USA, Japan and Slovenia: three reports on the right to water and sanitation
GENEVA (16 September 2011) – The UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, released her mission reports on the United States of America, Japan and Slovenia.
“As human rights, all people, without discrimination, must have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, which is affordable, acceptable, available and safe,” Ms. de Albuquerque said. “States must continually take steps to ensure that access to these fundamental rights is guaranteed.”
United States of America
The UN independent expert visited the USA from 22 February to 4 March 2011, to assess issues of sanitation, safety, affordability and excluded groups, focusing on the right to non-discrimination and equality.
“I was especially shocked by what I saw in Sacramento, California, where the city decided to shut down or to restrict the opening hours of public restrooms, forcing homeless people to improvise other types of solutions to be able to exercise the right to sanitation. Open defecation, open urination have been criminalised. So what happens is that someone can be criminalised just because he/she does not have a place to do his physiological needs.”
During her mission to Japan (20-28 July 2010), Ms. de Albuquerque focused on the enjoyment of the rights to water and to sanitation in relation to poverty, homelessness, persons with disabilities, the situation of underserved persons of Korean descent, and prisoners.
“I met an old woman near Kyoto, who lived in a community with no sewage system. This woman, almost 90 years old, still had to collect her water from a well; she did not have piped water in her house. And why did this happen? It happened because she belongs to a minority, she belongs to a Korean minority and because the community she lives in is entrenched in a legal dispute over the ownership of the land where they are living at. All the communities around had access to piped water, of excellent quality, as is normal in Japan, and they all had access to a sewage treatment. But this little community was deprived of this type of access because of this legal dispute.”
Ms. de Albuquerque visited Slovenia from 24-28 May 2010 to assess the situation of the rights to water and sanitation. On her report, the independent expert notes that there is near universal access to water and sanitation in the country, but expresses particular concern about access to safe water and sanitation for the Roma population.
“In Slovenia I met a man who almost with tears in his eyes told me that his daughter once came back home saying ‘I do not want to go to school, because the other kids are teasing me because I smell.’ And the father said ‘I know she smells, but we do not have water in our place.” And when I asked him what did you do?, he said: ‘The only thing I could do was to hug her and cry with her.’”
Catarina de Albuquerque (Portugal) currently works as a senior legal adviser at the Office for Documentation and Comparative Law (an independent institution under the Portuguese Prosecutor General’s Office) in the area of human rights. She holds a DES in international relations with a specialization in international law from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. She was appointed as Independent Expert in September 2008 and took up her functions in November 2008.
The other reports presented to the Human Rights Council by the Special Raporteur:
- National and local planning for the implementation of the rights to water and to sanitation
- Compilation of good
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