Presentations at a glance

International Trade Rules for Promoting Global Water-use Efficiency

Manzoor Ahmad, Senior Fellow, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) Geneva & Former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the WTO (Switzerland)

This presentation provides an exhaustive mapping of the rules of international economic law that pertain to the regulation of sanitation and water services. Broadly conceived, international economic law is a field of international law that encompasses both the conduct of sovereign states in international economic relations, and the conduct of private parties involved in cross-border economic and business transactions. This includes, among other things, international trade law, international financial law, and traditional private international law fields.


The Trade in Water Services -- How Does GATS Apply to the Water and Sanitation Services Sector?

Rebecca Bates, Lecturer, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London (UK)

This paper explores the potential impact of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (‘GATS’) on the water and sanitation services sector. It argues that water and sanitation require special consideration in the liberalisation debate given their essential role in promoting human health and survival and their position as a human right. GATS has the potential to benefit the sector through creating increased efficiencies and encouraging additional funds to expand dilapidated infrastructure. Conversely, the at times punitive nature of trade laws risk undermining individual human rights and national legislation. At present there is some uncertainty as to how the Agreement will apply to the sector as no WTO Members have nominated their water sectors for liberalisation. The recent US — Gambling decision demonstrates the power of the WTO to define and potentially to extend a Member State’s original commitment. Similarly, it has been argued that certain provisions have the scope to trigger a commitment without the consent of the Member State. This paper argues that given the essential role of water and sanitation, greater certainty must be provided to ensure the effective operation of trade laws, the validity of national legislation and the protection of water consumers.


Intellectual Property Rights and Access to Clean Water: Friends, Foes or Something in Between?

Bryan Mercurio, Professor, Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Access to clean drinking water is a basic necessity to life. In many parts of the world, access to clean drinking water is limited. In the developed world, there are no access issues at present but access may become a problem as cities expand and clean water sources shrink or become polluted. In this regard, water treatment/purification and water desalination are two potential solutions to the access problem. Both require technological advancements to reduce costs and energy use and expand the potential market. This presentation will evaluate the role that intellectual property rights (IPRs)- namely, patents - play in promoting technological advancements with a view to determining whether such rights accelerate or hinder access to clean water.


Foreign Governmental Suppliers’ Investment: Profit or Aid?

Shintaro Hamanaka, Economist, Office of Regional Economic Integration of the Asian Development Bank (Philippines)

While there has been a large attention on the recipient counties of water sector investment because they should strike a delicate balance between the economic rationale of attracting investment and protecting human rights (access to water), we should also not overlook the perspective of the investor in analyzing foreign investment in the water sector. While active players in the water sector are so-called Water Majors such as Veolia and Thames Water, the role played by governmental suppliers (such as waterworks bureaus in other countries) is becoming important. This research sheds light on this aspect by analyzing the policy of waterworks bureaus of Japanese prefectures (say, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Waterworks Bureau) that are keen to export “water system” to developing countries. What is the critical difference between European Water Majors and Japanese waterworks bureaus? What is the motivation of (Japanese) waterworks bureaus for investing overseas? Do they seek profit or is their investment similar to an official aid? Is the quality of water provided overseas similar to that provided in the home country (Japan) or do they supply “substandard” water outside Japan? What would be the likely consequence when the investment fails? What are the obstacles for the waterworks bureaus to operate like a private sector?


Are Investments in Water Different? A Legal and Economic Exploration of Specialized Regimes for Utilities in International Investment Treaty Arrangements

Jansen Calamita, Director, Investment Treaty Forum, British Institute of International and Comparative Law (United Kingdom)

