Tag Archives: Human Rights Council

Right to water and sanitation: new UN resolution supports sustainable service delivery approach

A new resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council at its 18th session calls on states to ensure enough financing for sustainable delivery of water and sanitation services. Passed by consensus on 28 September 2011, resolution A/HRC/RES/18/1 has taken last year’s landmark decision [1] to recognise the right to water and sanitation as legally binding in international law, a step further.

Catarina de Albuquerque. Photo: OHCHR

The new resolution is based on ongoing efforts by UN Special Rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque to get states to go beyond Millennium Development Goals and strive for universal service provision.

States should maximise investments so that:

water and sanitation systems are sustainable and that services are affordable for everyone, while ensuring that allocated resources are not limited to infrastructure, but also include resources for regulatory activities, operation and maintenance, the institutional and managerial structure and structural measures, including increasing capacity

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UN Human Rights Council affirms that right to water and sanitation is legally binding

The UN Human Rights Council has finally recognised the right to water and sanitation as legally binding in international law, in a landmark decision adopted on 30 September 2010.

[T]he UN affirmed [...] by consensus that the right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, which is contained in several international human rights treaties. While experts working with the UN human rights system have long acknowledged this, it was the first time that the Human Rights Council has declared itself on the issue.

According to the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, “this means that for the UN, the right to water and sanitation, is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding”. She added that “this landmark decision has the potential to change the lives of the billions of human beings who still lack access to water and sanitation.”

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Right to sanitation: UN independent expert’s report to be presented in September

Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque

Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque

A report outlining the human rights obligations related to sanitation will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2009. Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque wrote the report in July as part of her duties as Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation.

In her report De Albuquerque supports the recognition of sanitation as a distinct right. “The inextricable links between sanitation and so many human rights mean that international human rights law requires States to ensure access to sanitation that is safe, hygienic, secure, affordable, socially and culturally acceptable, provides privacy and ensures dignity in a non discriminatory manner”, she concludes. “However, only looking at sanitation through the lens of other human rights does not do justice to its special nature, and its importance for living a dignified life”, she adds.

In 2009, Ms. De Albuquerque has chosen to focus on the human rights obligations related to sanitation. She held an expert consultation, and a public consultation, to inform her work on this issue in April. As a follow up to that meeting the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) published a position statement in which they voiced their support for the recognition of “sanitation as a stand alone right apart from the right to water.”

In March and June2009, Catarina de Albuquerque visited Costa Rica and Egypt respectively, to assess the how these countries were implementing their human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Ms de Albuquerque encourage the Egyptian Government in particular to give priority to sanitation in all unserved, or underserved areas, including rural areas as well as informal settlements. She welcomed the government’s the rural sanitation strategy which calls for a 20 billion Egyptian pounds (approximately 4 billion US dollars) investment in rural sanitation.