Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Governments must approve crucial human rights resolution for world's poor

With just two weeks to go until a crucial decision on whether to legally recognize water and sanitation as human rights, civil society organizations are warning that the lives of billions of people are at risk if governments do not act now. On the 23 September, a decision will be made on whether to pass a resolution on the rights to water and sanitation at the Human Rights Council – a move which holds the potential to transform the lives of the world’s poor.

A coalition of civil society organizations and NGOs* are calling on all governments to seize this opportunity to help the 2.6 billion people currently living without sanitation and the 884 million people living without access to safe water by supporting the resolution.

The legal framework will galvanize progress made in July when the General Assembly recognized water and sanitation as rights by putting the rights into operation throughout the UN human rights system. The process will start on Monday when a draft resolution will be tabled that clarifies the legal basis of the rights.

The news from Geneva comes in the midst of Stockholm Water Week, where civil society is mobilizing support for this vital resolution. If passed, it will pave the way for the rights to be mainstreamed throughout the UN Human Rights mechanisms. This critical step will empower more people to hold governments and service providers to account, backed up by the human rights system.  

The next step is to convince national governments of the need to support this crucial development, which affirms the value of the work done by the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation who last year recommended that sanitation be recognized as a human right.

The UK is a particular target for influence, as it abstained from the resolution passed at the General Assembly earlier this year along with the US, Canada Japan, Poland, Australia and the Czech Republic. There was, however, widespread support throughout the South and in Europe  and no countries opposed it.

Danielle Morley, Executive Secretary - Freshwater Action Network, says:

'This is a fantastic development and has the potential to have a huge impact on the water and sanitation sector. We are rising to the challenge and we call on anyone who can influence this outcome to help up make it happen. There are just two weeks to take action. Please act now.'

Thorsten Kiefer, from Brot fuer die Welt (Bread for the World), says:

'The latest research shows the diarrhoea has become the biggest killer of Africa's children. It is high time that the rights to water and sanitation are fully affirmed by the Council so we can focus our full attention to the implementation of these rights and stop the needless deaths of more than 4,000 children every day.'

Notes for editors:
For more information, please contact:

Danielle Morley, Executive Secretary, Freshwater Action Network:  + 44 7779 780 737 

Thorsten Kiefer, Brot fuer die Welt (Bread for the World), +49-1738617177

Jamillah Mwanjisi, African Civil Society Network on Water and Sanitation (ANEW) : +254 737 043 823

Marie-Laure Vercambre, Water Programme Leader, Green Cross International: +336 80 04 04 81

*Supported by:   

** China, India, Russia, Brasil, France, Germany, Spain, Slovenia, Burkina Faso Ghana, Senegal and Mexico all voted for the rights to water and sanitation to be recognized as human rights at the General Assembly. Download full details of who voted and how (PDF 50 Kb)

*** Lancet report July 2010


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