Independent UN expert warns on sidelining right to water and sanitation

9 March 2012

A United Nations independent expert warned today that the right to safe drinking water and sanitation could be sidelined at next week’s world water forum in France where delegates from 140 governments, international organizations, civil society and the scientific community are due to meet to discuss global challenges concerning water.

“It comes as an unwelcome surprise that the draft ministerial declaration of the 6th World Water Forum: Time for Solutions still does not recognize the human right to water and sanitation that has been explicitly recognized at the UN,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation.

“Governments are being inconsistent with their prior decisions on the recognition of the right to water and sanitation taken at the UN General Assembly,” Ms. Albuquerque, who is charged by the UN Human Rights Council with promoting, monitoring and reporting on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said in press statement.

She pointed out that in the final draft ministerial declaration of the 6th World Water Forum scheduled to take place in Marseille from Monday to Saturday next week, governments have for the time being failed to explicitly affirm that the right to water and sanitation should be the basis for any solutions aimed at bringing these essential services to those still deprived of them.

“The World Water Forum is not a gathering seen as a source for the creation of international law, but it is still unfortunate that this Forum’s Declaration does not respect the outcomes of long-standing thorough and comprehensive discussions at the UN,” said Ms. Albuquerque. “I call upon the governments participating at the World Water Forum to amend the text of the draft declaration. We still have time to do that.”

The independent expert stressed that the international human rights standard on water and sanitation agreed at the UN must also guide the negotiations at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June and the post-2015 development goals.

“I am confident that UN Member States will integrate the human right to water and sanitation into future global agreements,” she added.


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