Right to energy


Energy – especially electricity – is halfway between industrial or commercial activities and the satisfaction of social needs.

The right to energy in developing countries can help break the vicious circle of poverty

The issue of access to essential services lies at the heart of all debates on human rights. It is linked to the global emergence of the two notions of essential rights of man and global public rights. Those two notions are supported by one principle: the recognition of a right for any human being to access essential services, including electricity.

Access to energy affects productivity, health, education, climate change, food safety, safety of the water provision and communication services.

Halfway between industrial and commercial activities on the one hand and the satisfaction of social needs on the other hand, energy requires a specific approach. Its access must be integrated as an essential element to development instead of solely rely on charity or solidarity, so as to break the vicious circle of poverty.

Availability and access to electricity, therefore, constitute a key element for poverty alleviation. It also carries strong potential in terms of social and political recognition. For most of the populations living as the outcast in informal settlements, having access to water and electricity indeed means finally accessing full citizenship.


The Sustainable Development Goals builds hope for a universal access to energy.

During 2013 World Future Energy Summit, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, ensured he wished to make “sustainable energy for all” a major policy priority for governments.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced in 2015 the creation of a new institutional body aiming at promoting universal access to sustainable energy. This is notably meant to facilitate the future implementation of UN new development agenda. The United Nations adopted a stand-alone goal on energy – Goal 7 – that aims at ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. Targets include an increase in the share of renewable energy, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 or develop energy infrastructure, especially in the least developed countries (LDCs).

“Affordable, clean energy is the golden thread that links economic growth, increased social equity and a healthy environment. I warmly welcome the adoption of a Sustainable Development Goal number 7 on energy [as part of the new 2015-2030 development agenda].”

Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-General, 2015

(Re)sources' recommendations

  • A right to electricity must be recognized, just like the right to water and sanitation, as a basic human right. Therefrom, a country-specific needs assessment and inventory of what a right to energy would entail (in terms of quality, availability, accessibility, continuity, cost recovery) must be carried out in the same way that it was for the right to water.
  • Duty bearers also need to be identified in order to guarantee the effective implementation and enforcement of this new right.

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Right to energy