Treaty arrangements with respect to investment make few distinctions among investments.  Under the predominant asset-based approach to the definition of an “investment,” almost any kind of economically valuable activity can in principle qualify as an “investment” subject to the treaty’s guarantees of protection.  In some instances, states have used ‘carve-outs’ or ‘negative lists’ to limit the application of the treaty’s substantive provisions to certain economic sectors.  In other instances, states have listed ‘non-conforming measures’ which will not be subject to the treaty’s terms.  Only rarely, however, have states undertaken specialized drafting to address investments and regulation within a specific economic sector (e.g., NAFTA Ch. 14 addressing investment in financial services).One may hypothesise about the reasons why states have largely taken a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to investment protection:  time and cost constraints on political actors; lack of information (or inefficient processing of information) regarding the operation of these treaties across investment sectors; etc.  Whatever the reasons driving states’ general failure to differentiate among investments (whether by mode or sector) in investment treaty arrangements, from an economic perspective there is reason to question the efficiency of the blanket approach and its likelihood of fostering successful investments for the host state and the investors. Industries like utilities are economically different.  Utilities, like water, are characterized by three features:  first, their technologies require large specific, sunk, investments; second, their technologies result in important economies of scale and scope; and third, their products are massively consumed.  These features and their combined effects are at the core of the contracting problems that have traditionally raised the need for governmental regulation of utilities in both the developed and developing world.  Economic research strongly indicates that in order for highly regulated industries like utilities to function efficiently and successfully they need institutions which can credibly mediate between opportunistic tendencies of both the utility operator and government.


The Erosion of the Concept of Public Service in Water Concessions

Fernando Dias Simões, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Macau

Concession contracts are increasingly being used in the water services industry throughout the world. Normally water services are entrusted to a private entity by means of a partnership between the public sector and a private company where the latter exclusively operates, maintains and carries out the development of infrastructures or supplies water, ensuring that the service is provided under conditions which are not necessarily the same as prevailing market conditions. With the globalisation of markets, concession contracts are also increasingly associated with foreign investment. Water concession contracts have frequently sparked vigorous public debate because water is considered by citizens as a vital resource and access to water a human right. Water services are characterised by their universality and by the fact that, in most cases, they are provided under a regime of monopoly (local, regional or even national). This means that the provision of these service should be subject to compliance with certain fundamental principles: universality, equality, continuity, impartiality, adaption to the needs of users, etc.; and entails the recognition of special rights to the users of such services and the imposition of some restrictions to the parties’ freedom of contract. The protection of citizen-users, the third-party beneficiaries to such concession contracts, is essential for the success of these partnerships. Over the last decades legislators worldwide have recognised the important role of consumer policy in shaping the market. The protection of consumers, their interests and their safety is an essential part of countries’ overall objective to improve the quality of life of all citizens. With the ongoing globalisation of markets and the internationalisation of water concession contracts, arbitration is more and more recognised as the best mechanism for the resolution of possible disputes which may arise. The aim of this presentation is to discuss the challenges brought about by privatisation in the water industry by looking into the most pressing issues that have been discussed in international investment arbitration over the last years. What challenges are being faced by the parties to the concession contract? Do contractual provisions and general statutory rules suit the interests of the parties, or do they need to be re-shaped? Is the current financial crisis introducing any special difficulties in the execution of these contracts? Are the interests of citizens-users being taken into account in the course of investment arbitration proceedings? What lessons can be learned and improvements introduced?


Fragmentation of Water Policies as a Source of Disputes in Asia-Pacific

Sufian Jusoh, Director of Center of International Law, Faculty of Law, National University of Malaysia & Chairman of the Asian African Expert Group on Customary International Law (Malaysia)

Water is one of the most important components in industrial activities, ranging from the low-technology food industry to high technology water industry. Without enough water supply industries will not be able to efficiently operate. Water industry and water policy is very fragmented across various jurisdictions around the world. The fragmentation of the policy making and policy implementation relating to water especially water supply could have an impact on three major areas namely to those pertaining to investment in the water sector, those concerning investment in non-water sectors, and the impact of the minimum standards of protection to investors and their investments after an investment is made. The fragmentation of the policy making also calls for a re-examination of the constitutional framework of certain countries from the context of multilayered governance and the separation of power of various authorities relating to water management. From the perspective of investment liberalization, countries may use liberalization of investment sectors in an international investment agreement to offer some kind of reform to the water sector, to reduce fragmentation and to encourage foreign investment in water related infrastructure. In addition, countries need to develop policies to structure water industry that cater for large scale investments by both foreign and domestic investors, especially to address access to water for investment to function properly. The article examines water policy in three different countries, Australia, India and Malaysia study the main issues raised namely the fragmentation in the water policy, the liberalization of water sector and the potential impact on the minimum standard of protections afforded to investment and investors, not just in water sector but also on investors relying on water as a main source to deliver their goods and services. Drawing on the water policies in the three countries, the article makes recommendations on how countries may draw their water policy.


