Against Backdrop of Drought-Driven Emergency in Horn of Africa, General Assembly Examines Vital Human Right to Safe Drinking Water, Adequate Sanitation

27 July 2011
GA/11123

Against Backdrop of Drought-Driven Emergency in Horn of Africa, General Assembly Examines Vital Human Right to Safe Drinking Water, Adequate Sanitation

27 July 2011
General Assembly
GA/11123
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

114th Meeting (PM)

Against Backdrop of Drought-Driven Emergency in Horn of Africa, General Assembly

Examines Vital Human Right to Safe Drinking Water, Adequate Sanitation

 

‘Water Is the Mother of All Rights,’ Says Bolivia’s Leader, Opposing Attempts

To Privatize It; Venezuela Says Wrong to Flaunt Resources While Millions Lack Them

While some strides had been made to increase access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation — now regarded as a fundamental human right — efforts must be redoubled to provide access to safe water to the more than 1 billion people without it and basic sanitation services for the more than 2 billion still in need, urged experts and delegates in the General Assembly this afternoon.

Against the backdrop of the current drought-driven emergency in the Horn of Africa, where millions were struggling to survive, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Assembly that, at any one time, close to half of all people in developing countries were suffering from health problems caused by poor water and sanitation.  Lack of access to adequate sanitation adversely affected children’s health and development, while, conversely, good sanitation systems could boost efforts in the field of health — including the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria — and increase school attendance and improve performance, especially among girls.

But the Secretary-General was quick to note that ensuring the more accessible, more equitable provision of water did not mean that water should be assigned no economic value.  “Let us be clear:  a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free,” he stressed.  States bore the primary responsibility to make clean water and sanitation both affordable and available to all, he added, urging Governments that had not yet done so to include the rights to water and sanitation services in their national constitutions without delay.

General Assembly President Joseph Deiss agreed that the situation was urgent.  “We must, day by day, reiterate our collective will and determination to achieve our objective,” he stressed, referring to the rapidly approaching 2015 deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals — which included one specific target to halve the global population without access to safe water or sanitation.

In a positive development, he pointed to a growing international recognition of water as human right, as well as of the fact that water underlay most other internationally agreed development goals.  The General Assembly, in its resolution 64/292 of July 2010, had acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation were integral to the realization of all human rights.  Two months later, the Human Rights Council reaffirmed that position, additionally concluding that the right to water and sanitation was part of existing international law.  It was derived from the basic right to a dignified life, among others.

More than 1 billion people still lived without access to safe water, and more than 2 billion lacked basic sanitation services, he noted, echoing the concerns of the Secretary-General.  Many challenges hampered the realization of that right, including the absence of functional institutions and necessary technical resources.  But more must be done by States, and those in a position to support them, to overcome such obstacles.

“Water is the mother of all rights,” said Evo Morales Ayma, the President of Bolivia, who also addressed the Assembly today.  It was the responsibility of the State to guarantee access to that resource, which was so vital to life.   Bolivia, to that end, had enshrined the right to water in its Constitution, and had invested $100 million to projects providing water to people, their crops and their livestock.  It was critical that States take the opportunity provided by the current debate to share their experiences and to learn from each other’s stories.

Water should not be seen as a luxury as it was in some countries, Mr. Morales said.  He condemned attempts to make water a private commodity.  Similarly, several representatives in the course of the meeting called for water and sanitation to be better distributed among countries that were “polarized” in their enjoyment of human rights.  The representative of Venezuela, for example, said that the fact that a rich minority of the world monopolized and flaunted basic resources — while millions lacked them — was unacceptable.  Water belonged to all, he stressed.

Meanwhile, other delegates pointed to particular situations of drought or deprivation experienced by their own countries.  The representative of Djibouti, one of the most water-deficient in the world, said that today’s meeting was poignant as it was taking place at the time of one of the worst droughts in the history of his home region.   Djibouti itself risked running out of water in the next 25 years, he said.  Like so many other countries, it lacked the resources and infrastructure to desalinate water or to distribute it widely.  He urged the international community to take action to reverse those trends.

Also addressing the Assembly today was Catarina de Albuquerque, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, who appealed to Member States to ensure that that right and non-discriminatory access to it was built into the development framework to be pursued following 2015.  There were many technical and resource challenges, she said, but political will was the most important element.  Delegates throughout the meeting echoed that statement.

