World + 4 more

Special Rapporteur on Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation to the Human Rights Council: 2.2 Billion People Are Without Guaranteed Access to Safe Drinking Water and 4.2 Billion Are Without Basic Sanitation

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
Origin
View original

Council Concludes the General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Global Oral Update and her Updates on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and Venezuela

The Human Rights Council this morning started an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, who said that in the context of the global water crisis, 2.2 billion people were without guaranteed access to safe drinking water and 4.2 billion were without basic sanitation.

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, presented his first report on his plan and vision for the mandate from 2020 to 2023, in which he had characterised the problems and challenges faced in the context of the global water crisis with 2.2 billion people without guaranteed access to safe drinking water and 4.2 billion without basic sanitation. This global water crisis was generating a growing wave of socio-environmental conflicts around the world led by those who directly suffered the crisis in their territories; but also conflicts that were sometimes used and manipulated to justify wars between peoples and nations.

Mr. Arrojo-Agudo said that the fundamental causes of the global water crisis lay at the confluence of two major structural flaws of the current development model: the unsustainability of aquatic ecosystems, caused by humans, which made water go from being the key to life to being a terrible vector of disease and death; and poverty, inequality and discrimination arising from the prevailing socio-economic order. He listed three factors that aggravated, deepened and amplified this global crisis: the commodification and financialization of water, climate change, and, recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the discussion with the Special Rapporteur, speakers congratulated him for the quality of his report and fully subscribed to the idea that water was a public good essential for life and health and therefore should not be subjected to commodification and financialization. Some speakers took note of the Special Rapporteur’s observation on the need to adopt a socio-environmental approach to the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation based on the logic of sustainability and the promotion of a democratic water governance respectful of human rights. They welcomed his remarks on his wish to pay particular attention to groups in vulnerable situations in his future reports.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Egypt on behalf of the Group of Arab States, European Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Egypt on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, Djibouti, State of Palestine, France, Sovereign Order of Malta and Switzerland.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the general debate on the High Commissioner’s oral updates. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her global human rights update as well as updates on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and Venezuela on Monday, 13 September, and a summary can be found here. The statements of Venezuela, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka speaking as countries concerned as well as the beginning of the general debate took place on Tuesday, 14 September in the morning and a summary can be found here. The general debate resumed on Tuesday in the afternoon and a summary can be found here.

Taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: United Nations Association of China, International Harm Reduction Association, Human Rights Watch, Earthjustice, International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Beijing Crafts Council, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Center for International Environmental Law, Franciscans International, American Association of Jurists, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Comité International pour le Respect et l'Application de la Charte Africaine Des Droits de l’Hommes et des Peuples, Peace Brigades International, VIVAT International, Synergie Feminine Pour La Paix Et Le Developpement Durable, Caritas Internationalis, International Commission of Jurists, Réseau International des Droits Humains, Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, Amnesty International, International Service for Human Rights, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, World Muslim Congress, Partners For Transparency, Association d'Entraide Médicale Guinée, Zero Pauvre Afrique, CIVICUS, iuventum e.V., Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, World Organisation Against Torture, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, World Evangelical Alliance, Solidarité Suisse-Guinée, International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnics, Religious, Linguistic and Others Minorities, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Soka Gakkai International, Associazione Comunita Papa Giovanni XXIII, Sikh Human Rights Group, Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada, Friends World Committee for Consultation, FIAN International e.V., Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, United Nations Watch, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, The Next Century Foundation, Center for Justice and International Law, African Green Foundation International, World Peace Council, European Centre for Law and Justice.

Iraq, Zimbabwe, Turkmenistan, Morocco, Venezuela, India, United States, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Turkey, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Armenia, Algeria, Columbia, Pakistan, Syria and Azerbaijan spoke in right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its work at 3 p.m. this afternoon, to conclude the interactive debate with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures.

General Debate on the High Commissioner’s Global Oral Update as well as her Updates on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and Venezuela

The High Commissioner presented her global human rights update as well as updates on Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and Venezuela on Monday, 13 September, and a summary can be found here. The statements of Venezuela, Afghanistan, Nicaragua and Sri Lanka speaking as countries concerned as well as the beginning of the general debate took place on Tuesday, 14 September in the morning and a summary can be found here. The general debate resumed on Tuesday in the afternoon and a summary can be found here.

In regard to the High Commissioner’s oral update on Sri Lanka, speakers raised concerns about the establishment of an evidence-gathering unit to support legal proceedings in individual countries against Sri Lanka. Adding that this establishment would create divisions among ethnic groups, they believed that the best way to achieve sustainable peace was through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process as the Government of Sri Lanka had declared. On a different note, some speakers said that the rule of law was steadily deteriorating in Sri Lanka and that dubious justifications of fighting the pandemic were being used to override laws and procedures, interfere with judicial independence, and arbitrarily restrict human rights. Speakers were concerned about the further backtracking on accountability for human rights violations and urged the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Procedures to closely monitor the situation. On Nicaragua, speakers called for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained political opposition leaders, human rights defenders and journalists, and for overdue electoral reforms. Some drew attention to the situation of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples in the country who were facing a possible genocide and were subjected to incessant violence and massacres by illegal armed settlers. The speakers said that instead of protecting indigenous lands in accordance with the law, the Nicaraguan Government played an important role in the exploitation of their natural resources. They called on the Nicaraguan Government to comply with its national and international obligations and guarantee the safety and physical integrity of indigenous peoples, to carry out impartial investigations without delay, to identify those responsible for the crimes committed, and to provide justice, truth and reparation to the victims and their families.

