EPSU calls for the implementation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation

(10 December 2011) On the occasion of Human Rights Day EPSU calls for attention to the implementation of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation. In 2010 this right was recognised in the United Nations General Assembly. Although many European countries abstained in the final vote, the right is being recognised in most of the EU. The Human Right to Water and Sanitation entitles everyone to accessible, affordable and sufficient water and sanitation that meets the international standards for quality. EPSU welcomed the recognition of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.

We think this right is vital to the fulfilment of all other human rights and is essential for people to build up a decent life and to achieve economic and social progress. The recognition of water and sanitation as a human right does not automatically increase the number of people with access to safe, clean and affordable water and sanitation. This right needs to be implemented by national governments. The United Nations clearly stated that it is a State’s responsibility to guarantee the provision of accessible, affordable and safe (quality) water and sanitation to all of the population. The right to water and sanitation should therefore not remain a right on paper only! It needs to be implemented in full. This means that it should be translated into provision of water and sanitation to all.

In the EU-27 still over one million people lack access to improved water or sanitation. On a global scale over 800 million people lack access to water and over 2 billion people lack access to sanitation. The UN General Assembly stressed that states must do everything possible to realize this right for everybody. Where States lack capacity, we think that the EU should support them to achieve 100% provision of water and sanitation. Where States lack political will, we call for a legal framework to hold governments accountable and support citizens to claim their right. We think that implementing the right to water and sanitation means that governments cannot transfer their responsibilities to third parties. Neither can governments leave control over natural water resources to private companies. It is a states obligation to safeguard water resources for future generations.

EPSU thinks that the responsibility to implement the right to water and sanitation extends across national borders. Wealthy EU countries should not only support other EU and neighbouring countries but also support developing countries further away, to make sure that the right to water can be enjoyed universally. In 2012 EPSU will launch a European Citizens’ Initiative to promote the implementation of the right to water and get this issue on the agenda of the European Commission. By collecting one million signatures, we will propose legislation that promotes and enforces EU Member States to implement this right and to achieve universal access to water an sanitation.

Water and Sanitation are a human right!