UN declares access to clean water and sanitation is a human right

The Bolivian draft resolution was an unprecedented initiative: it is the first time that the UN General Assembly has referred directly to discuss the water issue, crucial for the future of humanity.


By adopting resolution, the UN General Assembly declared on July 26, 2010 that the right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights”. (See box 1)

The text was adopted by 122 votes in favour and none against, while 41 countries abstained from voting, mainly from developed countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Germany and Spain voted in favor.


Right to life and drinking water resources
1. The right to life for all through the realization of the right to water of quality.
2. The drinking water resources of the planet are dwindling. According to a recent report by the World Bank, by 2030, global demand for water will exceed available resources by 40%, which predict unprecedented water wars.


Right to water or Right of access to water?

The debate is significant. Until then, the International Community (Institutions) distinguishes 'access to water'-treated as a basic necessity and not a universal and inalienable human right-and 'water' - treated as a commodity, fostering an economic asset and the market-oriented policies, privatization of water services management, the commodification of water.


Formal recognition of the right to safe and clean drinking water as a basic human right is an important step made towards the realization of the right to life for all. But indeed, it is the realization of the right to water for all that will achieve the total eradication of poverty in the world. Unfortunately the main obstacle to this realization is the lack of political will and political choices and economic sectors. Guaranteeing the right to water for all is economically feasible. Already in 1997, the UN (particularly UNDP) showed that the goal of access to water for all over 15 years was economically feasible.


Each state must include the right to safe drinking water and clean in its Constitution and make every effort for the realization of this right.


This resolution is a good step forward, but it does not solve everything. We have already an idea of the next problems by reading the explanation of votes by 35 delegations; they provide us conflicting views on whether or not the "right of access to water”, or when the representative of the United States, that's refrained from voting for the resolution, put forward that the “text describes access to water and sanitation in a different way of international law." (UN Press Release: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=35456&Cr=sanitation&Cr1=)



UN general Assembly adopted resolution recognizing access to clean water and sanitation as human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other human rights”. (A/64/L.63/Rev.1)


The resolution “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.”


The UN Human Rights Council requested Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations, to bring annually report on this issue, especially on the principal challenges to achieving the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation, as well as on progress towards the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


Read resolution: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/LTD/N10/464/64/PDF/N1046464.pdf?OpenElement

The mobilization in all States for the implementation of the right to water for all is not over.



You may take part of the European Campaign 2009-2012 "Water, a common good for life", based on citizens’ participation and to promote sustainable development.


To learn more, read the general framework of the campaign: http://ierpe.eu/data/pdf/origine.php?lng=en&pdfdocid=146

Europeans may entrench the right to water in the new constitution of the European Union by taking action and participating to this campaign.

Go back