Development of China’s Water Markets to hold the three red lines

Debra Tan, China Water Risk

Given China’s limited water and rampant water pollution it is no surprise that the Chinese government released the “Three Red Lines” policy to protect its water resources in 2011. Since then multiple policies have been put in place to control water use, improve water efficiency and tackle water pollution. Efforts to hold the Red Line on water pollution are obvious with Premier Li Keqiang declaring “war on pollution” last year. Also new and more stringent industrial and wastewater discharge standards have been implemented. Efforts to hold the lines on water efficiency and water use are less visible but equally important given water’s role in energy & food and China’s limited water resources. In China the situation is dire with 92.7% of power generated water reliant in 2013. Moreover, water scarce provinces (annual renewable water resources below the World Bank Water Poverty Mark of 1,000m³) accounted for 44% of GDP and 38% of agriculture output value. There are water caps for industry, agriculture & municipal as part of national water quotas. These will obviously impact water allocation across industries. Given China’s limited water and rampant water pollution it is no surprise that the Chinese government released the “Three Red Lines” policy to protect its water resources in 2011. Since then multiple policies have been put in place to control water use, improve water efficiency and tackle water pollution. Efforts to hold the Red Line on water pollution are obvious with Premier Li Keqiang declaring “war on pollution” last year. Also new and more stringent industrial and wastewater discharge standards have been implemented. Efforts to hold the lines on water efficiency and water use are less visible but equally important given water’s role in energy & food and China’s limited water resources. In China the situation is dire with 92.7% of power generated water reliant in 2013. Moreover, water scarce provinces (annual renewable water resources below the World Bank Water Poverty Mark of 1,000m³) accounted for 44% of GDP and 38% of agriculture output value. There are water caps for industry, agriculture & municipal as part of national water quotas. These will obviously impact water allocation across industries.


Integrating Water Services Markets -- The regulation of water services in the EU internal market

Panagiotis Delimatsis, Professor, Faculty of Law, Director, Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC), Tilburg University (Netherlands)

Water, particularly freshwater, is an exhaustible natural resource. Therefore, access to clean, safe and affordable water can only be managed nowadays to avoid any unnecessary use of water, butt also allow for continuous supply of such an important factor of public well-being. The EU water policy has mainly focused on the environmental aspects of access to water. Less attention has been paid on the regulation of access to and distribution of water as yet another service with noteworthy public good characteristics.  This paper aims to link the water sector in the discussion relating to services of general interest (SGI) within the European Union. In this respect, and after a review of the relevant EU internal market rules, it will discuss the application of the current framework relating to SGI to the water sector, discuss the scope of public service obligations (PSOs), and the relevant rules on government procurement.


External Competences of the EU in the Field of Water Services Trade and Regulation

Christoph Herrmann, Professor, Faculty of Law, Passau University (Germany)

Ever since its creation as European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958, the (now) European Union (EU) has actively participated in the international economic order. This role as an international economic actor has always been based on the provisions on the Common Commercial Policy (CCP), originally to be found in Art. 113 EEC Treaty, later in Art. 133 EC Treaty and now in Art. 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU). Whereas in the past, the E(E)C only had competences for trade in goods, the Treaty of Nice (2002) expanded the scope of the competences also to trade in services but provided for some peculiar procedural safeguards for certain services. The Treaty of Lisbon (2009) made the competence of the EU in the field of services trade an exclusive one, but also limits the use of it in certain areas to some extent (cf. Art. 207 (5) and (6) TFEU) procedurally and substantially. The exact meaning of these limitations is subject of intense controversy in academic writings. Furthermore, the Treaty of Lisbon has expanded the Union’s competences to the field of foreign direct investment. In addition to the explicit competence under Art. 207 TFEU, the EU may also be externally competent on the basis of so-called implied powers (now mentioned in Art. 216 (1) and Art. 3 (2) TFEU). It may hence derive an external competence in particular from measures adopted domestically. The use of the external competences of the EU is subject to several guiding principles which have been re-phrased and grouped together by the Treaty of Lisbon (2009). This includes in particular Art. 21 TEU and its application to the CCP via Artt. 205, 206, 207 (1) TFEU but also the provision on services of general economic interest (Art. 14 TFEU). The mandates for current trade negotiations of the EU (e.g. for a Trans-atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP) mention the special role of services of general economic interest in the EU. How exactly this normative framework translates into actual trade policy-making in relation to services of general economic interest is still an unanswered question. The presentation will analyse the normative framework of the EU. It will focus on the exact scope of competences in relation to water services trade and water governance, on the role of the guiding principles and on the effects of the limitations to the use of EU powers as described above.


