Water Sanitation Health

Recognition of safe water and sanitation as a human right

Recent developments

On 28 July 2010 the United Nations General Assembly declared safe and clean drinking water and sanitation a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights. It voiced deep concern that nearly 900 million people in the world do not have access to safe drinking-water, a figure generated by the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme.

The UN GA urged United Nations Member States as well as international organizations to offer funding, resources and technology to assist poorer countries provide accessible and affordable safe and clean drinking-water and sanitation for everyone. In addition to continued lack of access to improved drinking-water sources, 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation. Approximately 1.5 million children under five die every year as a result of diseases linked to the lack of access to water and sanitation.

Subsequently, at its 15th session in September 2010, the United Nations Human Rights Council affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living. This led the UN Independent Expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking-water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, to state that “this means that for the UN, the right to water and sanitation is contained in existing human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding.”

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