Also participating were the representatives of the European Union, Brazil, Spain, Peru, United States, France, Egypt, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Germany, El Salvador, Sweden, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nicaragua, Madagascar, Senegal, South Africa, Hungary, Switzerland, Australia, Burkina Faso, Maldives and Morocco.

The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 28 July, at 10:00 a.m.

Background

The General Assembly met this afternoon to consider the human right to water and sanitation, during which it was expected to hear an address by Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia.

Opening Remarks

JOSEPH DEISS, President of the General Assembly, recalled that in July 2010 the General Assembly had adopted a resolution on the human right to water and sanitation, an important first step towards the explicit acknowledgment of that resource as a human right.  It derived from the basic right to a dignified life, he said, recalling as well that the seventh Millennium Development Goal called for the halving, by 2015, of the population with no access to safe water or sanitation.  That goal was crucial for the achievement of all other goals, as well.

After 10 years, progress towards meeting that target remained inadequate, he said.  More than 1 billion people still lived without access to safe water, and more than 2 billion lacked basic sanitation services.  Many challenges hampered the realization of that right, including the absence of functional institutions and necessary technical resources.  “We must, day by day, reiterate our collective will and determination to achieve our objective,” he stressed, referring to the rapidly approaching 2015 deadline.  He hoped that the upcoming Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development would give new impetus to that mission.

Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that, at any one time, close to half of all people in developing countries were suffering from health problems caused by poor water and sanitation.  Together, unclean water and poor sanitation were the second largest killers of children.  While important legal advances had recently been made by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council when they recognized, respectively, the right to water and sanitation and the fact that that right was derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, the task now was to translate that commitment into specific obligations, both at the international and national levels.

“Let us be clear:  a right to water and sanitation does not mean that water should be free,” stressed Mr. Ban.  Rather, it meant that water and sanitation services should be affordable and available for all.  States must do everything in their power to make that happen.  It was not acceptable that poor slum-dwellers paid five or even 10 times as much for their water as wealthy residents of the same cities, or that wastewater from slums, farms and industry was polluting the environment.

Last month the General Assembly had launched the sustainable sanitation “Drive to 2015”, at which time, he recalled, he had spoken about how lack of access to good sanitation adversely affected children’s health and development, how good sanitation could boost efforts in the field of health — including the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria — and how it could increase school attendance and improve performance, especially among girls.  He urged Governments that had not yet done so to include the right to water and sanitation services in their national constitutions without delay.

Finally, he drew the attention of the Assembly to the current emergency in the Horn of Africa, where millions were struggling to survive.  There, short-term relief must be linked to long-term sustainability; namely, an agricultural transformation that improved the resilience of rural people, especially pastoralists, and minimized the scale of any future crisis.

“Water is the mother of all rights,” said EVO MORALES Ayma, President of Bolivia, as he took the floor next.  He asked Presidents and other leaders to respect that right as a basis for all others, and said that the United Nations was a forum where significant progress could be made towards implementing those rights.

Water must stop being the subject of private business, he stressed, and instead must become a public service.  It must not be subjected to trade and to companies that could exploit it for financial gain.  The international community must implement policies to that end.  Human rights, like other rights, had adversaries — policies and problems, which led to inequality and brought about injustices.  The enemy of water, first and foremost, was global warming.

In Bolivia, he said, the population was suffering from the worst droughts and frosts ever seen; those crises caused forced migration and continued to be a major challenge throughout the country.  In response, the country was implementing policies that underscored the right to safe water and sanitation.  It was the responsibility of the State to guarantee access to that resource, which was so vital to life.   Bolivia had enshrined the right to water in its Constitution.  It had invested $100 million to priority projects, providing water to human beings and for the support of their crops and livestock.  Today, it was critical for States to share similar experiences and to learn from each other’s stories.

Water should not be seen as a luxury, as it was in some countries, he continued.  Together, a balance among all human beings must be sought.  The United Nations had taken important steps through its resolutions recognizing the right to water and sanitation, and referendums on the provision of water were being held in some areas of the world.  In that vein, he condemned all moves to make water a private commodity, noting that some multinational companies wanted to increase the price of water by up to 500 per cent.  He asked the Assembly to build upon its recent actions and to take steps to ensure the provision of safe water and sanitation around the world.

