Human Rights Approach to Water in the Ethiopian Context: Legal and Policy Assessments and Challenges

  • Abiy Chelkeba Worku
Keywords: Ethiopia, human rights, human right to water, socio-economic rights, water


The supply of accessible, adequate, clean and drinkable water in order to improve the quality of life has remained a challenge for many countries. One possible way of ensuring accessibility to clean water is to articulate it from a human rights perspective. International human right instruments have recently been invoked to infer human right to water and are increasingly getting scholarly attention. In Ethiopia, laws and policies have been enacted in the last two decades to enhance a legally protected access to clean water. This article discusses rights of citizens and obligations of the state related to the right to clean water as enshrined in the constitution and other relevant laws. The article explores the manner in which the right to clean water is spelled out boldly in the FDRE Constitution. It further explores how the human right to water is elaborated in the Water Resource Management Proclamation and Water Resource Management Policy of the country and other laws and policies. However, there are some legal impediments that have become barriers to the enjoyment of the right. Absence of proper judicial interpretation of the right to water made the exact nature and scope of the right unknown in the Ethiopian context. This article argues that the human right to water is justiciable and it is within the power of the courts to interpret the human right to water vis-à-vis international and regional human rights instruments. It, thus, proposes that Ethiopian courts should adopt an expansive approach to interpreting the right in crystallizing the exact nature and scope of the right and improve the quality of life via citizens’ enjoyment of the right to water.