Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

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Update -- a bit of action -- this time from the House of Lords

Last week Lord Hylton submitted the following written question to the House of Lords: 

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they dissociated themselves from the consensus in the recent resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council on safe drinking water and sanitation,  given their adherence to millennium goal 7C and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Response: The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): The Government regret that they had to dissociate from consensus on the recent UN Human Rights Council resolution on safe drinking water and sanitation. The resolution recognised "the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation". The UK's position is that there exists a right to water as an element of the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights), but that there is no basis in international law for recognising a human right to sanitation at this time. The Government believe that recognising rights without due international consideration of what they comprise creates unhelpful ambiguity. Individuals cannot know what they can legitimately claim from the state and the state has no clear understanding of the protection it is obliged to afford to the individual. As part of their efforts to support achievement of the millennium development goals, the Government will prioritise aid spending on programmes to ensure that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. However, the policy priority we attach to improving sanitation should not lead us to recognise a new legal right without due regard to the structure of international human rights law.

That this conversation is beginning to happen at this level is great news! Small steps forward for the UK on this issue... 




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