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UN - Preparations for Rio+20

27/03/2012: General House - Rome

Something very interesting is going on at the United Nations, with regard to water. The delegates are in the middle of a two-week session of preparations for Rio+20 (the world-wide summit on sustainable development to be held in June). They are preparing a document that will (when finished) form the core of the negotiations at Rio. Yesterday several countries indicated that they wanted to remove the reference to clean water and sanitation as "a human right." 

Several NGOs began advocacy work and the UN's own Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation was called in.  She took the unusual step of calling some of the more influential countries to task on it, and released the following press statement:

Michele Morek - Coalition Coordinator
UNANIMA International


Rio+20: “Do not betray your commitments on the human right to water and sanitation”

GENEVA (22 March 2012) – On World Water Day, United Nations water and sanitation expert Catarina de Albuquerque called on countries not to go back on their decisions to recognize the right to water and sanitation for all, and act consistently with them. The right to water and sanitation was explicitly recognised by the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council in 2010. 

“Some States, including Canada and the United Kingdom, are apparently proposing the removal of an explicit reference to the right to water and sanitation for all from the first draft of the ‘Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development’ outcome document,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. This declaration is currently being discussed in New York. 

“States are wasting their time on re-negotiating their own decisions rather than moving forward to implement the right to water and sanitation for all,” Ms. de Albuquerque stressed. “We should be marking World Water Day with progress, not debating semantics and certainly not back-tracking on these issues.” 

“In the context of the Rio+20 agenda,” she said, “who does not want a future where every single individual enjoys safe drinking water? Who does not want a future where nobody dies due to drinking unsafe water? Who does not want to eradicate the indignity and humiliation of open defecation?” 

“In order to achieve the future we want, we need to again underline our commitments to the human right to water and sanitation. We need to speak up for the millions who are marginalized and forgotten – people sleeping on the street, girls who walk miles to fetch water every day, boys who drop out of school because of diarrhoea, people who cannot access water because of their disabilities.” 

We should not forget that billions still lack a safe supply of water and access to safe sanitation,” Ms. de Albuquerque underscored. 

“Rio+20 and post-2015 development goals should not betray the previous commitments on the right to water and sanitation. It is now time to focus on the world population who only have access to unclean and unsafe water and inadequate sanitation,” the UN Special Rapporteur appealed on World Water Day. 
Catarina de Albuquerque is the first UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Ms. de Albuquerque is a Professor at the Law Faculties of the Universities of Braga and Coimbra and the American University’s Washington College of Law and a Senior Legal Adviser at the Office for Documentation and Comparative Law, an independent institution under the Prosecutor General’s Office. Learn more, log on to: 

For additional information and media requests, please contact Madoka Saji - email:msaji@ohchr.org or write to srwatsan@ohchr.org 
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts: 
Xabier Celaya (xcelaya@ohchr.org)   

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