water Law and Human Rights (International Studies in Human Rights) by Dr Knut Bourquain, Brill Academic Publishers, 2008.

Posted on December 19, 2009. Filed under: Books, Human Rights | Tags: , , , |

Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water Law and Human Rights (International Studies in Human Rights)

Dr Knut Bourquain

Brill Academic Publishers, 2008. ISBN: 9789004169548

Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective

Dr Bourquain's 'Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective'

The subject matter of insufficient water access for the worlds population and how it pertains to human rights, has been a very hot topic with the advent and recent urgency of climate change policy. For decades, the global deliberation on facilitating drinking water accessiblility has been kept primarily to NGO’s. What has truly been difficult with water and how it applies to international law is the arrival at any form of unequivocal definition. Further, and most astonishingly is that there has been practically no broad legal breakdown and/or groundbreaking study of the international law relating to the existing agreements and security of access to water. This is a fissure which is most competently patched up in this book. One may regard this as one of the seminal works on the topic it so effectively thrash’s out the topic of water rights.

Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water Law and Human Rights

Dr. Knut Bourquain

The book, Freshwater Access from a Human Rights Perspective: A Challenge to International Water and Human Rights Law is authored by Dr Knut Bourquain, a lawyer and former lecturer at Germany’s Giessen University’s. He has become somewhat of a quasi water law expert over the past few years, having specialized in, taught in, and published what could be considered a respectable academic quantity on the topic of water law and how it applies to international human rights.

Dr Bourquain argues and makes a very clear distinction on the fundamentals of an exceedingly scattered area of law and human rights. He meticulously breaks the topic down into smaller and more easily understood parts which makes the work quite accessible to the lay reader but also brings clarity and definition to a seasoned human rights expert on a topic that has been quite foggy until now. He makes the interesting point that the inadequate accessibility to the vital supply of water is not an inescapable end result of water insufficiency. Surprisingly, arid countries have enough wherewithal to realize the necessary water requirements of their inhabitants and there are people in countries where water could be considered ubiquitous that put up with a form of water stress, too. Consequently, a lack in freshwater access can be seen as a dilemma of poor distribution and poor management.

The author analyses very closely the various shortfalls in the prevailing law of international water and human rights and argues for models that might go the distance in fortifying a human rights-based approach to freshwater access. Dr Bourquain does this by proposing both proper legal suitability as well as the appropriateness in the real world.

We felt this was a fine book on a topic given little time and effort to on the publication front. The book closes the gap on water resources and human rights and will make a terrific addition to not only a human rights library collection, but a climate change collection. This book has our thumbs up and we recommend it for purchase.

Table of contents

Acknowledgement;

A. Introduction; I. The background situation – water scarcity as a global problem; II. Causes of the current crisis; III. Strategies of crisis management; IV. The role of law in problem-solving; V. The human rights-based approach to freshwater access in international law; VI. Synopsis of the study;

B. The law on international watercourses and its deficits in providing freshwater access; I. Introduction; II. Survey of the development of international water law in the 20th century; III. Analysis of international water law in regard to fulfilling the basic human need for water; IV. Concluding observations on international water law’s deficits;

C. Elements of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; I. Introduction; II. Characteristics of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; III. Human rights-based approaches vs. policy concepts?; IV. Freshwater access in the context of the debate on rights to development and a clean environment; V. Elaboration of the scope of obligations attached to a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; VI. Universalism, particularism and pluralistic legal systems; VII. Concluding observations on the characteristics of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access;

D. The human rights-based approach to freshwater access within current international human rights law; I. Introduction; II. Freshwater access within international human rights treaties; III. Freshwater access as part of customary international human rights law; IV. Freshwater access as part of general principles of international law; V. Extraterritorial obligations of states concerning the basic human need for water; VI. Concluding observations on the international human rights law’s contribution to freshwater access;

E. Improving a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; I. Introduction; II. The need to connect human rights law with international water law; III. Establishing new international treaty law; IV. Specifying and developing the human rights-based approach to freshwater access by the interpretation of existing law; V. Soft law and policy instruments strengthening a human rights-based approach to freshwater access; VI. Concluding observations on prospects for the improvement of a human rights-based approach to freshwater access;

F. Conclusions; Bibliography; Index.

Michael Simon
The Human Rights Book Review

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