CATARINA DE ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, asked if measures taken so far would change the urgent situation facing millions around the world.  She cited examples of children who had to spend most of the day searching for water and people who had to set up makeshift toilets and who cart away waste.  The recognition of water and sanitation as a right could truly make a difference in their cases; it could cement the urgency of the matter, and create a world where people did not get sick by drinking dangerous water or make others sick by defecating into their water.  The human rights approach mandated States to gradually make access to clean water and sanitation universal.

She said that the numerous strategies she had researched showed that there was no single path to such universal access and that it was within reach.  Reports next year would review progress on the recognition of the right to water and sanitation, as well as on monitoring such aspects as non-discrimination in applying that right.  She appealed to Member States to ensure that the human right to water and sanitation and non-discrimination was built into the development framework to be pursued following 2015.  There were many technical and resource challenges, but will was the most important element.  She called on all stakeholders to use the human rights framework in all their efforts.

Statements

PEDRO SERRANO, Acting Head of Delegation of the European Union, acknowledged the recent recognition of the human right to water by the General Assembly, and the Human Rights Council’s specification that that right was part of the human right to an adequate standard of living.  He also recalled that there were different positions within the United Nations membership on the relevant solutions.  What was important was that the international community demonstrated united political will to address the global water and sanitation crisis.  Despite international recognition of that priority, there was no room for complacency.

The Union, he said, would further prioritize sustainable water management in its future development policy.  It and its member countries collaborated closely with African countries on that sector.  Last year, the Union had launched a Millennium Development Goals initiative; with a focus on water and sanitation, it provided 1 billion euros for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.  Describing other efforts by the Union and its members, he said that the Union welcomed the efforts being led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to look at the post-2015 development framework for water and sanitation and it acknowledged the importance of global monitoring of quality, affordability and accessibility of water and sanitation services.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) echoed Mr. Morales call for greater cooperation for access to water and sanitation, which she called a pre-condition for the eradication of poverty.  Domestically, her country was working for universal access and, internationally, it was sharing the expertise the expertise it had gained in that effort.  The right to water and sanitation was linked to many economic rights, whose full enjoyment must be provided by the State.  The central role of human rights’ bodies in gaining respect for that right, and the role of the Special Rapporteur were critical.  Rio+20 would allow the international community to revisit the issue in the context of sustainable development.

FERNANDO FERÁNDEZ-ARIAS MINUESA (Spain) said that, as part and parcel of international law, the right to water and sanitation was legally binding.  The Human Rights Council had renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to water and sanitation, further endorsing that right.  Her work had provided a solid platform for further efforts.

He said that Spain, together with Germany, had drawn the attention of the Human Rights Council to the issue of water and sanitation five years ago.  There was a close link between recognizing human rights and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  States needed to fully realize the right by drawing up national action plans that worked closely with poverty reduction programmes.  Today, States and other actors understood their obligations; the need now lay in their implementation.  Spain was one of 122 States that had voted in favour of that momentous General Assembly resolution of July 2010, and welcomed today’s debate.

GONZALO GUTIÉRREZ (Peru) said that a commitment from all Governments was needed to ensure that the right to water was realized around the world.  International human rights provisions included special regulations with regard to the right to drinking water.  Among other things, those obliged States to provide a certain amount of water to their people for various purposes, as well as for sanitation services, as part of the protection of their standard of living.  Water must be managed in an integrated fashion; it was a renewable resource and part of many ecosystems.  Its management, therefore, should include a recognition of its worth, the participation of the people in taking decisions relating to it, legal security for investments in water use, and decentralization of water management and efficiency, among other key principles.  He also advocated an approach that acknowledged the multidimensional impact of the right to water.  The human right to water and sanitation was derived from the right to life, to physical and mental health and to human dignity.

FREDERICK D. BARTON (United States) said that his country was deeply committed to addressing the needs of those around the world who lacked access to safe water and sanitation services.  He acknowledged some progress, noting that more than 1.6 billion people had gained access to safe water between 1990 and 2005, but stressed that it had not gone far enough.  In March, the United States had supported the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.  It believed, first, that Governments should strive to realize the right to water and sanitation, and should expand access to underserved populations.  They should also commit sufficient budgetary resources to meeting those goals.  Second, States needed to make sure that access was provided on a non-discriminatory basis, including to persons in State custody.

Third, he noted, the right to safe water could be interpreted to mean cooking water, as well as water in sufficient quality and quantity to meet personal hygiene needs.  Fourth, Governments should work towards greater transparency and accountability in the provision of water and sanitation, and should strive for the participation of the beneficiaries in that process.  He hoped that today’s meeting would push States to take concrete actions to reduce the number of people without access to safe water or adequate sanitation.

