Hybrid regulatory landscapes: The human right to water, variegated neoliberal water governance, and policy transfer in Cape Town, South Africa, and Accra, Ghana

Julian S. Yates, Leila M Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on an analysis of water access and supply in Cape Town (South Africa) and Accra (Ghana), we illustrate that neoliberal and human right to water-oriented transformations co-constitute each other discursively, practically, and in policy implementation. Focusing on the transfer of policies and experiences (particularly conjoined demand management-free basic water programs and related social contestation), we provide examples of how neoliberal logics and human right to water principles intersect in evolving hybrid regulatory landscapes, which are characterized by contradiction. The human right to water makes a difference by influencing the drafting and implementation of water-related policies that affect to the lives of poor and vulnerable populations. Yet this process unfolds unevenly, as human right to water principles and practices are contextually applied, often alongside neoliberalizing policy instruments within evolving regulatory landscapes. Our analysis reveals the uneven effects of policy experimentation, transfer, and adaptation. The analysis shows that the principle of the human right to water affects the transformation of policy options circulating in the water sector, but it does so in relation to the institutional histories and policy options associated with uneven patterns of variegated neoliberalization in the water sector.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-87
Number of pages13
JournalWorld Development
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Human right to water
  • Variegated neoliberalization
  • Policy transfer
  • Neoliberal water governance
  • South Africa
  • Ghana

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