Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Water, sanitation and Rio20: the importance of rights

The MDG for water has been met but 783 million of the world’s poorest people are still living without access to safe affordable water and one fifth of the global population live in water stress regions, a statistic that is projected to grow as a result of the different conflicting uses and overuses of water.


As the facilitator for the water and sanitation issue cluster, FAN has been coordinating inputs on water and sanitation into the negotiations. Our response to the ‘draft zero’ included ensuring access to sanitation is a priority. 2.5 billion people still live without a safe place to go to the toilet. Diseases like diarrhoea and dysentery caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation result in the deaths of 4,000 children every day.


The problem of poor access to water and sanitation is not lack of water but of political will. Recognition and implementation of the human rights to water and sanitation will help to bridge the accountability gap towards the poor and marginalised and should be part of the solutions agreed by governments at Rio+20. It will provide a basis for development of equity indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals being discussed as part of the package to be agreed at Rio. Yet, despite recognition of the right to water and sanitation by both the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council in 2010, some governments are now trying to reverse progress made so far in previous lengthy negotiations through the Rio20 process.


This is in contrast to the 2011 Nexus conference organized by the German Federal Government in preparation for Rio+20 which explored how water, energy and food security can be enhanced by increasing efficiency, reducing trade-offs, building synergies and improving governance across the sectors. The rights to water and sanitation were prominent throughout the discussions at the conference which emphasised the importance of putting people and their basic human rights at the centre of the nexus.


We're concerned by these recent attempts to remove and weaken human rights language, which would have the effect of further marginalising poor and vulnerable people from the emerging Green Economy paradigm and are calling on negotiators to ensure the rights features strongly in the final text.


Read our Rio+20 briefing page

Read the water cluster changes to the Rio20 zero draft text

Join the google group WASH Rio20, email us

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