The human right to water and sanitation has been most commonly approached from the perspective of legal machinery and mechanisms for its implementation. Perhaps an underlying assumption among human rights practitioners is that once action for implementing the right is undertaken, its realization will be achieved. Often ignored are factors and processes at the micro-level where action for implementing the right actually takes place. This paper aims to propose a practical framework for analyzing this context that influences the action undertaken for realizing the right. The framework derives from an empirical study in India and is based upon an understanding of the micro-level processes at the ‘interface’ where the duty-bearing agents implementing action come face-to-face with the right-holders in the community. Both are situated in their own local contexts – the ‘implementation’ and the ‘socio-cultural’ contexts respectively. The two contexts can in turn be understood as constituted of distinct ‘norm-triads’ and the interactions between these ultimately lead to ‘realization’ or ‘non-realization’ of the right. The paper further contends that in order to translate the human right to water and sanitation into reality, it is necessary to identify the gaps and contradictions between the two contexts and address these appropriately and adequately.

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