This article argues that the internationally declared “human right to safe water and sanitation,” although characterized by soft legality, may yet support universal access to such basic entitlements by virtue of its strong legitimacy. From a strategic perspective, human rights do indeed provide legitimacy to collective struggles aimed at realizing socioeconomic justice in contexts in which the human dignity of the poor is being structurally denied, often including even a simple enactment of their basic rights. Beyond the current focus on legality and in connection with the global development agenda beyond 2015, the authors draw on a number of water-related legal and political cases meant to illustrate distinct human rights strategies. They explore the impact of contextualized “upstream initiatives” and the use of abstract rights as instruments towards securing concrete entitlements, to be seen as a crucial complement to the “downstream” ventures still favored by those primarily concerned with the protection of human dignity from the perspective of international standard-setting and supervision.,
Human Rights Quarterly
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

Marcatelli, M., & de Gaay Fortman, B. (2015). Between Soft Legality and Strong Legitimacy: a Political Economy Approach to the Struggle for Basic Entitlements to Safe Water and Sanitation. Human Rights Quarterly, 37(4), 941–976. doi:10.1353/hrq.2015.0065