Tag Archives: human rights

WASHplus Weekly: Focus on WASH & Human Rights

Issue 162 | Sept 19, 2014 | Focus on WASH & Human Rights

This issue highlights the just-published handbook on WASH and human rights by Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. Also included are studies from the UNC Water Institute; Human Rights Watch; fact sheets and position statements from the UN and UNICEF; country reports from the DRC, Haiti, and South Africa; and links to relevant websites.

Realising the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation: A Handbook, 2014. C de Albuquerque. (Link)
This handbook is the product of six years of work by the first UN special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. It explains the meaning and legal obligations that arise from these rights, translating the often complex technical and legal language into accessible information. The target audiences for this handbook are governments at all levels, donors, and national regulatory bodies. It provides information that will also be useful to other local, regional, and international stakeholders, including civil society, service providers, and human rights organizations.

Fact Sheet on the Right to Water, n.d. United Nations. | Arabic | English | French |Spanish
The roots of the current water and sanitation crisis can be traced to poverty, inequality, and unequal power relationships, and it is exacerbated by social and environmental challenges: accelerating urbanization, climate change, and increasing pollution and depletion of water resources. To address this crisis, the international community has increasingly recognized that access to safe drinking water and sanitation must be considered within a human rights framework.

Translating the Human Right to Water and Sanitation into Public Policy Reform.Science and Engineering Ethics, Jan 2014. B Meier. (Link)
The development of a human right to water and sanitation under international law has created an imperative to implement human rights in water and sanitation policy. Through 43 interviews with informants in international institutions, national governments, and NGOs, this research examines interpretations of this new human right on global governance, national policy, and local practice.

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WSP promoted CLTS approach in Indonesia criticised

A highly critical article in Development and Change argues that the Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach, which the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) has promoted in Indonesia, is not only “inadequate” but also “echoes coercive, race-based colonial public health practices”.

Susan Engel

Dr Susan Engel, University of Wollongong, Australis

Authors Dr Susan Engel and Anggun Susilo reveal striking similarities between developments in Indonesian sanitation in the 1920s and the 1990s. In both eras the focus changed from “the provision of hardware to [...] participation and social mobilization” to encourage “individuals and communities to construct and maintain their own sanitation facilities”.

In the 1920s, the Rockefeller Foundation led the change, 70 years later it was WSP. In both cases the approaches are said to have met resistance because they were coercive and humiliating for the poorest, who also had to pay for latrines they couldn’t really afford.

Engel and Susilo found no evidence that the CLTS approach in Indonesia was sustainable. They conclude that government involvement, not just self-help CLTS approaches, is essential for successful sanitation.

Engel, S, and Susilo, A., 2014. Shaming and sanitation in Indonesia : a return to colonial public health practices?. Development and change, 45, 1, pp. 157-178. DOI: 10.1111/dech.12075

See also:

  • India, Madhya Pradesh: sanitation campaign humiliates women, say critics, Sanitation Updates, 24 Dec 2014
  • WASHplus Weekly: Community-Led Total Sanitation, Sanitation Updates, 13 Dec 2013
  • Topic: CLTS and human rights: Should the right to community-wide health be won at the cost of individual rights?, SuSanA Forum

 

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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Medical waste, bad for your health and bad for your rights, warns UN expert

A new UN report says the international community has to date paid little attention to the growing problem of medical waste around the world, especially in developing countries. The report was released in September 2011 by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste Calin Georgescu.

“Some 20 to 25 per cent of the total waste generated by health-care establishments is regarded as hazardous and may create a variety of health and environmental risks if not managed and disposed of in an appropriate manner,” warns the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to report on the adverse effects of the movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.

Hazardous health-care waste includes infectious waste, sharps, anatomical and pathological waste, obsolete or expired chemical products and pharmaceuticals, and radioactive materials. Medical waste is often mixed with general household waste, and either disposed of in municipal waste facilities or dumped illegally.

A significant amount of chemicals and pharmaceuticals is disposed of through hospital wastewater.

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UN investigator tells of horrors and insanitary conditions of world prisons

Inmates at a prison in Uruguay can spend years in “las latas” (tin cans) — small metal boxes where temperatures rise to 60 degrees Celcius. They had to use the water in the toilets for drinking and defecate in plastic bags which they later threw outside their cells.

Those were among the abuses chronicled in a report released by Manfred Nowak, an Austrian human rights lawyer and U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment. Nowak’s report focused on “forgotten prisons” and the treatment of children in the dozens of countries he visited. He said roughly 1 million of the world’s 10 million detainees were children, some as young as 9 or 10 years old.

Nowak notes that in many countries the “police and prison authorities simply do not regard it as their responsibility to provide detainees with the most basic services necessary for survival, let alone for a dignified existence or what human rights instruments call an “adequate standard of living”, i.e., food, water, clothing, a toilet and a proper place to sleep.”

The living conditions of prisoners in Equatorial Guinea and Uruguay were shocking.

“”In Equatorial Guinea, detainees spend several weeks or even months in overcrowded, often dark and filthy police cells with virtually nothing but a concrete floor where they are kept for 24 hours a day. It is the task of their families to bring them water in plastic bottles and food in plastic bags. Since there are no toilets, they must use the same bottles to urinate and the plastic bags to defecate. In most police stations, including the police headquarters in Malabo, plenty of filled and stinking plastic bottles and bags had been thrown through the bars to the corridors and open yards.’

“In Uruguay the situation of accused and convicted children who were held in extremely poor conditions was alarming. The system of detention was based on a punitive approach. Children had no opportunities for education, work or any other rehabilitative activity, and the boys were locked up for up to 22 hours a day in their cells. The sanitary conditions were very poor. There were no toilets in the cells, which sometimes forced detainees to wait for hours for a guard to let them go to the toilet. At the Piedras Home, the detainees had to relieve themselves in bottles and plastic bags, which they threw out of the window, resulting in a repulsive smell around the building.”

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, detainees have a right to an
adequate standard of living. This includes cells with sanitary installations “adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the needs of nature” (rule 12), with “adequate bathing and shower installations” (rule 13) and “with water and with such toilet articles as are necessary for health and cleanliness” (rule 15).

In 2005, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) published a handbook on “Water, sanitation, hygiene and habitat in prisons“.

Nowak said that Iran and most Arab countries, except for Jordan, had denied him access to their prisons.

Watch Manfred Nowak outline the main points of his report.

Source: Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, 20 Oct 2009 ; UN, 20 Oct 2009