EMMANUEL BONNE (France) said it had also supported the resolution adopted by the Assembly one year ago.  With the full involvement of all stakeholders concerned, the international community needed to move forward and implement that resolution, as well as that of the Human Rights Council.  France, therefore, committed itself, alongside other members of the “Blue Group”, to achieving those goals.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s initiative on sanitation, as well as the work of the Economic Commission for Europe, and the creation of a handbook on equitable access to water, among other recent progress made.

In March 2012, he said, France would host a conference in Marseille on the right to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.  States must delineate the roles of different stakeholders and ensure the implementation of rights.  He called for a greater role for local authorities in the delivery of water, adding that all public stakeholders must commit to solidarity-based solutions ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation for all.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) affirmed that all human rights must be achieved in an integrated manner, and that States must take all necessary measures to extend those rights, including the right to clean water and sanitation.  That process should take into account regional differences, without creating “sub-rights” differing from those agreed upon in international instruments.  In Egypt’s efforts, funding, climate change, population growth and other factors created challenges.  To meet them, the Government had adopted an integrated national plan several years ago.  Its implementation was based on decentralization and full cooperation among concerned ministries and national agencies and had wide-ranging goals.  The United Nations and the international community must intensify their joint endeavours towards the development of integrated studies in order to address the major challenges, taking account of the particularities of all Member States.

RODOLFO ELISEO BENÍTEZ VERSÓN (Cuba), supporting the statement made by President Morales, said that the recognition of the right to clean water and sanitation was a milestone in helping the hundreds of millions of people who did not have access to those necessities, with millions dying each year from the lack.  With climate change, international cooperation must be enhanced and mechanisms must be created that were not subjected to the conditionalities of the international financial institutions.  His country had achieved the Millennium Development Goal on water before it was elaborated and had taken many actions to guarantee that human right.  Despite that, the country faced many challenges, including the cruel blockade, which had prevented access to the latest technologies.  The country did not envisage the privatization of water or other commercial solutions, since the access the water, which was a fundamental right, should not be a source of profit.

MURAD ASKAROV (Uzbekistan) said that no one disputed the truth that the Earth was experiencing an increasing incidence of natural catastrophes.  This year, his region had experienced a severe drought, with reduced food production and environmental degradation.  The Aral Sea had disappeared and had been replaced by a desert.  Partial and ambiguous approaches to the water problem in his region would only lead to further disasters.  In Uzbekistan, a programme was being implemented to rationalize water use, with associations of water users for agriculture.  Billions invested in improving soil and water extraction from rivers were being reduced.  A coordinated effort was needed on the part of States in the region, in line with treaty obligations, on the use of transboundary water sources.  His country, in that context, was categorically against the construction of hydro-electric plants in the high reaches of the area.  It was agreed that major dams created great risk.  Fresh water should be used primarily for food production.

MIGUEL BERGER (Germany), supporting the statement made on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the recognition of the human right to clean water and sanitation, the pursuit of which his country had long supported.  The big challenge now was to implement that right, and to think in bigger terms than technology.  Ignoring any parameters in the integrated effort meant ignoring the people bereft of their rights.  He looked forward to discussing the compendium of best practices that would be presented to the Human Rights Council soon.  He urged all States to ensure that a human-rights approach was employed when designing national action plans to ensure universal access to clean water and sanitation.

CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCÍA GONZÁLEZ (El Salvador) said that many human rights could not be enjoyed in the absence of water.  That key right was jeopardized by shortages and pollution; every day, 6,000 people, mainly children, died as a result of polluted drinking water.  Under the current administration in El Salvador, a series of projects were in place to address water quality.  The resolutions discussed today were “major strides forward in international endeavours to support sustainable human development”.  Nonetheless, more remained to be done.  Availability of water, when it was provided, must be equitable, sustainable, and affordable.  It was the duty of States to prevent their people from being cut off from water sources as well as to counter pollution, whose impact on forests should also be considered.  Industry, mining and agriculture, as sources of water pollution, must also be regulated.

SIGNE BURGSTALLER (Sweden) said that States must ensure that all people had access to water for personal use, and that water was distributed in a non-discriminatory way.  That basic human right, along with the provision of adequate sanitation, was critical for sustainable economic growth.  Improving water management at all levels was vital, as was providing access to women, who were often the household members who cared for others and managed a family’s water needs.

