The human right to water and sanitation

Resolution adopted by the [UN] General Assembly on 28 July 2010

The General Assembly,

Recalling its resolutions 54/175 of 17 December 1999 on the right to development, 55/196 of 20 December 2000, by which it proclaimed 2003 the International Year of Freshwater, 58/217 of 23 December 2003, by which it proclaimed the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life”, 2005–2015 59/228 of 22 December 2004, 61/192 of 20 December 2006, by which it proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Sanitation, and 64/198 of 21 December 2009 regarding the midterm comprehensive review of the implementation of the International Decade for Action, “Water for Life”; Agenda 21 of June 1992;(1) the Habitat Agenda of 1996; (2) the Mar del Plata Action Plan of 1977 adopted by the United Nations Water Conference; (3) and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development of June 1992, (4)

Recalling also the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (5) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, (6) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 6 the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, (7) the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, (8) the Convention on the Rights of the Child, (9) the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (10) and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, (11)

Recalling further all previous resolutions of the Human Rights Council on human rights and access to safe drinking water and sanitation, including Council resolutions 7/22 of 28 March 2008 (12) and 12/8 of 1 October 2009, (13) related to the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, general comment No. 15 (2002) of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, on the right to water (articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) (14) and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the scope and content of the relevant human rights obligations related to equitable access to safe drinking water and sanitation under international human rights instruments, (15) as well as the report of the independent expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, (16)

Deeply concerned that approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that more than 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation, and alarmed that approximately 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases,

Acknowledging the importance of equitable access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as an integral component of the realization of all human rights,

Reaffirming the responsibility of States for the promotion and protection of all human rights, which are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and must be treated globally, in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing and with the same emphasis,

Bearing in mind the commitment made by the international community to fully achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and stressing, in that context, the resolve of Heads of State and Government, as expressed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, (17) to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water and, as agreed in the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (“Johannesburg Plan of Implementation”), (18) to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation,

1. Recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights;

2. Calls upon States and international organizations to provide financial resources, capacity-building and technology transfer, through international assistance and cooperation, in particular to developing countries, in order to scale up efforts to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all;

3. Welcomes the decision by the Human Rights Council to request that the independent expert on human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation submit an annual report to the General Assembly, (13) and encourages her to continue working on all aspects of her mandate and, in consultation with all relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, to include in her report to the Assembly, at its sixty-sixth session, the principal challenges related to the realization of the human right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation and their impact on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

108th plenary meeting
28 July 2010



1 Report of the United Nations Conference on Enviro
nment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3–14 June
1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and
corrigendum), resolution 1, annex II.
2 Report of the United Nations Conference on Hum
an Settlements (Habitat II), Istanbul, 3–14 June 1996
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.97
.IV.6), chap. I, resolution 1, annex II.
3 Report of the United Nations Water Conference, Mar del Plata, 14–25 March 1977
(United Nations
publication, Sales No. E.77.II.A.12), chap. I.
4 Report of the United Nations Conference on Enviro
nment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3–14 June
1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and
corrigendum), resolution 1, annex I.
5 Resolution 217 A (III).
6 See resolution 2200 A (XXI), annex.
7 United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 660, No. 9464.
8 Ibid., vol. 1249, No. 20378.
9 Ibid., vol. 1577, No. 27531.
10 Resolution 61/106, annex I.
11 United Nations, Treaty Series , vol. 75, No. 973.
12 See Official Records of the General Assembly, Sixty-third Session, Supplement No. 53
(A/63/53), chap. II.
13 See A/HRC/12/50 and Corr.1, part one, chap. I.
14 See Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 2003, Supplement No. 2 (E/2003/22), annex IV.
15 A/HRC/6/3.
16 A/HRC/12/24.
17 See resolution 55/2.
18 See Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August–4 September 2002 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.03.II.A.1 and corrigendum), chap. I, resolution 2, annex.


Source Courtesy of:
UN General Assembly, Sixty-fourth session, Agenda item 48
Distr.: General 3 August 2010

How creating a water poverty map for all of Africa can help sound policies

By: Hatem Jemmali

African countries are behind the global curve when it comes to providing people with clean water and sanitation services. A joint monitoring report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF shows that 89% of the world’s population has access to clean water sources. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is 64%. Globally, 64% of people have access to decent sanitation services. But this is true for less than a third of sub-Saharan Africa’s population.
How creating a water poverty map for all of Africa can help sound policies

© franco volpato –

This lack of access can be fatal, particularly for children. The absence of clean water and basic sanitation is among the leading causes of mortality among those younger than five all across the continent. It also places a huge burden on Africa’s women. It is they who must walk long distances to gather water from streams, ponds and wells.

Research has also showed how unreliable water supply is simultaneously a cause and result of poverty. South African water researcher Dr Anthony Turton coined the phrase “water poverty” to describe societies that cannot cope with the problem of water scarcity.

