Right to Water and Courts in Brazil: How Do Brazilian Courts Rule When They Frame Water as a Right?

New article by LawTransform’s Coordinator Lara Côrtes and Researcher Ana Côrtes

The international protection given to the right to water has increased over the last decades, with two United Nations’ resolutions establishing a freestanding right to water in 2010. Several countries have a right to water enshrined in their constitutions, while in other countries, this right has been recognised by the courts. This study aims to assess whether and how Brazilian courts are deciding water-related conflicts using the “right to water” frame, what the content given to this right is, and whose rights are protected. We created a comprehensive database of decisions issued by Brazilian courts at different levels containing the expression “right to water”. Our main findings are that the great majority of decisions are from lower courts and were issued on individual cases related to water supply. Further, we have seen that courts are frequently prohibiting the disconnection of water supply services when extreme vulnerability is argued. The same has been seen in other Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Colombia, and Costa Rica, with the one main difference that in these countries, the right to water has been carved out by the Constitutional Courts. The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, which has the last word on the interpretation of the constitution, has not issued any decisions establishing a right to water, but there is legal mobilisation aiming for this and using UN resolutions as a key argument.


The full article is openly accessible here.





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