CAMILLO GONSALVES (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that his country had been an enthusiastic co-sponsor of the resolution, by which the Assembly had recognized the right to water and sanitation as a human right.  It had devoted tremendous resources to ensuring the realization of that right.  His country’s modest national success in entrenching that human right showed that progress was achievable if political will was present, he stressed.

Too often, he said, Governments left much of the work on water issues to civil society organizations.  It was now necessary to operationalize the resolutions, including by providing resources and technical assistance to States working to scale up the provision of safe drinking water and sanitation.  He noted, in particular, the urgency of “looming threats” to achieving the right to water, namely, climate change and desertification.  In his archipelago, people had often resorted to transported water by ship; water levels had risen, threatening a disastrous effect.  The number of States worldwide that were classified as “water-scarce” was estimated to double by 2025.  Mainstreaming the issue in the global agenda, therefore, was essential.

MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said that it was critical to put the human being at the centre of development, including human economic and social rights.  For that purpose, her country had drawn up national plans for water and sanitation and had opposed the privatization of resources.  The plight of those without access to drinking water and sanitation should drive international efforts, with technical assistance for achieving the vital goals.  So far, the sector had not garnered the necessary focus.  An inclusive, rights-based approach was important.  Without creating sustainable models of production and consumption, in addition, it would be impossible to ensure the continuance of life on Earth.

SEM ZINA ANDRIANARIVELO-RAZAFY (Madagascar) said that a year after the recognition of the human right to water and sanitation, it was time to consider implementation, along with the challenges involved.  The right must be upheld without any discrimination or exception, and each State must ensure that the right was fulfilled.  His country had instituted a code and established a ministry on water issues, to provide for growth, ensure access to drinking water and develop infrastructure for sanitation.  Other ministries had complemented those efforts. 

He said that the support of Madagascar’s partners for those efforts was essential.  Such partnerships had already borne fruit and much progress had been made, but the challenges were still numerous.  Every year, there was drought in the south of the country, halving the proportion of those with access to clean water and sanitation.  He called for the mobilization of greater resources for the sector and for all Member States to implement the decisions they had taken so that the right becomes “real” and not just a theory.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal), welcoming the recognition of water and sanitation as a human right, said that in his country access to those necessities was at the centre of development policy.  Its water programme had already achieved “striking” results.  However, water quality and access in rural areas must be improved.  To augment progress, there were programmes to ease access to surface water.  For the efforts to be successful, climate change and drought must be factored in, and for that to happen, assistance to the sector must be increased.  He expressed Senegal’s willingness to host the Special Rapporteur in the context of her studies.

ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti) said that the presence of Evo Morales at the meeting added significance to the gathering and underscored the high-level political commitment to water and sanitation, by putting them on the international agenda.  The timing of the meeting was also important, taking place as it did against the backdrop of a severe drought in the Horn of Africa.  Only a few years from the 2015 Millennium Development Goal deadline to halve the number of people without drinking water and sanitation, it was inconceivable to bridge that gap without major actions by States.

However, he said he was encouraged that so many countries were recognizing the right to water and sanitation, and implementing both short- and long-term measures to realize that right.  The world was divided into “haves and have nots”, but those distinctions must give way to the equitable enjoyment of human rights.  States bore the primary responsibility for the provision of those rights.  Djibouti was one of the most deficient in the world with regard to safe water access, and it risked running out of water in the next 25 years.  Like many other countries, it also lacked the resources and infrastructure to desalinate water or to distribute it widely.  Challenges, however, should not discourage the international community from striving to reverse those trends and ensuring safe water and sanitation for all.

THEMBELA OSMOND NGCULU (South Africa) said that his country’s bill of rights provided a legislative framework for the enjoyment of all human rights and freedoms, including the enjoyment of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.  His Government, therefore, had an obligation to create an enabling environment for the provision of those resources and services; it had committed itself to those goals since 1994.  Water and the environment were catalysts to South Africa’s economic growth, and a strategic framework for water services had been in place since 2003, requiring that all clinics, schools, and people had access to safe water.  South Africa also used the water policies of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other regional development frameworks.  He called for international cooperation to help all countries, especially developing ones, achieve the Millennium Development Goals and other targets related to water and sanitation.