On Afghanistan, speakers regretted the dire human rights situation that continued to require the action of the Council, noting that the last special session had provided insufficient responses. They continued to call for the establishment of a mechanism adequately staffed and resourced to conduct sustained monitoring and reporting on the situation of human rights. The courage of those calling for justice on the ground, at grave personal risk, could not be overstated and it was vital that their efforts be supported by the international community. Speakers also stressed the need for transparent and prompt investigations into reports of human rights violations and abuses, insisting on the fact that the Taliban must respect human rights and protect civilians. “They will be judged not by their words, but by their actions”, speakers said. Speakers deplored the terrible impact caused by unilateral coercive measures on human rights in Venezuela, especially in matters of health, food and essential public services. They insisted on the necessity for States that had imposed these coercive measures to immediately implement the recommendation contained in the report of the High Commissioner, who had asked that the sanctions be lifted. Some speakers further stated that they valued the Council’s report which reflected how the coercive measures had affected patients with chronic diseases, who had died or worsened their health, due to obstacles in the import of medicines, and asked for justice for the victims of the blockade. Other speakers were extremely concerned about threats and violations of freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly and association as well as the lack of protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Venezuela.

Speakers called for **the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment **to be recognisedas this right was protected in the legal order of more than three quarters of the United Nations Member States and by several regional human rights mechanisms. They reminded the Council of how the interlinked crises of pollution, climate change and biodiversity had amplified human rights threats and harms across the planet and asked the Council to address these issues “head on now”. Following on the situation for environmental human rights defenders, speakers congratulated the States that had ratified the Escazu Agreement so that it could enter into force. They mentioned that this was a significant step for the protection of environmental human rights defenders and called on the Council to address violations against all human rights defenders across the globe. The participation of civil society without fear of reprisal was vital to working collaboratively towards solutions to all human rights concerns, they stated.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, speakers were concerned about the unjust distribution of vaccines around the world, which was hindering effective action against the virus. They further added that the rhetoric heard during more than a year of the pandemic had clashed with the reality of today’s politics: “no one should have been left behind, yet, some had been”, they said. It was clear that the more Governments thought only about what happened within their borders, the more the world would become unsafe. Finally, some speakers reaffirmed that the Human Rights Council was an essential platform for promoting and protecting individual human rights and fundamental freedoms. Nuancing further, some speakers stated that they would have at times liked to see a bolder Council, to protect individuals against violations and abuses, hold States accountable for their obligations, and prevent the escalation of crises.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation

Presentation of Reports

PEDRO ARROJO-AGUDO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, said it was his pleasure to speak for the first time before the Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. He presented his first report on his plan and vision for the mandate from 2020 to 2023, in which he had characterised the problems and challenges faced in the context of the global water crisis with 2.2 billion people without guaranteed access to safe drinking water and 4.2 billion without basic sanitation. This global water crisis was generating a growing wave of socio-environmental conflicts around the world led by those who directly suffered the crisis in their territories; but also conflicts that were sometimes used and manipulated to justify wars between peoples and nations.

The fundamental causes of the global water crisis lay at the confluence of two major structural flaws of the current development model: the unsustainability of aquatic ecosystems, caused by humans, which made water go from being the key to life to being a terrible vector of disease and death; and poverty, inequality and discrimination arising from the prevailing socio-economic order. The majority of the 2.2 billion people without guaranteed access to safe drinking water were impoverished people who lived next to polluted rivers, springs and aquifers, he added. He listed three factors that aggravated, deepened and amplified this global crisis: the commodification and financialisation of water, climate change, and, recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Arrojo-Agudo identified three key objectives that would mark the main lines of his work as Special Rapporteur between 2020 and 2023: promoting democratic governance of water and sanitation; making peace with rivers; and restoring the sustainability of the aquatic ecosystems as key to guaranteeing the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for the most impoverished and promoting water as the key to collaboration and peace.

Moving to his addendum report on partnering with organizations, Mr. Arrojo-Agudo said that he made it a priority to engage with the complex and rich institutional fabric of the United Nations system, and convened bilateral meetings with a wide range of international and regional organizations who worked on the issue of water, sanitation and hygiene. As a result of these bilateral meetings, his team had produced summaries on the functions and work of these organizations in order to identify possible collaboration. Finally, he informed the Council about the plans of his mandate for the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022, explaining that his next two thematic reports would be on indigenous peoples and people living in impoverished rural areas. He said that he had started consultations with key stakeholders to brainstorm the scope and preliminary elements that would shape his reports, including a close collaboration with the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples.

Discussion

Speakers congratulated the Special Rapporteur for the quality of his report and fully subscribed to the idea that water was a public good essential for life and health and therefore should not be subjected to commodification and financialization. They also agreed that the global water crisis had resulted from the conjunction of two structural flaws inherent in the current development model: the unsustainable nature of aquatic ecosystems; and conflicts, climate change, and COVID-19 which had deepened inequalities and amplified the problem of poverty in the world. Some speakers agreed further that the water problems of the world should not be a factor of tension but could be a vector of peace, stability and cooperation.

Other speakers took note of the Special Rapporteur’s observation on the need to adopt a socio-environmental approach to the human rights to drinking water and sanitation based on the logic of sustainability and the promotion of a democratic water governance respectful of human rights. They further shared his observation on the worsening of the situation of the most vulnerable people due in particular to climate change and the current health crisis as well as its economic consequences. They also welcomed his announcement that he would pay particular attention to groups in vulnerable situations in his future reports, in particular by emphasising the evolution of the role of women and girls in community water management.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/09/le-conseil-des-droits-de-lhomme-est-alerte-sur-la-crise-mondiale

___________

For use of the information media; not an official record