The human right to safe drinking water and sanitation stems from the right to an adequate standard of living. By recognising water and sanitation as human rights, people are defined as rights-holders and States as duty-bearers of water and sanitation service provision. This means that the provision of water and sanitation is not a matter of charity – but a legal obligation. Water and sanitation are explicitly recognised as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights in a Resolution that was passed by the UN General Assembly in July 2010.
Later that same year a Human Rights Council Resolution was passed by consensus, confirming that the rights to water and sanitation already exist in international law, as they are derived from the right to an adequate standard of living and also the right to health, guaranteed under Articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). In 2013, the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/157 and the Human Rights Council Resolution 24/18 both reaffirmed their recognition of the human rights to water and sanitation in consensus. All United Nations (UN) Member States have recognised the human rights to water and sanitation by supporting one or more international documents, such as resolutions or declarations.
The Non-Aligned Movement recognises 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 and has welcomed in this regard the adoption of resolution 68/157 of the General Assembly.
The resolution calls upon States to ensure the progressive realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, to continuously monitor and regularly analyse the status of the realization of the human right to safe drinking water, to give due consideration to the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation and the principles of equality and non-discrimination in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, to ensure the progressive realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation for all in a non-discriminatory manner while eliminating inequalities in access, including for individuals belonging to vulnerable and marginalized groups, on the grounds of race, gender, age, disability, ethnicity, culture, religion and national or social origin or on any other grounds and with a view to progressively eliminating inequalities based on factors such as rural-urban disparities, residence in a slum, income levels and other relevant considerations, to consult with communities on adequate solutions to ensure sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and to provide for effective accountability mechanisms for all water and sanitation service providers to ensure that they respect human rights and do not cause human rights violations or abuses.
NAM has encouraged all member states to put forward actions that allow its full implementation At the 14thSummit Conference of Heads of State or Government of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2006, NAM Member States acknowledged the relevance of the right to water according to international law. The final Summit document “recognized the importance of water as a vital and finite natural resource, which has an economic, social and environmental function, and acknowledged the right to water for all”.
The NAM Algiers Ministerial declaration 2014 recognized the importance of water and sanitation for social, economic and environmental development, and that water is a key to sustainable development. NAM leaders recalled what was agreed by the 13th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in 2005 and the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in November 2002 that recognised the importance of water as a vital and finite natural resource, which has an economic, social and environmental function, and acknowledged the right to water for all. NAM recognises that the human rights to water and sanitation stem from the right to an adequate standard of living, and that the accessibility and availability of clean drinking water forms a part of human rights and deserves protection.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor