Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Commitment to human rights essential for ensuring true sustainable development


Freshwater Action Network welcomed the Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation’s open letter on 24 May 2012 calling on states to recommit to the human right to water and sanitation at Rio+20 in the run up to the third round of ‘informal informal’ negotiations.

We read the statistics again and again, ‘783 million of people do not yet have access to affordable water’, ‘a fifth of the world’s population lives in water stress regions’, ‘2.5 billion people live without having access to safe toilets and basic hygiene facilities’, ‘4,000 children die each day from diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation.’ The figures for these fundamental building blocks of human development are appalling and estimated to worsen over the coming years, as a result of the different conflicting uses and overuses of water.
In Catarina de Albuquerque’s open letter on 24th May, the Special Rapporteur called on states to maintain their support for this fundamental human right and its explicit inclusion in the Rio+20 outcome document, adding:
‘It is clear that a commitment to water and sanitation without the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation is insufficient to achieve the future we all want. The recognition of the human right to water and sanitation guides us to prioritize the un- and under-served and to ensure non-discrimination.’
The original Zero Draft of the Outcome Document included text that ‘underline[s] the importance of the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights’ (para. 67).
In the first and second rounds of ‘informal-informal’ negotiations on the Zero Draft held in New York in March and April/May, some states suggested alternative language that does not explicitly refer to the human right to water and sanitation, despite the fact that it has been already recognised as a human right under international law, including by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in 2010, where UN member states reached consensus.
Because human rights prioritise those most in need, Freshwater Action Network – which represents southern civil society networks advocating to increase access to water and sanitation services for poor and marginalised communities – believes that rights should provide a basis for development of equity indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) being discussed as part of the post-Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) framework to be proposed at the Rio Summit. We support the Special Rapporteur's recommendation that:
‘A sustainable development target for water and sanitation should aim at achieving access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all without discrimination, in sufficient quantities to protect human health and dignity, particularly for the most marginalized.’
Civil society organisations and human rights experts the world over agree on the importance of human rights to ensure a future where every single individual enjoys access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Now, on the first day of the third round of ‘informal informals’, we are calling loud and clear with a united voice: “States must recommit to the human right to water and sanitation to achieve true sustainable development.”
CA_Rio_24.05.2012.pdf91.32 KB
CSO_call_actionRio20_06-2012.pdf136.47 KB