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Right to water and sanitation

France and the right to water and sanitation

Lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation is the leading cause of mortality worldwide. In 2012, close on 800 million people still lacked adequate access to safe drinking water and over 2.5 billion had no access to basic sanitation. Worse still, 2 million, most of them young children, die every year from diseases caused by unsafe water and lack of sanitation, and 443 million school days are lost as a result of waterborne diseases or lack of sanitation. Statistics aside, those who are deprived of safe water and sanitation are also subject to discrimination and stigmatisations.

Access to safe drinking water and sanitation is essential to the full enjoyment of the right to health and to an adequate standard of living recognised in articles 11 and 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and, more generally, of the right to life and dignity.

France has campaigned actively for recognition of this right. It supported the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in July 2010 of resolution (A/RES/64/292), the first assertion in this forum of the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. France was involved in negotiations and co-sponsored the resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 20 September 2012 (A/RES/21/1) on the same issue. The HRC resolution recognises that the right to safe, clean drinking water and to sanitation is a fundamental human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all human rights. It also reminds States of their obligation to guarantee full realisation of this right and calls upon them to prioritise the needs of the most marginalised, excluded and deprived.

To reinforce the effectiveness of its actions and advance the cause of the human right to water, France joined forces in 2011 with a number of other States in setting up the informal Blue Group to coordinate the positions of member States at UN bodies in New York and Geneva. The Blue Group’s primary objective is to promote the right to safe drinking water and sanitation on the international stage, in particular through an approach based on the integration of human rights into the formulation and implementation of development programmes. It also supports the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.

France is now working to ensure the protection and wider recognition of this right and its effective implementation within national and local sector policies.

France’s action on human rights thus has a part to play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), one of which is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the world population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

France also continues to put into practice its commitment to achieving this fundamental human right through development aid, ranking as the third biggest bilateral donor of funds for water-related projects (€600 million in 2012).

Hosting the 6th World Water Forum, held in Marseille from 12 to 17 March 2012, provided an opportunity to raise the political profile of the social and economic issues of access to water and to work towards concrete solutions and commitments to meet the challenges.

Pressure from France and the EU at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development helped to make water one of the headline issues at the conference. The Rio+20 Declaration reaffirmed that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right and reminded the international community of its commitments on gradual implementation.

Updated on : 01.03.13

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