Progressive realization of the human rights to water and sanitation: report

8 July 2020
Issued by
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation
At the 45th session of the HRC


Friendly version of the Special Rapporteur's report on progressive realization (English | Français | Español)


In the context of the human rights to water and sanitation, the obligation of progressive realization reflects the need of States to move beyond the minimum levels of water and sanitation service provision, specified as necessary immediately in accordance with States' minimum core obligations. In realizing the rights to water and sanitation, States are also required to utilize the maximum of their available resources.
In this regard, several questions arise:

  • How can the concepts of 'progressive realization', 'maximum available resources' and 'minimum core obligations' be translated in the context of the human rights to water and sanitation?
  • What elements and specificities of the human rights to water and sanitation should be considered in the application of the three concepts?
  • To which extent do human rights monitoring bodies have been assessing the implementation of States' obligations adequately applying the three concepts mentioned above? How can those bodies further address those concepts?
  • How can compliance with the obligation of progressive realization be assessed? How to translate the standard of reasonableness (and related standards such as adequacy, appropriateness, and proportionality) in the water and sanitation sector?

The Special Rapporteur held consultations to prepare the report. On 22 October 2019, a public consultation was held in New York, together with Franciscans International (see flyer.)

The Special Rapporteur and his team also organized online bilateral consultations via Skype on 1 November, 8 November and 15 November 2019.


A decade has passed since water and sanitation has been explicitly recognized as a human right, yet the specifics of how to implement the obligation to progressively realize those human rights still require further clarification and understanding. In this report, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Léo Heller, examines the nature of the obligation of progressive realization as it relates specifically to the human rights to water and sanitation. In this context, the obligation comprises several components, each of which needs to be achieved if the obligation as a whole is to be satisfied.

In these reports, the concepts of progressive realization of human rights, of using the maximum of its available resources and of fulfilling the minimum core obligations are addressed. The Special Rapporteur unpacks the three constituent parts, clarifies each one and then provides an integrated analysis of the concept, illustrating ways to monitor its implementation.

Inputs received

In line with previous practice, the Special Rapporteur sought input from States and non-State actors by distributing a questionnaire. All concerned stakeholders were invited to submit their contributions by responding to the questionnaire by 17 April 2020.

Questionnaire to States: English | Français | Español
Questionnaire to non-States: English | Français | Español



* Late submission