4 Nw. Univ. J. Int'l Hum. Rts. 518 (2005-2006)
The Contribution of Human Rights to Universal Energy Access

handle is hein.journals/jihr4 and id is 525 raw text is: 

Copyright 2006 by Northwestern University School of Law                Volume 4, Issue 3 (Spring 2006)
Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights




  The Contribution of Human Rights to Universal

                               Energy Access

                                 Stephen R. Tully*


                                 I. INTRODUCTION

      The normative content of international human rights law emphasizes the principles
of non-discrimination, equality, empowerment, participation, and accountability. This
paper considers the application of this framework to energy resources generally and
electricity service provision in particular. Part II briefly traces the historical evolution of
universal service obligations as an important attribute of market-oriented energy sector
reform, a characteristic particularly illustrated by contemporary regulatory developments
within the European Community (EC), to assess the extent to which the poor actually
benefit. Part III tracks the emergence of an individual interest in universal energy access
as a prominent element of the sustainable development agenda. The convergence of
these regulatory and policy discourses suggests a human rights orientation to electricity
access, the merits of which are evaluated in Part IV. The practical implications of
applying a human rights orientation are explored in Part V-with an emphasis on
ensuring equality between men and women. Part VI argues that the distinctive
contribution made by human rights to achieving universal energy access is not
unqualified, particularly in view of consequential environmental concerns. The article
nonetheless concludes with a proposal for a General Comment as an essential first step
toward recognizing a human right to electricity access.

         II. UNIVERSAL SERVICE AS AN OBJECTIVE OFENERGY SECTOR REFORMS

      The traditional approach of governments to monopolistic electricity provision
emphasized security of supply and sufficient capacity to cover demand at all times.'
However, it is also true that governments have historically made little effort to improve
electricity access, particularly for the poor.2 National energy policies instead focused
upon modern economic sectors (industry, transport, and urban infrastructure) to the
neglect of rural development. Development institutions such as the World Bank,
therefore, sought to provide financial and technical assistance to facilitate electricity
access within rural areas and secure the energy sources required for essential social



    Formerly BP Postdoctoral Fellow of the ESRC Centre for the Analysis of Risk and Regulation and of
the Law Department, London School of Economics and Political Science, Stephen Tully researches
contemporary issues of international human rights law including the responsibilities of private actors.
   I INTERNATIONAL ENERGY AGENCY (lEA), SECURITY OF SUPPLY IN ELECTRICITY MARKET& EVIDENCE
AND POLICY ISSUES 9-10 (2002).
   2 ENERGY ACCESS WORKING GROUP, GLOBAL NETWORK ON ENERGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
(GNESD), THEME RESULTS: SUMMARY FOR POLICYMAKERS 6 (2004).

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