Demand for Infrastructure Investment for Water Services: Key Features and Assessment Methods

Sacchidananda Mukherjee, Associate Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy;
Debashis Charkraborty, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi (India)

The challenges to provision of water services shift as a country moves along the development ladder. Growing competition across the sectoral usage pattern of water – i.e., among agriculture, industry, ecological – also puts additional challenge of securing sustainable sources for long term sustainability of water infrastructure projects. Growing urbanization, industrialization and intensification of agriculture and not having adequate wastewater treatment facilities – at least in developing countries and LDCs - puts additional demand for investment in water treatment infrastructure  to meet requisite quality standards. Sustaining safe sources of drinking water is a challenge not only for developing but also for their developed counterparts. Investment in collection, treatment and disposal of domestic wastewater (including sewage and sanitation) is an integral part of investment in water supply infrastructure. Challenges in meeting the demand for water services infrastructure are many and this presentation highlights the concern areas in a wider developmental context. This presentation explores various methods of estimation of demand for water services infrastructure and identifies the most appropriate one based on an extensive literature review. Investment in maintenance of water services is as crucial as investment in greenfield projects, and therefore this presentation estimates demand for investment in maintenance separately. Finally the analysis also explores possible sources of financing the infrastructure in water services with special reference to developing countries and LDCs.  


Microfinance in Water and Sanitation Services: Identifying best practices

Dr. Allen Lai, Professor & Director of the Institute of Health Economics and Management Asia-Pacific, ESSEC Business School (Singapore);
Dr. Jonatan Lassa, Center for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS) S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Existing literature on adaptation financing still lack empirical evidence. This research contributes to the debate and literature of adaptation financing at the grassroots level in urban context. This paper presents good practice and lesson from a community based sanitation microfinance initiative that recently adopted by Kemijen Village in Eastern part of Semarang City, Indonesia. The paper argues that micro-finance can be used as a community based adaptation planning of Semarang City if the conditions for sustainability can be controlled by local actors at the village level. Adaptation fund through a community based micro-finance mechanism is a possible adaptation and risk management path. Participatory design of ‘sanitation credit’ mechanism suggests promising result because such mechanism not only allows local community to find ‘best fit’ approach in solving immediate problems such as water access and community sanitation but also open up the possibility for community climate and disaster financing.


The Right of the Host State to Regulate Water Services

Catharine Titi, Researcher, Faculty of Law, University Paris II

Environmental legislation, and state measures for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health are two fields of public policymaking that may have a direct impact on a foreign investment and may overlay with investment protections afforded by the regulating state in an investment agreement. Given this potential for overlap between water, investment and state regulation, it is not astonishing that several water-related claims have been initiated, against both developing and industrialised countries. Among the numerous examples, one may cite the famous Aguas del Tunari, S.A. dispute against Bolivia and related events that became known as Bolivia’s Water War as well as the first Vattenfall dispute against Germany, involving local authorities’ measures relating to compliance with cleanness of river water targets of EU legislation, earning Germany its first ever known investment arbitration. The present presentation will query into the extent to which a host state is able to adopt measures relating to water services affecting, inter alia, the economic value of an investment without violating an international investment agreement to which it is party and, significantly, without incurring financial liability vis-à-vis the foreign investor. To do so it will focus on the presence of the right of the host state to regulate water in conventional law and customary international law, and it will look further into the potential impact of soft law instruments, such as the OECD Guidelines of Multinational Enterprises. A final section will conclude.