This prompted the development of the Water Poverty Index by ecological and environmental economist Professor Caroline Sullivan in 2002. The index allows researchers to produce an integrated assessment of water stress and scarcity, linking physical estimates of water availability with socioeconomic variables that reflect poverty.

There’s wide agreement that the index is useful and reliable. But its indicators are not appropriate for all contexts. That’s why I set out to create a set of indicators that can be applied in the African context. These indicators include a country’s seasonal variability of rainfall; a nation’s water investments and how efficiently it uses water in agriculture and industry. Another indicator is a country’s Human Development Index, which takes into account factors like life expectancy, education and average income.

This allowed me to map Africa’s water poverty situation, giving a good sense of how different this is across countries on the continent.

My findings offer a transparent analysis for policymakers, governments and organisations that deal with water issues. They can use the information from the index to assess the opportunities and risks involved with interventions. They’ll also have a better understanding of the socioeconomic factors that affect different African countries’ water management policies rather than treating the whole continent as a homogeneous mass.

What will work in Seychelles, which has a low level of water poverty, will not necessarily be useful in Djibouti, whose water poverty levels are high.

New indicators for Africa

I chose 15 indicators from 22 variables to compute five components for the African Water Poverty Index: resources, access, capacity, use and

The results are mapped across a number of water poverty maps that I developed. They show that water poverty follows a complex, diverse spatial pattern. Africa’s most economically developed countries are also its most water-scarce. These are located mainly in northern and southern Africa and includes Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and South Africa. Water-rich but lower income countries are mainly concentrated in the sub-Saharan region – places like Gabon, Central African Republic and Congo.

This suggests that as some countries grow and attract more people looking for work, their water resources will become more pressurised. These countries must put long term, sustainable water management plans in place so they don’t run short of water – a scenario that would greatly hamper further economic development and growth.

The index also suggests what form these plans might take. North African countries, for instance, ought to pay more attention to improving the use of scarce water resources in agriculture and other sectors. Higher water efficiency and consumer conservation programmes are required.

In the sub-Saharan region, meanwhile, access to piped water and sanitation facilities remains generally very low. These countries may be “richer” in water than their northern counterparts, but this reality is not experienced by many residents. Anyone working in the water sector in these countries ought to be focusing on how to improve access to safe water and effective sanitation.

A useful tool

The ConversationMy hope in creating this Africa-focused index is that policymakers, politicians and development experts will be able to apply the data. Such a multi-dimensional assessment of water poverty for the continent could make a big difference to management and planning.

A Matter of Survival – Report of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace

Report from Geneva Water Hub
Published on 14 Sep 2017 View Original




The Drama of Water

The world is facing the drama of water. Around two billion people lack access to safe drinking water. Most of them live in fragile, often violent regions of the world. In contemporary armed conflicts, water resources and installations are being increasingly attacked and used as weapons of war. Moreover, water scarcity is exacerbated in a world with a growing population facing human-induced climate change. Despite these problems, humanity will have to find ways to produce 50 percent more food and double its energy production by the middle of the century.

A fundamental rethinking of international water cooperation is essential, with the UN at the center of efforts for the necessary policy and institutional changes. The UN General Assembly should convene a full-fledged intergovernmental Global Conference on International Water Cooperation, with the aim of formulating a cooperation strategy and defining its specific priorities, and devising an action plan for the five-year period following the Global Conference.

Into the Abyss: Water in Armed Conflicts

The increasing tendency in a number of contemporary armed conflicts is to make water resources and infrastructure targets of attack or weapons of war, particularly in urban areas. These practices are flagrant violations of International Humanitarian Law and must be condemned. States have an obligation to respect and ensure respect for and compliance with International Humanitarian Law. The international community as a whole should assist humanitarian organizations since a permanent, long-term partnership between humanitarian organizations and local providers of services is of great importance for the effective protection or restoration of water infrastructure.

International efforts to maintain peace and security have to include effective policies for the protection of water infrastructure against all attacks, including terrorist attacks, while giving special priority to the humanitarian needs of affected civilian populations. The UN Security Council bears primary responsibility in this regard and should consider adopting, within its action for the protection of civilians in armed conflict, a resolution on the protection of water resources and installations in all the situations on the Council’s agenda.

An Ounce of Prevention: International Water Law and Transboundary Water Cooperation

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. International Water Law has developed a number of principles, norms and institutions that provide the basis of international water cooperation and result in greater stability and conflict prevention. The UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (1997 UN Watercourses Convention) and the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992 UNECE Water Convention) are the essential international instruments in this regard. The principle of equitable and reasonable utilization of watercourses and the obligation not to cause significant harm constitute the core around which appropriate international regimes can be developed. The right to safe drinking water and sanitation is recognized as a moral imperative of our time and as a human right.

However, in many areas of the world much still remains to be done to expand transboundary and regional water cooperation to the desired level. This need applies to river basins, including some traditionallysensitive river basins, as well as to internationally shared aquifers. The latter need is critical as the existing level of international cooperation is still far from satisfactory: out of approximately 400 internationally shared aquifers there are only 5 where international agreements exist. Transboundary water agreements and institutions, as well as the relevant “soft law” instruments represent valuable tools that should be utilized more fully.

Quantity and Quality: Strengthening of the Knowledge-Based and Data-Driven Decision Making and Cooperation for Security and Peace Building

Changes affecting water quantity such as droughts and floods – increasingly provoked by the effects of human-induced climate change – require intensified international cooperation and stronger institutions.
At the same time, deteriorating water quality in many regions of the world, partly a result of the same causes, needs to be urgently addressed. Another problem exists in those internationally shared aquifers where the withdrawal of groundwater is greater than nature’s ability to recharge the particular aquifer. Often the actual knowledge about the situations of aquifers is inadequate while the process of depletion continues. The technical, legal and policy instruments available to address these issues differ from region to region, and from country to country.

Therefore, monitoring and data sharing is an important task that should be prioritized at the global level. A strong, integrated global data and monitoring system needs to be developed on the basis of ongoing work by UNESCO, WMO, and UNEP. Another vital undertaking relates to the application and further development of international water quality standards, both regional and global. And finally, it will be necessary to overcome the existing fragmented institutional landscape related to water issues.

People’s Diplomacy, Inter-Sectoral Water Management and Decision Making

Since water management and transboundary water cooperation affects people’s health and well-being directly, and therefore carries an important ethical dimension, water governance in all its forms has to allow all relevant stakeholders to participate in decision making. Moreover, the trade-offs necessary between the various uses of water such as agriculture, energy generation, mining, human consumption, and others, have to be carefully considered, while respecting the needs of all those concerned. Although most of the decisions taken in these situations are made within states, good practices should be studied and lessons learned internalized. When decisions are taken at the transboundary water cooperation level, arrangements should be made to allow the participation of all stakeholders.

Transparency and data sharing are particularly important aspects of decision making relating to water, and governments are well advised to ensure the necessary multi-stakeholder dialogue platforms. For these to be operated effectively, it is necessary to invest systematically in water education at all levels, including the empowerment of women. Best practices should be studied and lessons learned should be applied by all governments and other stakeholders. The UN Global Compact, which involves tens of thousands of private companies around the world, would be instrumental in developing an appropriate voluntary code of practice on water management.

Financial Innovation for Water Cooperation

Since fostering transboundary water cooperation is an important priority in our era, it is necessary to develop sustainable financial mechanisms specifically aimed at promoting water as an instrument of peace. Transboundary water infrastructures such as dams and irrigation systems are currently financed by a variety of public and private sector investors, with funding available through existing financial facilities such as the International Waters (IW) Program of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), other climate finance mechanisms, and by bilateral and multilateral donors. The available conventional finance should also be used effectively to promote transboundary water cooperation projects.

Additional incentives are also necessary, and could include preferential and concessional finance for transboundary collaborative projects in water resources and infrastructure of a significant size. Incentives such as interest subsidies, financing of preparatory costs and insurance costs, as well as the provision of matching grants could also be provided. The Panel recommends the creation of a Blue Fund for these purposes. In addition, we believe that it is important to create a safe space, i.e. an opportunity for pre-negotiation consultations and other activities occurring at an early project development stage. This would help stakeholders address the major implementation problems well in advance, prepare projects proactively, increase confidence among all stakeholders, and would significantly help the process of financial decision making.

In Pursuit of Agency: New Mechanisms of Water Diplomacy

A variety of international institutions are working on water issues, ranging from research and knowledge management organizations, river basin organizations or transboundary water management systems, to regional organizations and a variety of UN actors. While all of these institutions are doing important work and contributing to international water cooperation, what is needed now is an institutional setting that connects these key actors, and reinforces and complements the existing frameworks, initiatives and expertise. In other words, there is a need to leverage water as an instrument of cooperation and peace. We need a new mechanism to pursue “agency” as an increased capacity to act together, and not as another institution.

The Panel thus proposes the Global Observatory for Water and Peace (GOWP) to facilitate assistance to governments in using water as an instrument of cooperation, in avoiding tension and conflicts, and to build peace. The GOWP would work closely with existing organizations at the global and regional level, which specialize in water cooperation and harnessing the potential of water in building peace. The new mechanism would focus on hydro-diplomacy beyond joint management, and would also engage in consultative activities necessary for the creation of “safe spaces” for financing transboundary water cooperation projects.

Water as an Asset for Peace: Conclusions and Recommendations

The Report of the High-Level Panel on Water and Peace consists of seven chapters covering the main areas of our analysis. Each chapter is concluded by a set of specific recommendations outlining further action. The Panel offers general conclusions and summarizes all of its recommendations in the final chapter, thus allowing the reader to see the whole picture of suggested further activities. The Panel hopes that its conclusions and recommendations will help decision makers develop a coherent vision of necessary future activities and assist in practical policy making.