Tag Archives: right to sanitation

UN recognises separate, distinct right to sanitation

On 17 December 2015,  the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution which for the first time recognises the distinction between the human right to water and the human right to sanitation. The resolution also highlights the gender-specific impacts of inadequate services and includes strong language on accountability.

Amnesty International, WASH United and Human Rights Watch issued a statement welcoming this step and the additional clarification of States’ obligations contained in General Assembly resolution 70/169.

In early November 2015, 37 NGOs including the three mentioned above, issued a joint statement in support of the draft resolution.

Joint Statement from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and WASH United on UN General Assembly Resolution 70/169 on the Human Rights to Water and to Sanitation

Interview with Mr. Léo Heller UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, by Guy Norman

leohellerMr. Léo Heller, special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, talked to PF4WASH about issues such as government budget allocations to WASH, steps towards achieving SDG N. 6 and increasing tax revenue generation.

Mr. Heller, thank you for sharing your time and views with us!

Read the interview here

The Human Right to Water and Sanitation

By Carolien van der Voorden, WSSCC Senior Programme Officer

Water and sanitation are fundamental human rights, and the first priority should be to ‘connect’ those who so far have remained unconnected, unserved, and disadvantaged.

We shouldn’t think of people as users or consumers of a service, but as Rights Holders whose rights need to be fulfilled equally for all.
While nobody would dispute this principle, the reality is that there are limited resources, a high lifecycle cost of water and sanitation services, and many social, cultural, economic and historic barriers that constrain poor and disadvantaged people in their quest for better services and a better life.

CLTS triggering in a village in Tanzania. Photo: Jenny Matthews/WSSCC

CLTS triggering in a village in Tanzania. Photo: Jenny Matthews/WSSCC

Community-led total sanitation, or CLTS, is an approach especially prevalent in rural sanitation, however many human rights experts and academics are not convinced that CLTS is a good approach to reach people without access to sanitation.

The main objection is that it is fundamentally unfair to expect very poor people to pay for infrastructure while less poor people, especially those in urban areas, receive highly subsidised access to infrastructure and services. Secondly, there is a perception that these people are being coerced and shamed into paying for a service they might not afford, or want.

WSSCC houses the Global Sanitation Fund (GSF), a funding mechanism that builds heavily on CLTS approaches to reach millions of previously unserved people in a range of countries in Africa and Asia. It works with national governments to develop strategies and roadmaps to reach universal coverage in terms of whole districts, states and countries becoming first Open Defecation Free (ODF), and then working from there to ensure that sanitation services are sustainable and that people can move on from basic sanitation to ‘improved’ sanitation services.

First focusing on achieving ODF status is a strategic choice that is very much based on the idea of ‘Some for All’ rather than ‘All for Some’, but also takes into account that, while sanitation is in essence a private behavior, it has collective consequences. Living in an ODF environment has large impacts on people’s health, wellbeing and dignity, and on the environment.

It is true that CLTS expects people to pay, in cash or in kind, for their sanitation infrastructure. But this does not mean CLTS is a no-subsidy or ‘cheap’ approach and that governments are therefore taking the easy way out by making households pay for all the costs. CLTS is based on supporting people’s own desires to change their behaviour and to live in a clean environment. For CLTS to work well, it requires strong and sustained investment in ‘software’. It also requires public investments in hardware in schools, market places, and public buildings.

CLTS embodies the choice to not fund the initial hardware costs of constructing the latrines simply because experience has shown that that is not the most effective use of available public resources and that investing in behaviour change has a much larger potential of ensuring that people not only have access to, but also use safe sanitation services and practice related hygienic behaviour.
Where a right is very much linked to behaviour, simply focusing on the infrastructure is just not enough.

This is not to say that it isn’t a problem when people are forced to take out loans from self-help groups that they can’t afford, or when people are forced into practicing a behaviour rather than making an informed choice to do so, or that CLTS never ‘leaves out’ those most disadvantaged, most deprived, most isolated.

All these things happen, and they mean that those implementing CLTS-based programmes need to be careful, making sure that community triggering and decision making processes are as inclusive as possible, that households needing more help receive the assistance required, and that follow-up processes are designed in such a way that nobody gets left behind.

Read the full article on The Guardian.

Recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation by UN Member States at the international level

Recognition human rights for WASH coverNew publication by Amnesty International and WASH United.

All UN Member States have recognised that the human right to water and the human right to sanitation are part of binding international human rights law.

This publication gathers the evidence of the universal recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation: it gives an overview of the most important resolutions and declarations that recognise the human rights to water and sanitation, including the positions that individual states have taken when those documents were adopted. For 77 countries, it also lists their individual positions and how these have changed over time.

