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Top UN rights official underscores importance of adequate water

Top UN rights official underscores importance of adequate water

Sergio Vieira de Mello
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today hailed the decision by a key expert panel to adopt a position paper on the right to water.

Addressing the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello said the initiative to develop a general comment on water would be a meaningful contribution to the World Water Forum to be held next March.

A comment by the Committee, he said, would be an integral component of the right to an adequate standard of living and indeed the right to life.

The Committee later adopted the comment, which stresses that water is a limited natural resource and a public commodity fundamental to life and health. General Comment No. 15 also notes that over 1 billion people lack access to basic water supply, while several billion lack access to adequate sanitation, a primary cause of water contamination and diseases linked to water. The continuing contamination, depletion and unequal distribution of water resources are exacerbating existing poverty, the comment states.

The comment also emphasizes that States parties to the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights have the duty to progressively realize, without discrimination, the right to water. The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses, the text notes.

The 18-member Committee monitors compliance with the Covenant, which has 145 States parties.