CSABA KÖRÖSI (Hungary), aligning his statement with that of the European Union, said speakers at the meeting had already shown a major commitment to improving access to safe water and sanitation.  A firm legal basis was of vital importance to successful water management, both at the national and international levels, he added.  While access to clean drinking water and sanitation should be universal, that was far from reality.  In truth, realizing the basic human right to water and sanitation required investments in institutions and infrastructure.  Preventative measures must be taken now, he stressed.

JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland), calling the recognition of the right to water and sanitation historic, said that in view of the Millennium Development Goals and planning for the period following 2015, the rights-based approach was essential.  He supported the joint monitoring programme of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, which showed the great gaps between the needs in the field and their financing, and called for greater investment, both nationally and internationally.  His country had agreed to increase its official development assistance (ODA), which would be focussed primarily on water.  Efforts to realize the right to water and sanitation must be scaled up worldwide.  He cited the Protocol for Water and Health, to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, as an instrument that embodied the links between human rights and sustainable development.  Switzerland was drawing up guidelines to better utilize the rights-based approach.

GARY FRANCIS QUINLAN (Australia), noting that his country was in fact the driest inhabited continent on Earth, recognized that access to water and sanitation was fundamental to the realization of the range of human rights.  He welcomed progress towards improving access to water and sanitation, but was alarmed that the sanitation target would be missed by 1 billion people.  For that reason, his Government had invested more than $330 million on water, sanitation and hygiene in developing countries and was planning on spending more in the next four years. 

He said that addressing the many challenges in the sector required enhanced water policy and management approaches, increased investments through funding and capacity support, the application of innovative and cost-effective water supply and sanitation technology and an improved focus on the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized.  Also necessary was to improve planning for both urban and rural areas, to expand rainwater catchments and storage and to empower community initiatives.  It was also vital to support integrated management systems and to urgently address the disproportionate impact that poor water and sanitation access had on health, education and economic opportunities for women and young girls, as well as people with disabilities.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that his country had set up a State-owned company to ensure adequate water supply and to look after the operation of sanitation facilities.  Considerable progress in the past few years had gained the country the “MDG prize”.  He thanked Burkina Faso’s partners for their assistance in the sector.  However, there were many challenges in his Sahelian country, and he noted that it was working with Morocco on new technologies.  He hoped that the upcoming summit on desertification would help address the water issue, which had an impact on many other sectors.

THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said that her country had a policy of ensuring that all inhabited islands had access to clean drinking water and adequate sanitation services.  Streams and rivers did not exist in the island, and lakes were scarce.  Its main source of water was shallow groundwater, and the Maldives, therefore, was extremely vulnerable to water scarcity.  “Urgent and transformational action” was needed, in particular, in small island States, such as the Maldives.  They faced climate change and water scarcity; that was a problem today, and not one in the distant future.  The human right to water and sanitation was legally binding, she stressed, and the provision of that right must be considered further in the context of sea-level rise, climate change, and other critical phenomena.

MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) said that the rights to water and sanitation were at the centre of the economic, social and cultural rights that Morocco held dear.  It was not a political, ideological or a moral matter, but a “solemn appeal” for the right to life.  He asked whether it was acceptable that in Africa and Asia a woman or child must walk an average distance of six kilometres for water.  He himself had lived in very difficult circumstances and had personally experienced such deprivation to water, which affected four people out of every 10 in the developing world.  The time had come to harness energies towards finding a sustainable solution.  Today’s meeting was a recognition of the gravity of the situation, but more action was urgently needed.  Morocco supported any international effort to give full recognition of the human right to water, which was a major domestic policy priority.  It was critical to save water to make the best possible use of it, as the primary responsibility of States in relation to water was to save lives.  But more support was needed at the international level.

JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), noting that polarities existed between countries around the world with regard to the enjoyment of human rights, stressed that the right to water and sanitation must be more widely respected.  The fact that a rich minority of the world monopolized and flaunted those resources, while millions lacked them, was unacceptable.  Those discrepancies were characteristic of the capitalist system; it was necessary to overcome the “miserable economic fundamentalism” that stymied the equitable distribution of water around the world.  President Morales had noted that water was “the mother of all rights”.   Venezuela would add that water was not a source of finance and trade.  The country’s domestic provisions stated that water was an asset of society, and belonged to all.  Full exercise of national solidarity was exercised and the exploitation of water by foreigners was prevented.   Venezuela had achieved the Millennium Development Goal on water, with more than 95 per cent of its population today having access to safe drinking water, and more than 92 per cent with access to adequate sanitation. 

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.