International News

The UN restates the legally binding nature of the right to water and sanitation

In a historic resolution, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations reaffirmed on 1 October that the right to water and sanitation is derived directly from the right to a reasonable standard of living and is inseparably associated with the right to the highest possible level of physical and mental health, and the right to human life and dignity. In the words of the United Nations Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to drinking water and sanitation, "this means that the United Nations, the right to water and sanitation is included in human rights treaties and is therefore legally binding."

The resolution was tabled by Spain and Germany. Apart from the United Kingdom and Guatemala, which withdrew their support for this proposal, the other countries gave extensive and significant support.

As Amnesty International has pointed out, this reaffirmation will reinforce the ability of people who have been denied their right to water and sanitation to hold their governments to account.

According to the UN, 884 million people do not have access to improved sources of drinking water, and over 2,600 million people do not have access to basic sanitation services. Diseases related to water and sanitation are responsible for the death of approximately 1.5 million boys and girls under 5 years old every year, and for 443 million failures to attend school annually.

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