Making space for practical authority: policy formalization and the right to water in Mexico

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How do novel policy ideas--like the human right to water--gain traction in real life? In this chapter, I draw on the case of Mexico to explore how institutional actors develop practical authority for human rights through a diverse set of sites, tactics, and strategies. Mexico enshrined the human right to water and sanitation in its national constitution in 2012, but implementation has stalled. Rather than focus on the usual suspects of policy realization, I examine how practical authority is developed at the margins of the state: the experimental spaces where governance ideas gain skills, sociotechnical capacities, and legitimacy on the ground. Drawing on a practice-based
approach, I identify three pathways that actors use to navigate policy impasse and
institutional entanglement. I show how nonstate actors have maintained important pressure and visibility for the right to water, innovated alternative service delivery models to reduce household water insecurity, and introduced alternative pathways of policy implementation at different scales. In moving debates forward, I argue that a practice-based approach reveals the diverse pathways, spaces, and capabilities needed to make institutional change permanent--to realize rights talk in daily life, beyond its constitutional script.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWater Politics: Governance, Justice and the Right to Water
EditorsFarhana Sultana, Alex Loftus
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-45357-1
ISBN (Print)978-1-138-32002-4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2019


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