The document has previously served as an internal reference guide for Amnesty International and WASH United. We are publishing it to help others identify the position that their country has taken on the human rights to water and sanitation, to advocate for the rights in their own national contexts, to ensure that these rights will not be ignored in the formulation and implementation of national water and sanitation laws and policy, and to help advance strategic litigation before national, regional and international justice mechanisms.

Gonzalez, C., Khalfan, A., Lande, L. van de, Neumeyer, H. and Scannellad, P., 2015. Recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation by UN Member States at the international level : an overview of resolutions and declarations
that recognise the human rights to water and sanitation. London, UK and Berlin, Germany: Amnesty International and WASH United. 124 p.

Available from WASH United website and Amnesty International website

#WorldToiletDay seminar: sanitation for improved lives of women and children

Sida-WaterAid-WTD-Seminar

Sida and WaterAid are organising a seminar on 19 November 2014, World Toilet Day, in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Inspirational Morning Seminar on The Relevance of Sanitation and Hygiene in Addressing Children’s and Women’s Health & Rights will be held at Sida’s headquarters from 08.30-12.00.

The seminar aims to raise awareness about the taboos and difficulties surrounding sanitation specifically as it relates to health and for example girls’ and women’s menstrual hygiene management  (MHM).

The seminar moderators are Ana Gren and Johan Sundberg.

Speakers include:

  • Archana Patkar – Presentation of WSSCC – MHM Relevance, program approaches, Reflections, need for innovation, recommendations how to best address the problem
  • Robert Chambers – WASH, Women and Children: from blind spots to core concerns?
  • Jenny Fredby, WaterAid, Sanitation and hygiene for children’s and women’s health, approaches, reflections and recommendations for SDGs

The seminar will close with a discussion followed by a joint pledge to “Break the silence, Be proud – Don’t be shy, Tell your friends”.

Register before 14 November on the Sida web site.

10:55 – 11:50 Joint discussion for all participants; the discussion will be fuelled by discussion engines: Experts in DEMO & HR, Health, Governance, Research – SIWI, SEI, SanWatPUA, Sida

11.50 – 12.00 Closure – Take the pledge! – Break the silence, Be proud – Don’t be shy, Tell your friends (Sida & WaterAid)

Latinosan Panamá 2013 – 3rd Latin American Sanitation Conference, 29-31 May 2013

The Republic of Panama is organizing the Third Latin American Sanitation Conference on 29-31 May 2013. The theme is:  “Universal Sanitation: New Challenges, New Opportunities”.

Latinosan is held every three years.

Latinosan 2013 consists of two events: a technical conference and a meeting of senior officials that will result in the Declaration of Panama.

Main topics:

  • the status of sanitation at regional and country levels
  • institutions and public policy
  • human rights and sustainable development
  • post-2015 goals: regional and global

For more information visit the conference website: latinosanpanama2013.com (Spanish only)

Zimbabwean sanitation and human rights advocate Nomathemba Neseni dies

Nomathemba Neseni in June 2011 at a SuSanA side event. Photo: Flickr/SuSanA

“Sanitation is a passion, not a job,” said Noma Neseni last year at the Global Forum on Sanitation and Hygiene in Mumbai, India. “I became a human rights commissioner because of toilets. What is gender equality or poverty alleviation when we are forced to defecate in the open?”

Ms. Nomathemba (Noma) Neseni, the Director of the Institute of Water and Sanitation Development (IWSD) and Human Rights Commissioner in Zimbabwe passed away on 30 August after a short illness.

She took over the leadership of IWSD in mid-2007, after working for a number of years as Deputy Director. Ms. Neseni had extensive experience in the water and sanitation (WASH) sector, ranging from project planning to gender mainstreaming. She wrote a book [1] on WASH financing, which was published in May this year.

At IWSD, Deputy Director Mr. Lovemore Mujuru has taken up the post of Acting Executive Director.

Ms. Neseni served for many years as the National Coordinator for Zimbabwe for the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), and more recently she was elected as a member of the WSSCC Steering Committee.

IWSD has been an IRC partner for many years, most recently in the ZimWASH project [2]. In 2009 Noma Neseni wrote an article [3] in IRC’s Source Bulletin about how the decline in Zimbabwe’s sanitation services eventually led to the 2008 cholera outbreak, the deadliest in Africa for 15 years.

[1] Neseni, N, 2012. Financing of WASH in a declining economic environment: financing of WASH for sustainability. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.  http://washurl.net/dou0ka>

[2] IRC – ZimWASH

[3] Noma Neseni, Sanitation perspectives in the new Zimbabwe. E-Source, May 2009

Source: WSSCC, 30 Aug 2012 ; The Herald / allAfrica.com, 01 Sep 2012 ; IWSD