Mechanisms to Protect Public Interest in Water Disputes in International Investment Arbitration

Rahul Donde, Associate, Law-firm Lévy Kaufmann-Kohler, Geneva (Switzerland)

There has been a marked increase in the number of water disputes over the past few years. Some of these disputes have taken place in an investment arbitration context, with a foreign investor suing a host-State for steps taken by that State towards regulating its water sector. Most of the publicly known disputes concern concessions given to foreign investors for rendering water distribution and sewage treatment services. Recently, a €90 million claim was filed against Estonia for its failure to permit water tariff increases. The number of investment disputes involving water is expected to rise. Water is ‘indispensable for leading a life in human dignity’. It is a fundamental aspect of human development. It cannot be disputed that there is a considerable public interest in water disputes. In these circumstances, given the increasing number of water-related investment disputes, an analysis of the avenues through which this public interest may be safeguarded becomes important. Procedurally, public interest may be protected through amicus curiae submissions. Third parties to a dispute have often made submissions on the right to water and investment guarantees, and these submissions have been found to be useful. Disclosure of disputing Party submissions in an arbitration, public hearings etc. are also useful as they allow for greater public participation in an investment dispute. Public interest may also be protected by raising issues concerning the right to water through substantive mechanisms. For instance, recent investment agreements (for e.g. Article 22.3 of the Australia-Korea Free Trade Agreement) contain “exceptions” clauses which exclude measures taken by States to protect human health from investment guarantees. Further, most investment agreements contain emergency clauses (for e.g. Article XI of the Argentina-United States Bilateral Investment Treaty) which may be used to vindicate water rights. Doctrinal principles of proportionality, margin of appreciation, police powers etc. are other avenues through which various facets of the right to water may be introduced in an investment arbitration. The presentation first expounds the tenets of investment arbitration. It highlights the increasing number of water disputes, and the growing public interest in these disputes. It then focuses on the mechanisms through which this public interest may be protected. It reviews the relevant investment disputes that have considered these mechanisms, and points to as-yet unexplored avenues which may be used in the future. It concludes that the right to water may be vindicated in the investment arbitration context in several ways, which may serve to eliminate the perceived tensions between investment guarantees and the right to water.

A Critical Approach to Investment Awards on Water related Issues

Shotaro Hamamoto, Professor, Graduate School of Law, Kyoto University (Japan)

One of the world’s most vital resources—water—is increasingly at the centre of debate. Its scarcity has intensified the movement toward water as a human right, yet private control over water utilities is simultaneously increasing. Although this tension is only just emerging, experts believe it will rapidly intensify as more investors seek access to fresh water in new countries. This presentation examines how arbitral tribunals have dealt with the failure of contracts to manage privatized water supplies by focusing on economic cases of water privatization.


The Parched Earth of Cooperation: Solving the Tragedy of the Commons in Global Water Conservation

Bryan Druzin, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Centre for Rights and Justice (CRJ), Chinese University of Hong Kong

Management of the world's water reserves faces a profound crisis. It is a crisis of coordination: the tragedy of the commons. A tragedy of the commons exists where group actors behaving rationally according their self-interest undermine the entire group’s long-term interests by depleting a common resource. The cause of this tragedy is that no-one can trust that other group members will honor their commitment to not deplete the resource, which causes a race to the bottom. Actors otherwise willing to conserve the resource are driven by rational self-interest to ‘grab what they can.’ The standard solution to this social dilemma is administrative law. However, the problem is that the global community is a polycentric collage of legal authorities lacking a centralized government. This paper examines two possible solutions to this dilemma within this context.


Right to Water in the Shadow of Trade Liberalization

Chien-huei Wu, Associate Professor (Research), Academic Sinica, Taipei;
Helen Huang, Research Assistant, Asian Center of the WTO and International Health Law and Policy, National Taiwan University (Taiwan)

Water is indispensable for life. Because of its nature as a fundamental human need for basic living and human health, adequate and access to water is considered as a human right that should be guaranteed and protected by States. States are thus obligated to ensure everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses. However, how to fulfill this obligation of promoting and protecting right to water depends on States’ own policy and national development strategy. Under this context, the supply of water and sanitation are closely tied to states’ social and economic development and may be deeply affected by liberalizing and privatizing measures concerning water and sanitation services. When the supply of water and sanitation services involves private sector participation or is open for foreign investment and service suppliers, water supply is no longer a pure public service but contains commercial and competitive nature. It will inevitably change the role of the government in managing water supply and its scope of regulatory autonomy that involves not only human right obligations, but also the policy space of right to regulate in trade perspective. The obligation to protect human right to water through the proper and effective regulation and right to regulate in trade liberalization becomes interactive for states to strike a balance between its obligations to protect and promote human rights and its mission to a better social and economic development. In view of this, we aim to trace the development of human right to water from the perspective of human rights law and explore how this right may serve as a safeguard in case of the liberalization of water services. We focus on the dual nature of right to regulate under trade rules, in particular in GATS context. We argue that the right to regulate should be used as a channel for WTO Members to fulfill their obligation to promote and protect right to water in the liberalization of water services. The ‘right to regulate’ under trade rules is indeed the ‘obligation to regulate’ under human rights law with a view to guaranteeing right to water. Therefore, the pivotal question here is whether the scope of right to regulate under the WTO regime provides sufficient policy space for States to fulfill their obligation to regulate under human rights law. We will therefore review relevant WTO jurisprudence and ascertain the sufficiency of this policy space.


