Water as a human right, water as a commodity: can SDG6 be a compromise?

Imad Antoine Ibrahim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The debate over whether water must be considered a human right or a commodity has been ongoing for a few decades. It has led to a conflict between supporters of a human rights approach to water and those who advocate an economic approach. The existing research either legitimizes or criticizes these approaches on the basis of several lessons that are vital to ensuring water access. These lessons are either not mentioned at all when the debate is taking place or are stated independently by the different parties to support their claims. For this reason, this article seeks to answer the following questions. First, what is the relevance of these lessons to ensuring water access? Second, can a compromise be found between viewing water as a human right or a commodity? The author demonstrates that these lessons play a very important role when they are addressed simultaneously because they are interconnected. Considering them at once is vital to addressing the question of water access on a case-by-case basis, with two case studies discussed here. The author also highlights how the use of Sustainable Development Goal 6 at the domestic level is a more practical approach to ensuring water access.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-493
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Commodity
  • Effective regulations
  • Human rights
  • SDG6
  • Unique nature
  • Water
  • n/a OA procedure

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