Water Control and Climate Change: Promises and Pitfalls of Shale Gas

Paolo Davide Farah, West Virginia University (WV, USA), gLAWcal – Global Law Initiatives for Sustainable Development (UK), University Institute of European Studies (IUSE) at University of Turin (Italy)

The creation of fracking fluid entails the mixing of millions of gallons of fresh water with thousands of gallons of chemicals; it is crucial to assess how harmful the fracking process might be to the environment. Principal concerns include groundwater contamination with fracking chemicals, gasification, water usage risks, surface water and soil risks spills and blow-outs. Conversely, environmentalists argue that although hydraulic fracturing is believed to be less water intensive than nuclear and coal, it is unlikely that it will replace either energy source. Rather, shale gas development entails the danger to create an additional demand for water. Critical concerns about the fresh water management vis-à-vis unconventional gas exist. These two natural resources have come to be intricately associated because the extraction, treatment, and distribution of fresh water entails considerable energy while the production of fossil fuel energy involves fresh water. Water concerns associated with unconventional fossil fuel extraction and production have arisen due to the growing demand from an increasing population and the influence of climate change on the hydrologic cycle.


Protecting the Human Right to Water through the Regulation of Multinational Enterprises

Markus Krajewski, Professor, Faculty of Law, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany)

The human right to water has been recognised by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in its 2002 General Comment No. 15 as well as in Resolution 64/292 of the United Nations General Assembly in 2010. In 2010, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation released a report on the human rights obligations and responsibilities which apply in cases of non-State service provision of water and sanitation. These documents contain key elements of the requirements of the right to water in the context of the activities of multinational enterprises, especially if these enterprises provide privatised water services. The present contribution will assess the two main international instruments of regulating multinational enterprises, the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights “Protect, Respect and Remedy” in order to assess whether and how these instruments specifically protect the human right to water. The paper will also look at the application of these instruments in practice. This will then be compared with domestic law approaches regulating multinational enterprises through tort or criminal law.


The Liberalization of Water and Sanitation Services and International Law-- For a Holistic Rights Based Approach

Leila Choukroune, Associate Professor, Maastricht University Law Faculty, the Netherlands & Director of the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities (CSH), CNRS USR 3330, New Delhi (India)

The (neo)liberalization of water and sanitation services is not a new phenomenon, nor is it to be considered in isolation from a specialized hence restricted international law domain. Its theoretical underpinnings as well as the many experiences accumulated by States and non-State actors all over the world call for a broader reflection on a hyper fragmented international law at a time the benefits of multilateralism are challenged by the losers of a leadership evolution, which puts emerging and developing countries at the heart of a regionalized political globalization. With the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment 15 on the right to water itself drawing upon the Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (right to an adequate standard of living and right to health), the holistic character of water and sanitation related issues had been clearly underlined. So that the normative content of human rights obligations should directly impact on the regulation of water and sanitation services at the national and international levels. However, States and non-State actors practices have revealed a rather piecemeal perspective often in contradiction with other international norms hence leading to major trade and investment disputes themselves settled in adopting a voluntarily narrow and legalistic interpretation of treaty and/or contractual obligations. So the need to approach this issue from treaty drafting to national and sub-national implementation, to regulation efforts and contracts (including public-private partnerships) and disputes resolution, in a more integrated manner relying on a number of core normative principles. In adopting - yet also questioning - a rights based and cross disciplinary legal approach to water and sanitation services liberalization, this presentation identifies common issues in international law and case law while proposing a series of conceptual approaches and concrete avenues to reconcile public and private rights, interests and obligations.